OIA In D.C.: Notes From the Hill—Special Capitol Summit Edition

With our annual lobby day just around the corner, this podcast episode will tell you everything you need to know, whether you're coming to D.C. or will be following along online.

Our annual Washington D.C. fly-in and lobbying day are coming up in a couple of weeks. In order to prep those who will be attending, we recorded a special podcast episode to review this year’s policy asks and some of the key logistics for the two-day event. Even if you’re not attending this year, take a listen to Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Rich Harper and Andrew Pappas as they break it all down.

FIVE TAKEAWAYS:

  • Coming to Capitol Hill is critical because: elected officials and their staff juggle multiple policy issues on any given day, and there are thousands of federal programs that they have responsibility for. They rely on the information from trusted, reliable contacts back home like our members to inform their decision and to put a national issue into context of how it’s relevant to constituents and communities they serve.
  • Our top Public Land ask is The Restore Our Parks Act: Fixing our park infrastructure is a smart investment that ensures visitor access and safety and strong local communities. The bill would direct approximately $6.5 billion of unobligated, non-LWCF oil and gas royalties to fund priority repairs. There is broad bipartisan support for this effort including support from the Trump administration.
  • Our top Trade asks the year to remove the China 301 tariffs and to support the Import Tax Relief bill of 2019: Higher tariffs mean higher taxes and costs for outdoor companies that they will eventually have to pass to the consumer. It also means less money for R&D and job growth. It also has an impact on our Made in the USA members because some of the inputs that are used in the production of products domestically are also included on those tariffs lists.
  • For the first time, we’re making a climate ask: We need to push for bipartisan action that creates solutions to both adapt and mitigate to the impact of climate change through investments in recreation infrastructure, improved trail access and using recreation infrastructure as a carbon sink, but also to talk about how the outdoor industry, our jobs and our economic power can be a useful tool for communities that are trying to bridge this transition between potential economies that are more reliant on energy and extraction to trying to move into a future towards a more sustainable and diverse energy economy.
  • This year, we’re honoring our Friends of the Industry Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, Senator Cortez Masto from Nevada, Representative Susan Suzan Delbene from Washington State and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania for their continued support of the outdoor recreation economy and on key issues such as outdoor access, climate change, conservation and trade.

For more about Capitol Summit, to watch a video from a previous year’s event, and to see this year’s full agenda, click here.

Full transcript

Deborah:          Hello to our listeners. Thank you for taking the time to tune in to what is a limited edition podcast in which we’re prepping our 2019 OIA Capitol Summit attendees for this year’s lobbying fly-in, which is going to happen here in a couple weeks at the end of April and beginning of May. In the past we’ve conducted a conference call or done this as a webinar in order to brief our attendees, but we know that everyone is increasingly busy and we thought this format would provide a bit more flexibility for people to listen whatever it’s convenient for them, to stop and start as their schedule allows and even to listen to it a couple times to make sure they feel prepared. Ultimately we just want to be sure that everyone who is taking time out of their busy schedules to come to D.C. feels prepared and confident and the best people, of course, to prepare you for the event are our government affairs experts. So I have with me today Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Andrew Pappas, and Rich Harper. Together, we’re going to give just our general overview. We’ll do a brief agenda for this call and then we’ll jump right in.

Deborah:          So we’re going to start talking just about what Cap Summit is. Certainly those of you who have already registered have a good idea. But Patricia is going to tell us specifically why this year is important and why it’s critical that members are participating. Then we’ll go into a high level overview of the schedule for the two-day event, but you can find the full agenda on OutdoorIndustry.org under the events tab, and that includes all the information about the hotel that we’re using, where most of the day one events will take place as well as times and locations for our various sessions and receptions and events throughout the two-day event.

Deborah:          And then we will dig into the meat of this call and offer some prep background information about our policy agenda in general and our 2019 Capitol Summit asks in particular. And then finally we’ll address a few key logistics that you need to know before you pack your bags and get on a plane.

