ABMA Turns One: A Look Back at Our First Year of Federal Advocacy

The American Building Materials Alliance (ABMA) is already a year old. Last August, when the NRLA and the Construction Suppliers Association (CSA) joined forces for federal advocacy, we set out to provide national advocacy for our members. In just one year, we have accomplished a lot, surpassing even our own expectations.

Member Driven, Grassroots Focused

When we say the ABMA is member driven, grassroots focused it means our members and their needs drive us and our work while we focus on using grassroots initiatives to achieve legislative and regulatory success. We have a committee of eight ABMA members who work with staff and our lobbyist—Pat Rita—to guide our activities. However, we depend on the involvement of all our members in our grassroots initiatives. These are the driving force of our work, and without member involvement we cannot be successful.

In the first year, ABMA sent out seven action alerts on topics such as the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA), National Flood Insurance Program expiration, and Build Back Better tax increases. These alerts resulted in nearly 1,400 letters being sent to about 130 members of Congress. Legislators always want to hear from their constituents about how a bill could impact them. These direct Congressional contacts are invaluable to ABMA and allow a starting point when our lobbyist talks with their office about the issues that impact our members.

ABMA is Making Waves and Getting Noticed

ABMA has met with:

  • the Dept. of Labor on workforce development;
  • the Dept. of Commerce and the US Trade Representative’s Office on the Softwood Lumber Agreement;
  • the Small Business Administration on OSHA issues; and
  • the U.S. Department of Agriculture on wood building products as a tool for greenhouse gas sequestration/mitigation.

The ABMA has not been afraid to tackle difficult topics and has ensured the alliances is involved in issues our members care about. One issue we have been very active on since the beginning is pushing for a new SLA. The ABMA has met with multiple stakeholders, including Senator Susan Collins (ME), the Dept. of Commerce, and the U.S. trade representative, who in July indicated negotiating a new SLA is a priority for the administration. We will continue to work with other stakeholders to push federal decision makers toward a new agreement.

When Representative Glenn Thompson (PA-15) and Derek Kilmer (WA-6) introduced the Creating Opportunities to Thrive and Advance Act, ABMA was one of the first organizations to sign-on in support. This bill would allow funds for Title II to be used to provide career guidance and to create public outreach programs through public service announcements, social media campaigns, job fairs, and more to spread the word about workforce development programs.

In July, ABMA signed on to a letter opposing expanding the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) to individuals and families who actively participate in their business, and limiting the ability of small, individually, and family-owned businesses to fully deduct their losses during an economic downturn by expanding and extending the so-called “excess business loss limitation” for “noncorporate taxpayers.”

ABMA also strongly opposed the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act because the bill would not reduce inflation and included multiple tax increases on small businesses. The Alliance’s biggest concern was the Warner Amendment, which was adopted with little consideration by the Senate. This amendment would extend for two years the cap on losses a business owner can claim. This amounts to a $52 billion dollar tax hike, imposed to offset the cost of exempting private equity investors from the 15% corporate minimum tax.

I asked our ABMA Chair Joseph Cecarelli and Vice Chair Ida Ross Hicks what they were most proud of accomplishing over the past year. Both agreed they were proud the ABMA has helped ensure that elected and appointed officials in Washington have a better understanding of the issues facing our industry.

Ceccarelli said, “The ABMA has become part of the legislative landscape in Washington, helping to address the concerns of our membership and offering directed conscience alternatives and suggestions to issues.” According to Hicks, she is proud the ABMA has “stepped up to do meaningful work on behalf of our industry when there was a vacuum. Because of ABMA, our federal government has a much better understanding of the needs of the industry.”

Plan For Year Two

As the ABMA starts its second year, the organization is setting itself up for success in 2023. We continue to:

  • push for legislators to be cosponsors of our priority legislation;
  • engage with stakeholders on the SLA;
  • educate legislators about the ABMA and our issues; and
  • involve ABMA members in our advocacy efforts.

We expect there to be many newly elected members of Congress after the November general election, so ABMA will also be educating those new members about the ABMA and its issues, as well as working to get them onto our bills as cosponsors. We will also conduct our annual Advocacy Day in the spring, have yard tours and continue our district office visits and Inside the Capitol meetings. We will also continue to monitor federal regulatory and legislative activity for regulations and bills we should support or oppose and engage ABMA members in grassroots campaigns on those issues.

For our second year, Ceccarelli and Hicks both agree we need to continue to build upon our grassroots momentum. Member driven, grassroots focus is not just a catchy phrase we use. It is what drives our work and ensures success.

Want to get involved with the ABMA?

There are many ways you can become a grassroots advocate:

  • Host a yard tour: Have your members of Congress come to your yard and talk to them about your business needs and challenges

Participate in:

  • District office visits: Meet with your congressional representatives and senators in their district office in your home state to talk about ABMA priorities;
  • Inside the Capitol meetings: These are opportunities for ABMA members to hear from federal legislators about what is going on in Washington and discuss how federal policy impacts the LBM industry; and
  • Grassroots initiatives: Always be on the lookout on our website, in the Advocate, and on social media for our latest grassroots advocacy initiatives and make sure to send a letter to your elected representatives.

This article was originally published in the September edition of NRLA’s Lumber Co-operator. Read it here.