By Andrew Aho
GMA members were in Washington, D.C., March 1-3 for the association’s semiannual Lobby Days. GMA has consistent representation in Washington through our contracted firms, Kemp Partners/Whitmer & Worrall. But to reinforce GMA’s message on Capitol Hill, twice a year GMA-member companies send representatives to meet with Members of Congress as both constituents and members of our trade association.
It was an interesting time in Washington, D.C., as we observed how a sole U.S. senator, Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), singlehandedly blocked a temporary jobs and transportation measure forcing a two-day shutdown of the U.S. Department of Transportation and temporarily delaying a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits and shutting off transportation funding.
As a result, there were massive furloughs within the U.S. DOT and a stop to funding for state DOTs. Not uncommon in politics, a “deal” finally was negotiated for Sen. Bunning to stop his filibuster of this funding, and in a matter of days the Senate passed the funding bill, it was signed by the president, and funds once again started to flow to state DOTs.
(As a side note, before his political career Jim Bunning was a Hall of Fame Major League Baseball pitcher, “shutting down” his opponents by recording more than 2,000 strikeouts.)
Our activities in Washington began March 1 with a meeting of the GMA Executive Council members.
The Executive Council acted on several issues related to the association, including a review of the draft project work plan from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) National Transportation Product Evaluation Program (NTPEP). The proposed work plan would create new quality control and product testing requirements for geotextile manufacturers with products that are used in federal and state transportation projects.
GMA proposed the program to NTPEP and is pleased with the progress to-date. The program will be discussed in detail during the NTPEP annual meeting May 13 in Orlando, Fla.
Day 1 of Lobby Days concluded with a joint dinner with representatives from the United States Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI). USIFI, like GMA, is a division of IFAI, and represents U.S. manufacturers and suppliers of technical textiles.
Officials from the Department of Commerce, including the chief textile negotiator of the U.S. Trade Office joined 50 members of USIFI and GMA for dinner. Joung Lee, a financial analyst for AASHTO shared his take on transportation funding (or more accurately, the lack of funding) with the group.
Lobby Days 2 and 3
Day 2 was packed with 18 meetings with Members of Congress and their staffs.
The meetings were designed to garner support for the use of geosynthetic liners in coal-ash waste sites and also for support of a GMA-proposed geotextiles-as-separators study. GMA has had a steady presence on Capitol Hill and many of the Members of Congress were familiar with the GMA issues and were very supportive.
On March 3, a small group of GMA members and lobbyists met with Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and discussed legislation he was introducing that would require the use of geosynthetics liners in coal-ash waste sites. Rep. Shuler continues to be one of our strongest congressional supporters regarding the use of geosynthetic materials.
Day 3 concluded with a meeting with other trade associations interested in the coal-ash issue.
GMA wants to recognize these member companies that sent representatives to these lobby days and provided financial support for GMA’s ongoing government relations program: Agru America, Cooley, Dalco Nonwovens, Fiberweb, GSE, Propex, RMA, TenCate, and Tensar.