The November 2002 elections brought much change to Washington, D.C. And NRCA found reason to celebrate election results because the midterm elections were successful for its political action committee, ROOFPAC, which raises and spends funds to support Congressional candidates. Nearly 90 percent of ROOFPAC's 78 candidates won and received 87 percent of ROOFPAC's total contribution of $161,000.
In addition to making contributions to candidates, ROOFPAC provided grassroots support in several key races. For Sen. James Talent (R-Mo.), ROOFPAC hosted a construction industry lunch in Kansas City, Mo., and dinner in St. Louis. The events took place June 28, 2002, and were followed by Talent's July 17, 2002, appearance during NRCA's Midyear Meetings. A similar effort was made for Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). On Aug. 22, 2002, ROOFPAC co-hosted a construction industry lunch in Minneapolis with the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Roofing Contractors Association and Twin Cities Roofing Contractors Association. Similarly, ROOFPAC co-hosted a dinner with the Kentucky Roofing Contractors Association Aug. 27, 2002, in Louisville for Rep. Anne Northup (R).
ROOFPAC's efforts helped provide a margin of victory for Talent, who won his closely contested race by 1 percent against former Sen. Jean Carnahan. ROOFPAC also added impetus to Coleman's victory against former Vice President Walter Mondale and Northup's win against Jack Conway.
For the 108th Congress, which began its session in January, Republicans added to their majority in the House and regained the majority in the Senate. House majority leaders are Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). In the Senate, the leaders are Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) are House and Senate minority leaders, respectively.
The new chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee is Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), committee chairman during the previous Republican majority, opted to chair the Environment and Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Nuclear Safety.
The new Congress will focus much of its attention on NRCA's priorities. For example, legislation to create a comprehensive national energy policy, which passed the House but stalled in the Senate in the 107th Congress, has a good chance to pass. This could mean a more stable oil supply and more generous tax treatment for energy-efficient roof systems.
With the number of Americans who lack health insurance increasing, Congress will consider association health plan legislation that would allow associations to offer quality insurance to members nationwide. This legislation passed the House several times and is backed by President Bush.
Reorganization of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Homeland Security Department clears the way for the administration and Congress to return to the issue of an expanded guest worker program for construction and other essential industries. Renewal of the 245i program, which permits illegal immigrants to apply for documentation without leaving the United States, also will be addressed by Congress.
The new Congress will be interesting to watch, and I will keep you updated about its decisions.
Craig S. Brightup is NRCA's vice president of government relations.