Deborah:          So let’s jump right in and start with Patricia. For everyone who is listening who is attending either for the first time this year or who has been coming, but just wants to know why this year is particularly important as well as anyone who might be listening because they’re thinking about coming to a future event, why is their participation in DC fly ins like this one so important?

Patricia:            Thanks, Deborah. We are so excited to be hosting nearly 100 OIA members and partners this year. The fly in really is critical to achieving success with our advocacy agenda throughout the year. The fact is elected officials and their staff juggle multiple policy issues on any given day, and there are thousands of federal programs that they have responsibility for. They rely on the information from trusted, reliable contacts back home like our members to inform their decision and to put a national issue into context of how it’s relevant to constituents and communities they serve.

Patricia:            So Capitol Summit participants have a very real impact in these meetings. Beyond just talking about a policy, they’re also great for making sure that your members of Congress and their staff know that they can turn to you and OIA when they need help determining what path to take on a public lands issue, a trade issue or recreation or climate issue. As members of Congress become better educated about our policy priorities and how their engagement in them can help their constituents back home, it will be much easier for OIA staff to go back and advocate for key policy proposals. There’s really no better example of this working so effectively than the recent permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. For years OIA members came to Capitol Hill to make the case for this incredible program which funds outdoor recreation and conservation with money brought in from offshore drilling and over time, the pressure mounted and Congress finally took action a few weeks ago to make this program permanent. We should take the time during this year’s Capitol Summit to thank members of Congress for heeding our call and use that as an example and a guide for what is possible during these meetings.

Deborah:          Thank you, Patricia. I think that’s important to note that it’s always great to start a meeting thanking these members of Congress for what they’ve already done to support our industry and remind them that those votes do matter and that our voice is strong and that we’ll continue to come and ask for the things that matter to our industry. Speaking of thanks, I also want to take a minute to thank our title sponsors for the Capitol Summit event which include REI and our platinum sponsors WL Gore, and Osprey, thank you to them for their continued support for this event.

Deborah:          Now, Andrew, we have generally followed the same basic agenda for Capitol Summit for many years now so people who have attended will be generally familiar. On day one, we always kick off with lunch and then a keynote address from a D.C. insider or policy expert who comes not only to inspire us but also to give us some really tangible strategies for influencing the members of Congress or to talk about some issues that are particularly timely the week that we’ll be there. So this year our keynote is Paul Bagalla, and if you can just tell listeners a little bit more about him and what to expect of his presentation.

Andrew:           Yeah, thanks, Deb. This year we’re really excited to welcome Paul Bagalla to the Capitol Summit as our keynote and welcomed speaker. The lunch will begin at 11:30 on Tuesday the 30th. Paul has been a longtime D.C. insider since the 90s when he came in with President Clinton and before that. Since then, you could see him on CNN as a consistent political commentator. He’s a professor of public policy, an author, Emmy award winner, a Peabody award winner. So we really look forward to have his insight and have him join us to talk about the recreation industry but also give us a larger overview of what’s going on in D.C., what legislators are thinking, what’s possible, what might not happen now. Everybody’s preparing for the up and coming 2020 elections.

Deborah:          Thank you, Andrew. I would say that the keynote that we start with is definitely energizing but it also is a way to ease attendees in and then what happens next is that the government affairs team really turns the amps up to 11, and we put attendees through what I call a policy bootcamp. So your team selects a roster of experts every year to provide deep dives into the bills and the issues that we will be speaking to members of Congress about and asking for support on. So we won’t go too deep into those now, but let’s go ahead and get some background on each of the bills so attendees can come prepared with questions and then some personal stories and anecdotes to tell their members of Congress to convey the importance of these asks.

Deborah:          So Patricia, let’s start with you. The first bill that we’re lobbying on this year is the Restore our Parks Act of 2019. What is that bill and what message or messages do we want to convey to members of Congress about that one?

Patricia:            Deb, the Restore Our Parks Act would address priority repairs in America’s aging national parks facilities. This includes roads, visitors centers, trails, and camp grounds. The fact is the National Park Service which manages more than 400 sites across the country faces a backlog of repairs that would cost nearly $12 billion to fix. Americans made 318 million visits to our national parks last year which we want to promote and are excited about, but they also deserve a well-maintained national park system.

