With Proper Preparation and Motivation, Virtual Hill Meetings Work > Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA)
April 14, 2021

With Proper Preparation and Motivation, Virtual Hill Meetings Work

If you had asked me a year ago whether I thought virtual congressional meetings would be as productive as in-person meetings, I would have said no way. But here we are, and I find myself pleased to be proven wrong.

From April 6-8, about 50 HPBA members met with 80+ congressional offices via Zoom or phone. We met with offices who represent 22 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Even though Congress was out of session, we were lucky enough to meet directly with Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, Congresswoman Judy Chu of California, Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont, and Congressman Mike Rogers of Alabama.

When you think of meetings with congressional offices, you might think of sitting in a Congressman’s office in Washington, DC or sitting across the table from a young staffer, hashing out issues that affect the district and constituents. These meetings felt surprisingly familiar to how they would play out in-person. As everyone has moved to a virtual world, we are not the only trade group to organize virtual meetings. With crucial scheduling and meeting platform support from Advocacy Associates (a DC-based firm that specializes in organizing congressional visits), HPBA staff and members were able to seamlessly move from virtual meeting to virtual meeting, advocating on behalf of the industry. I heard multiple times from congressional staff how well prepared our members were and that they greatly appreciated how well organized and action-oriented our meetings were since many advocates often are not as well prepared.

Our primary focus was promotion of the BTU Act, legislation that would extend the new Sec. 25(D) tax credit for qualifying wood and pellet heaters through 2028 (the credit is set to expire after 2023). The legislation would also increase the credit from the current level of 26% to 30% of qualifying purchase and installation costs. The legislation will be reintroduced by Senator King (D-ME) with Senator Collins (R-ME) later this week. Offices were receptive to the tax credit and were encouraged to hear how successful the credit has been for many retailers in just the past few months. Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT), who was the original sponsor of the BTU Act in the House for many years, was especially pleased to hear from retailers and manufacturers that the credit has gone a long way toward incentivizing customers to make purchases.

Members also promoted the not-yet-reintroduced Wood Heaters Emissions Reduction Act (WHERA), which would create a grant program under EPA to replace older. Non-certified wood and pellet heaters with new, EPA-certified products. These changeout programs have seen great success over the years in improving air quality and lowering home heating bills, but the country lacks a national pool of funds to continue supporting these programs once the original funds have run out.

The topic of “electrification” also came up in meetings. It is important for congressional staff and legislators to be aware of the impacts of reducing or banning use of natural gas and propane. Both natural gas and propane play an important role in our country’s home energy fuel options, reducing costs and ensuring households have a reliable source of heat.

Given how successful these meetings were and the engagement we saw from our members, we will most likely continue to organize more frequent virtual meetings with congressional staff and HPBA members. It is crucial that we stay in touch with our allies on Capitol Hill and cultivate new relationships as well. Hearing from constituents is an important way for congressional staff and members of Congress to hear first-hand how federal policies are affecting small businesses.

A big thank you to all of our members who participated in these virtual meetings last week. You took a leap of faith and trusted us to prepare you and ensure that any technology limitation didn’t hold us back from exercising our right to make our voices heard with elected officials.

Listed below are the names of those industry leaders who participated. Thank you for demonstrating leadership and giving our industry a voice!


Name

Company

Karen Arpino

NEHPBA

John Bassemier

Bassemiers Fireplace and Patio, INC

Dann Carnes

Fireplace Editions

Darryl Corey

FW Webb Company

Mike Delconti

FW Webb Company

Joel Etter

Hearth & Home Technologies

Grant Falco

Falco's

Rick Forshaw

Forshaw of Saint Louis Inc

Erica Geil

MidStates & Midwest HPBA

Larry Grogan

Rocky Mountain Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Assoc.

Daniel Hammer

SUTTER HOME & HEARTH, INC.

Todd Harkrider

Harky's Chimney & Home Services LLC

Bill Harris

Masonry Fireplace Industries, Inc

Dan Hechler

HECHLERS HEARTH & HOME

Cristina Henriquez

HPBA-Pacific

Drew Herendeen

Hearth and Home

Dick Hoffman

RGH ENTERPRISES INC.

Joseph Holland

Holland & Hearth, Inc.

Rodger Holland

Holland & Hearth, Inc.

Ben Holt

Embers Custom Fireplace & Gas Products, Inc

Edward Hosack

Hearthworks

Mark Humphrey

Fireplace Warehouse

Ron Kessner

Fireplaces Plus

David Kuhfahl

Hearthstone Quality Home Heating Products Inc.

Nathan Lammers

Johnson Gas/Mendota

Adam Lee

Brownstone Distributing

Carolyn Logue

CA Logue Public Affairs

Connie Maier

Hearth and Home Shoppe

Donald Murphy

The Murphy Group, LLC

Ronald Pihl

Warmstone Fireplaces and Designs

Tim Reed

Reed Marketing, LLC

Kris Richardson

Modern Flames

Amie Ryan

Ryan Bros. Chimney Sweeping, Inc

Peter Schoenfeld

United Buyers Group

Clint Severns

The Woodway

Jeff Simmons

Top Hat chimney sweeps

Karen Teske-Osborne

North Central HPBA

Randy Toupin

Energy Distribution Systems

Kaity Van Amersfort

South Central HPBA

Jonathan Williams

Mid-Atlantic HPBA

Robert Wise

CVC Success Group

Cindy Wise

Southeast HPBA

 

 

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