Thursday, July 25, 2013
SIMA team meets on Capitol Hill
'I get a feeling of excitement, even reverence for the rich history of our country, and certainly some dose of frustration. We can, and will, continue to tell our story.'
By Martin Tirado, CAE
SIMA members had a productive and educational experience with our meetings on Capitol Hill as part of our Day on the Hill event in partnership with PLANET on July 23, 2013. All told, we represented the snow and ice industry well with over 20 appointments with members of Congress in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Of the issues affecting our industry, we came prepared to discuss two priority issues in our meetings:
Insurance rates and liability reform – The increasing costs to obtain necessary coverage for snow and ice liability work has become an overbearing burden on contractors. In some states, insurance providers have left the market en masse, leaving contractors with only a small group of providers even willing to consider providing coverage. When there are few options, costs rise. In states where insurance providers are still plentiful, the costs of rates have increased as underwriters are evaluating our industry as high risk, based on the amount of claims filed for slip and fall cases. Hold harmless clauses in contracts with consumers of our services pass the majority of liability onto contractors, sometimes even in cases not related to snow and ice services. Change is needed.
Seasonal workers in the H-2B program as a part of immigration reform – The Senate has already approved immigration reform legislation that preserves the components of the H-2B program, which would be called “W” visas. However, the current cap on eligible employees is too low. Also, the Department of Labor has issued notices raising the wages of H-2B employees based on prevailing wages. We are encouraging the House to set a firm wage calculation based on the current Senate bill. The House is now discussing this legislation and it doesn’t look promising that an agreement will be reached prior to the August Congressional break.
In the upcoming issue of Snow Business magazine, we will lay out our plans to the industry for tackling these tough issues. In the realm of government relations, the process is a marathon not a sprint. After SIMA staff met with members of Congress in the spring of 2013 and again in July, it’s clear that this is the first time any member or staff in Congress has heard the issues related to our industry. It also will not be the last, as we will continue to pursue legislation favorable to us at the local, state, provincial and federal levels. Each time I have visited Congress over the years, I get a feeling of excitement, reverence for the rich history of our country, pride in educating myself and certainly some dose of frustration. I also leave with a sense of faith in my friends, colleagues and government. We can, and will, continue to tell our story.