Washington, D.C. Senators, members of congress and legislative aides played host to lumberyard owners and executives from around the country this week as the National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association (NLBMDA) gathered here for their annual legislative conference. As in years past, the pro dealers pressed their case for relief from product liability lawsuits and skyrocketing health insurance costs. But two new issues -- the recovery of the housing market and green building mandates – were added to the agenda.
Acontingent from the Northwestern Lumber Association met with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), while Kentucky dealers visited Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican from their home state. Approximately 140 dealers, hailing from Alaska to Florida, ducked in and out of congressional offices. NLBMDA members also paid a call to Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, whose father, former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh, delivered the conference’s keynote address.
Four LBM executives from New York State crammed seven visits into one afternoon. Dean Kelly of Jay-K Independent Lumber, Robert Peterman of Peterman Lumber, Brian Rivenburgh of Strober/ProBuild and Seth Arluck of New Hampton Lumber lobbied against green building mandates that favor one type of certification or standards over another. They also urged their representatives to support the reform of the Federal Housing Administration, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
“The [housing] market is not there because there’s a limited availability of [mortgage] money,” said Kelly, who operates a home center in New Hartford, N.Y.
The three-day event, which started on March 31, kicked off with a green building forum sponsored by the LBMI, the national association’s educational organization. Speakers from the Green Building Initiative, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Energy Star for Homes and LEED for Homes talked about their different programs and standards, drew an overflow crowd to the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where the conference is being held.
More congressional visits are scheduled for today, when NLBMDA members will seek additional co-sponsors for H.R. 989, the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act. Introduced in February 2007, the bipartisan bill will hold retailers harmless in lawsuits where they merely sell a product that later causes injuries or damage.