Patricia:            So our message is pretty simple. Fixing our park infrastructure is a smart investment that ensures visitor access and safety and strong local communities. The House bill is sponsored by reps Rob Bishop and Derek Kelmer and the Senate bills is sponsored by Senators Rob Portman and Mark Warner. It would direct approximately $6.5 billion of unobligated oil and gas royalties to fund priority repairs in parks and other public lands and none of that money would come from the fees collected from the Land and Water Conservation fund. There is broad bipartisan support for this effort including support from the Trump administration. But in order to continue to move it forward, we really need to come together and demonstrate that we want to get it done this Congress. Already over 170 members of the House of Representatives have cosponsored which is wonderful and a little over 30 Senators have cosponsored the bill. So our visit at the end of this month is critical to demonstrate that the industry is united and that we want to get this bill done.

Deborah:          Excellent. And a couple things that jumped out when you were talking to me if I was going into some of these meetings, I’d want to point out that this is not only investment in the parks themselves but that when those parks are maintained and users can have access and can enjoy them safely, it also really boosts the local communities who depend on those parks for the tourism revenue that it brings in and so it’s not just about investing in the parks. It’s about investing in our communities. I think that’s a strong point.

Deborah:          But of course public lands are a cornerstone of our recreation advocacy work and in addition to the Restore Our Parks Act, we are also working with our partners on Capitol Hill to pull together a group of previously introduced rec access and maintenance bills into a larger package. These are bills that had gotten some momentum previously and didn’t make it into last year’s land package. So Patricia, talk about those efforts and how our members can bring that message to their visits as well.

Patricia:            Yes, Deb. Unfortunately, these unnecessary hurdles prevent many people from having access to our public lands for recreation. For example, recreational permitting systems managed by federal land agencies are outdated and full of unnecessary bureaucratic barriers, which makes it very difficult for guides, outfitters and outdoor programs to take children and adults outdoors to actually get onto public land.

Patricia:            We’ve heard one too many stories of a permit taking multiple years to secure or groups just giving up on securing a permit altogether, because of the runaround that they get trying to secure the permit. Senator Heinrich and Senator Capito plan to introduce the Simplifying Outdoor Access For Recreation Act, the SOAR act, that will improve this recreation permitting system and make it easier for all Americans to experience [inaudible] with the help of a guide, outfitter or educational program.

Patricia:            In addition to the permitting issues, Senator Wyden will be re-introducing legislation known as Recreation, Not Red Tape, which would establish an outdoor recreation as a priority for federal land management agencies, and create a new federal designation for national recreation areas. I think what’s important, as you mentioned, is that what we’re trying to do is build momentum around these bills and this concept of removing barriers for recreation access so that a package can come together, like the recent public lands package, in a bipartisan way and pool these two bills, along with some other bills that would reduce the barriers for outdoor access and move them some time this Congress.

Deborah:          Wonderful. So yeah, of course, a top priority for us is always making sure that our consumers and outdoorists can get out and enjoy public lands and be outside. But it’s also really important to our industry that they have access to the products that will keep them safe while they’re outside and comfortable, which is the business that we’re in.

Deborah:          So Rich, you’re up next. Trade policy is also one of our focused areas, and your expertise. This year we’re asking Congress to remove the China 301 tariffs and to support the Import Tax Relief bill of 2019. Certainly, we’ve been talking a lot this year about tariffs and about China. So give us some more background on these bills and how members can convey the impact of them on their businesses and ultimately on American consumers.

Rich:                 Sure, this is certainly a challenging trade environment for outdoor companies. The US/China trade dispute is at the top of the list. As many of you already know, in an effort to protect U.S. IP and compel the Chinese to change some of their policies, the administration has imposed over $250 billion in tariffs on products sourced from China. This includes a number of outdoor products, including backpacks and sports bags, bikes, camp chairs, camp stoves, kayaks and leather ski gloves. So in addition to the tariffs that they already pay, they now face an additional 10% tariff on top of that. That’s been in effect since last September.

