A common complaint I hear regarding leadership in Washington is about the disconnect between politicians and the people they represent. While I have seen my share of oblivious politicians who rarely leave the Beltway and the inner circles of Washington, I pose this question to those who feel they have been forgotten. Have you spoken up?

I know many readers will say, "I talk to them every two, four or six years when I vote for or against them." While I understand that rationale, I don't agree with it. We cannot expect elected officials to represent or understand our positions unless we communicate what we think, and how their actions impact our businesses and the lives of the people in our nation and community. I believe members of Congress work for the people who elect them; they are the people's employees. Now, using that rationale, you wouldn't let an employee go two, four or six years without an employee review, would you? Of course not. I am sure the majority of readers are constantly providing feedback, goals and expectations for employees, and I believe we should do the same for our representation in Washington.

A major point of emphasis that has come from the economic and political uncertainty of 2010 and early 2011 is the added focus politicians have pledged to give small businesses. I believe we have a unique opportunity in this climate to make our voice heard as both HARDI members and people who contribute to the financial health of our communities. A perfect example was the fate of the 25C tax credit in the 2010 tax package. While I understand a one-year extension at reduced rates was not a dream scenario for many of our members, I can tell you that without the vast grassroots support of HARDI members, this credit may have been eliminated altogether.

In addition to the legislative issues (chief among them taxes and deficit reduction) that will come up in 2011, we will see a handful of controversial regulatory actions regarding the environment, energy efficiency and, in particular, labor law. HARDI will continue to advocate both for our members and in the interest of our industry, but to be as effective as possible, it is imperative we have continued support and engagement from those we represent. There are many ways you can be involved in the governing process, and I promise that none of them is painful.

The HARDI Advocacy Center

HARDI will continue to keep you informed about important issues via legislative updates and alerts. Additionally, I will occasionally post updates and my take on political and government developments on www.HARDInet.org. Perhaps the most important resource on the website is a tool under the advocacy section, which not only outlines who your representatives are, but also provides a turnkey instrument to contact the offices of elected officials and give them your opinion.

The HARDI Government Relations Committee

Currently co-chaired by Karen Madonia (ILLCO Inc., Aurora, IL) and Steve Porter (Johnstone Supply, Portland, OR), this committee meets formally once a year at the fall conference and corresponds throughout the year via email and conference calls. The committee serves the vital purpose of discussing current and future legislative and regulatory issues. Additionally, it develops and recommends advocacy strategies, leads fact-finding initiatives and drafts arguments on behalf of HVACR distributor membership.

The HARDI Congressional Fly-In

Occurring May 18 and 19, 2011, in Washington, D.C., this opportunity empowers you with the ability to meet your elected representatives, their staff and important committee staff. To maximize this opportunity for first-time attendees, we work with you one-on-one to prepare for the discussion and assist you in navigating around Capitol Hill. Last year's Congressional Fly-In had a record number of attendees. For those of you who need additional motivation, there are few places as beautiful as Washington, D.C., in May.

On a more personal note, during my brief time with HARDI, I have been amazed by the depth of political knowledge and interest of our members and the commitment to industrywide success. I believe we can make our voice heard and make the issues that are important to HARDI, important to Congress as well. But, much like a politician who needs your vote, I need your engagement and continued willingness to work with your representatives to advocate for those important issues to your businesses and communites.


Jon Melchi is HARDI's government affairs manager. Contact him at 614/345-HEAT (4328) or jmelchi@HARDInet.org.