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Region Six members press industry concerns on Capitol Hill

By Brock Huffstutler

May 16, 2023

L-R: Doug Haas, Bart Brown and Mike Baartman link up at a Caucus reception

Left to right, Doug Haas, Bart Brown and Mike Baartman link up at a Caucus reception

Nearly 60 members of the American Rental Association (ARA) gathered in Washington, D.C., March 28-30, 2023, for ARA’s National Legislative Caucus. The event brings members of the equipment and event rental industry to Capitol Hill to meet with their elected officials to discuss the issues and concerns of the industry.

The following members from ARA’s Region Six took part:

Caucus attendees had the opportunity to meet with members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives and their staff members. During these meetings, attendees talked about four key industry issues:

  • Workforce development
  • H-2B visas
  • Tax policy
  • Catalytic converter thefts

Click here for specifics on the four issues ARA members pushed for at this year’s Caucus.

The event kicked off that Tuesday afternoon with an opening session featuring Jim Ellis, senior political analyst with BIPAC (Business Industry Political Action Committee) — a nonpartisan organization that works to improve the political climate in America for the business community and help employers and employees play a more active role in public policy and the political process.

Darick Hemphill, left, speaks with a senate staffer

Darick Hemphill, left, speaks with a Senate staffer

Ellis talked about trends seen in recent election cycles and how their outcomes portend what could occur in the 2024 presidential and congressional contests. “We’re definitely living in an interesting time in American political history,” he said.

The session was followed by a welcome reception, where Caucus attendees could meet one another and network with other equipment and event rental professionals from around the country.

On Wednesday morning, everyone headed to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and staff members. Attendees shared facts, figures and personal stories about how workforce development, H-2B visas, taxes and catalytic converter thefts affect their lives, businesses and the industry.

Baartman has attended Caucus several times and knows the impact it can have. He says that even on this trip, he was impressed with the caliber of the congressional staffers he met with.

“The staffers we met with were very good. I think the issues that we had were all accepted very well. What we are pushing, at least the Iowa and South Dakota representatives who I met with, were all in favor of them,” Baartman says.

“It was interesting. I had never been to the buildings before, or the tunnels and the underground, and just seeing it all kind of work was cool,” says first-time Caucus attendee Farrell. “I told our story and told it and told it. Hopefully it does something. So, I’ll be interested to see it from the back end.”

Steve Mau, left, and Doug Haas, right, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Steve Mau, left, and Doug Haas, right, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar

After a day of meetings, everyone got back together for a reception during which a bottle of Angel’s Envy-brand bourbon with a commemorative engraving was raffled off to raise money for ARAPAC — ARA’s political action committee. $14,300 was raised through the raffle; the money will be used to support candidates running for federal office who support a pro-business environment — regardless of party affiliation. Region Six’s own Mike Baartman won the raffle for the bourbon.

It was back to Capitol Hill on Thursday morning for a final round of meetings with legislators and their staff. Then, Caucus wrapped up with a lunch at the Capitol Hill Club that featured guest speaker U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.).

Over the course of the 2023 Caucus, attendees logged approximately 170 appointments with lawmakers.

“Everybody was very receptive and more engaged than what I expected,” says Haas, another first-time Caucus attendee. “Rep. Michelle Fischbach took notes and asked questions as I talked to her. She was really good; she knew Section 179 is an important issue. She asked how I personally was using it, so I told her that for the last three years, since I was writing off $200,000 to $300,000 on Section 179 and then in 2022 I had zero because the cost went up so much, I didn’t have profit. Now, the same trailer I bought two years ago was $5,000 and I just took delivery on one that was $10,000. My costs went up 50 percent and the rental rates couldn’t keep up that fast. So, I said that we have to restructure that now so I can make a profit again.”

Mau stressed the importance of Caucus attendees telling their stories to persons of influence on Capitol Hill.

“A lot of people don’t know what our industry does and the role we play in our communities and in the economy,” Mau says. “We acquire equipment and share that resource. That makes us efficient, and people see that sustainability model and its impact on the environment. Telling folks the role that we play is important.”

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