Rich:                 As many of you already know, higher tariffs mean higher taxes, mean higher costs for outdoor companies that they initially had to absorb but soon will be passed on to the consumer. This also means less money for innovation, new product development and job growth. It also has an impact on our Made in USA members because some of the inputs that are used in the production of products domestically are also included on those tariffs lists. So this has been a key part of our trade agenda this year, and the top trade ask at our Capitol Summit.

Rich:                 We’re asking folks to urge the members of Congress to support removing a 10% tariff on those products immediately when and if a deal is reached between the administration and China. Those talks are ongoing and progress has been made, but no agreement has yet been reached. Our concern is that the additional tariffs could become the new norm. So we’re urging members of Congress to support removing the tariffs immediately when a deal is announced. Barring that, if there is a partial deal or if the tariffs remain in place for the foreseeable future, we’re asking members to support legislation introduced by Senator Lankford and Coons in the Senate and by Representatives Kind and [inaudible] in the House that would establish a formal exclusion process for those products that have been hit by the additional 10% tariff.

Rich:                 So outdoor products were included on the third list of products subject to tariffs. The first two lists already have a formal exclusion process whereby companies can submit petitions to the administration and ask that their products be exempted from any additional tariffs. But the exclusion process has not been established for that third list, again, where a number of outdoor products are included.

Rich:                 So the Import Tax Relief Act would do just that and establish a formal exclusion process to give our members the opportunity to file petitions and make their case that these products should be excluded from any additional tariffs. Ultimately, of course, our goal is to remove the tariffs immediately, if possible, but again barring that, we support the legislation as it’s been introduced in the House, in the Senate, the Import Tax Relief Act.

Rich:                 The key point that you want to share with members of Congress is the impact that these initial tariffs have on your business, how they impact your job growth, how they impact new hires, how they might impact product development, and new innovations that have not yet come on the market, and also how they impact the outdoor consumer. The more specifics you can share, the better. We’re surely looking forward to having you join us on Capitol Hill to make this case on behalf of outdoor companies.

Deborah:          So this is definitely not only a very meaty issue, so we’ll be, like we said earlier, diving in heavily on this during Lobby 101. It’s also a very immediate and timely issue that is top of mind for so many of these members. We saw back in January at the Outdoor Retailer Show, several members of the Colorado delegation came to meet with some companies at the trade show, on the trade show floor. This was the top issue that they were asking our member companies about, and the one that they were the most interested in hearing about. Some of our members did a great job conveying to them exactly what these impacts look like and how it affects not only Coloradans but their customers around the globe. So we know that this will be a big issue for us at Capitol Summit this year.

Deborah:          But another, of course, big one. Andrew, we’re going to turn to you to talk about climate. So this our newest area of policy work or the newest issue on our policy agenda. This will be the first time that we’re asking Congress to take action in a bipartisan way to address climate change at a Capitol Summit. So can you dive into that a little bit more and explain that ask?

Andrew:           Yeah, definitely. So we’ve seen over the past couple of years the climate discussion has continued to grow, and policy continues to move at the state and local level. But federally the conversation is really being amped up. The urgency to address the issue has been increasing as well, with recent reports coming from the US Government, from the International community on climate change, all related to the goals of the importance of addressing causes and the impact of climate, and those reports have called out outdoor recreation and tourism as parts of the American economy that are impacted by climate change.

Andrew:           So knowing that and seeing how it impacts both the places we get outside and how we get outside, in addition to the way that our businesses are run, how we plan for the future, we want to make sure that our legislators know on both sides of the aisle the importance of address climate change as a business imperative and a business issue. We need to push for bipartisan action that creates solutions to both adapt and mitigate to the impact of climate change through investments and things like recreation infrastructure, improved trail access and using recreation infrastructure as a carbon sink, but also to talk about how the outdoor industry, our jobs and our economic power can be a useful tool for communities that are trying to bridge this transition between potential economies that are more reliant on energy and extraction to trying to move into a future towards a more sustainable and diverse energy economy.

