U.S. Capitol at Sunset

$35,000 fines. Certifications required. Special equipment to buy and additional costs on every project. EPA’s enforcement of lead paint regulations was a wake-up call. The remodeling industry is too big and too impactful to avoid scrutiny and standards. That motivated me to join NARI’s Government Affairs Committee four years ago. I’ve served as that committee’s chairman for the past 18 months. What have I learned?

Look for Capitol Hill in 2015 to be full of headlines and vigorous partisan debate but light on actual change. Republicans will work–but ultimately fail–to overturn national health care and recent immigration actions via the Supreme Court. There will be lots of rhetoric about tax reform in 2015 but I predict little will change until 2017. When tax reform does become a reality, we need to be at the table. The future of the mortgage interest deduction and S-corp taxation will be on the discussion table, and both of those are near and dear to most of our businesses.

OSHA has been busy stepping up enforcement and will be busy in 2015 as it pushes for heavier regulation of silica dust. Republicans will oppose, but president Barack Obama has said this is a priority that he wants to see come out before the end of his term. Silica dust is dangerous at high levels. Regulation is warranted, but it needs to be thoughtfully composed. Cost, feasibility of compliance, and tailoring of regulations to the unique size and complexities of remodeling are top concerns with OSHA’s initially proposed rule. This could affect your business more than the lead paint. Now is the time to get up to speed on OSHA’s proposed crystalline silica rule. Ensure your voice is heard.

I have also learned a lot about the process of government affairs and of politics. The real secret is that it’s not that different than running a business. To be effective at government affairs, you need a passionate and diverse team that is focused on a common goal. You need to invest time and effort building a brand with legislators (those who make the laws) and agencies (those that enforce the laws).

Just like any of us, trusted relationships matter with politicians. That trust gets you in the door and the opportunity to shape opinions as regulations are formed and enforced. There is a lot about politics I don’t like– the political action committees, the stagnation, the partisanship. But I’ll take our system over that of any other country.

Remodeling is too big and too impactful to avoid scrutiny and standards. Remodeling is also too big and too impactful to not have a “seat at the table” as these standards are formed. Join your counterparts as they work tirelessly to give us all a voice.