Andrew:           So the outdoor recreation voice is critical in bringing bipartisan support to these issues and having people think about it in a way that addressing climate change isn’t just an environmental issue, it’s a business issue for us.

Deborah:          Super. Thank you all for the overview of those issues and the asks. I think clearly, as we’ve seen in the last several years with this event, the really effective message is like Andrew just said, the impact of all of these bills or asks on economic issues. When we remind our members of the outdoor recreation economy, and that these issues really do help encourage growth as well as, of course, all of the benefits that we know exist from being outside. That’s why it’s so important that we’re doing this.

Deborah:          So as we noted at the top, the Day One Lobby 101 session gives a lot more background on these issues and these bills, so that all attendees feel really prepared at the end of the day, even if they don’t think of themselves as trade experts, for example, or are entirely sure what the climate message should be. We’ll prepare everyone for that. But after all sort of heavy brain strain, we wrap day one with something a little bit lighter. It’s a reception, so we invite everyone to unwind and have maybe a cocktail. Then we have an OIA PAC fundraiser and I think Patricia, you you’d like to talk a little bit about that event and what attendees can expect?

Patricia:            Yes. We’re hosting a special reception on April 30th from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Source by Wolfgang Puck that will funds for OIA’s political action committee. The event will allow us to raise needed resources for OIA’s PAC, which are used to support federal candidates for office who understand the value of outdoor recreation. Our special guests will be Senator Martin Heinrich from New Mexico who everyone knows is the champion for the outdoor industry and a real leader on many of OIA’s priorities. We’d like to invite everyone to sign a prior approval for solicitation form so they can attend this great event. The form will be in the Capitol Summit Book that everyone participating in Capitol Summit will receive.

Deborah:          Great. Okay, so anyone who wants to attend, we just want to make sure they know ahead of time that they do need to sign and submit that prior authorization form. And this will just be a really great way to bookends the day with two inspiring, I think, events to get us amped up for what is really the big day, that’s Lobby Day. So Andrew, I’ll have you walk us through the logistics of Lobby Day and the schedule, as well as anything people just need to remember about what to bring, what to wear, what not to bring. And then Patricia, if you can tell us how attendees can really make sure that their meetings are efficient and effective.

Andrew:           Yeah, so heading into Wednesday, we’ll start the morning with a breakfast that you’ll have the opportunity to sit with your team, look through your schedule and really plan the day before you had to Capitol Hill. When you’re thinking about heading to the Hill and getting ready to come to the event, please remember comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking a lot with your teams in between the House and Senate buildings. Keep an eye on the skies and if there’s going to be rain we’ll let you guys know, but potentially bring an umbrella. Lots of business cards are a key. It’s a day of networking and letting people know about your businesses. And an important important part of these meetings is going to be the follow up. So please make sure to bring business cards to exchange with everybody. All the government buildings do have security and some of them will not allow water in, but we will be providing Stanley reusable mugs and bottles for you all to use over the course of the Capitol Summit if you don’t bring your own.

Andrew:           You will have a team lead for all of your teams so you help you get around the Capitol building. But just make sure to be prepared, look through the meeting schedule that we’ll get to you ahead of time. And we’ll also be sending an attendee book ahead time for you to read through that has more sample on the ask, info on how to use social media for the day and some more hints and tips to get you through the Capitol Summit experience.

Deborah:          Great and Patricia, if you want to talk about making sure that those meetings are efficient and we make sure members are hearing us loud and clear when we have time to sit with them.

Patricia:            Well hopefully this won’t be the first time for most of the participants, but if it is, there are some simple steps to take to ensure that everyone has a great meeting. First I would start by thanking the member and their staff are obviously taking the time to take the meeting. Then quickly go around and do introductions of all the participants that are here with OIA. It’s also important to remember to stay on topic. You have a limited amount of time for each meeting, probably 20 to 30 minutes, and several issues to cover. So as much as possible, stay on topic with the issues. In order to help you stay on topic, it’s a good idea to try to assign a representative from each of the groups to cover one of the issues. So since we have four issue areas, having four people responsible from the team in advance will help the meeting move more smoothly.

Patricia:            Also, most of the time what makes people remember these meetings is the personal stories that our members can bring to the issues. It’s not your responsibility to be a policy expert. So just talk about how the issue impacts your business, has impacted you personally and talk about it in a more personal manner that will help people remember why the issue is so important.

Patricia:            Also, it’s very important to make the ask at the end of the meeting. What is it that we want that member of Congress to do or support? And ask them if they’re prepared to do that. Some of the times you’ll find that people immediately say yes, that they’re with you on the issue or that they’ll co-sponsor the bill. And other times they’ll need more time to think about it, which is fine.

Patricia:            Closing out the meeting, it’s always important to remember to thank the members or the staff for holding the meeting. And then OIA will provide you with a leave behind packet that has more details on each of the policy areas for the office to consider.

Patricia:            There are also a few things just to keep in mind not to do. Try not to be late for the meetings. I know there a lot of meetings scheduled that day but because you have a limited amount of time, it’s important to arrive on time. Also, it’s important not to talk politics. I know we’re dealing with a lot of politicians but just stick to the issues and don’t get into political talk.

Deborah:          Wonderful. Thank you. And as Andrew mentioned, if you are inclined to share your experience on social, we will have some Capitol Summit hashtags that we will be using and would love everyone to use as well. The main one is #capitolsummit, but then we also have one for each of the issue areas we’re talking about. Those will be in the briefing book that has been mentioned a couple times on this call, #tariffshurt, #restoreourparks, #climateaction and #outdooraccess. And as Patricia mentioned, it’s always great to close out the meeting by saying thank you, but it’s also really great social media practice to tag the member of Congress after you’ve met with them and say hey, thank you for taking the time to listen to our issues. We appreciated having an opportunity to chat with you. And so that can go a long way on social media as well. We will also have our OIA photographer and social media guru, Billy on the ground, snapping photos and sharing social. So feel free to jump on any of those posts as well.

Deborah:          Okay, so we know that we will be finishing up our lobby day and will be wanting to celebrate a lot of successful meetings, but we also are going to want to take the chance to unwind. So we’ll have another reception in the afternoon and this time we’re going to honor some of our friends of the industry, which is something that we’ve done every year to show appreciation for those who hear our issues and have been champions. So Patricia, can you tell us about that event and who we’ll be honoring?

Patricia:            Yes. This year is friends of the industries reception will take place on May 1st in the Mansfield Room of the U.S. Capitol. We’re inviting members of Congress and staff to join us in celebration of the industry and to get to know our participants. In addition, we are honoring our champions of the industry with a friend of the industry award. This year we’re honoring Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, Senator Cortez Masto from Nevada, Representative Susan Suzan Delbene from Washington State and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania for their continued support of the outdoor recreation economy and on key issues such as outdoor access, climate change, conservation and trade.

Deborah:          Thank you Patricia, Rich and Andrew for your time and for your insights. To those who will be attending this year’s event be sure you keep an eye out for more emails from our team with the background information as well as just logistics that you need to know before arriving and how you can prepare for the event. About a week before Capitol Summit, we’ll send a briefing book and that’s really going to have the deep dive with details on each issue, so I’ll make sure you keep an eye out for that.

Deborah:          If you are listening and you’re not planning to attend or not able to attend this year, you can still get involved by helping us amplify those social messages that we talked about a minute ago. And those will be happening on April 30th and May 1st. So keep an eye on OIA’s Twitter and Instagram feeds as well as your company if someone is attending and other companies within the industry who might be socializing the event.

Deborah:          And of course visit outdoorindustry.org any time to learn more about Capitol Summit and our other advocacy works through the year, including opportunities to take immediate action on pending legislation. And you can find that in our advocacy center, as well as other programming and stories produced by OIA throughout the year.

Deborah:          So as always, thank you and remember that Together We Are a Force.

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