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Minnesota Group Meets With Lawmakers on Capitol Hill
Last year was a bumpy ride for business aviation, with a slew of regulatory crises coming out of Washington. NBAA and other aviation groups continue to deal with a number of major issues, including the full reinstatement of the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program, the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme, President Obama's proposed $100 per flight user fee and the lack of a long-term reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Members of the Minnesota Business Aviation Association (MBAA) decided last November they would no longer stand on the sidelines and watch events surrounding these issues unfold. "We said, 'now is the time to go to Washington, DC,'" explained MBAA Executive Director Gordon Hoff.
But Hoff wanted someone else to help represent his organization's 400 members. Neil Brackin, the aviation manager at General Mills, volunteered.
Hoff had a strategy, and he wasted no time implementing it. "First, we looked at the members who are on key committees," he said. He found that Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) serves on the Senate Commerce Committee. Congressmen Timothy Walz (D-1-MN) and Chip Cravaack (R-8-MN) are members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Cravaack is vice chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee.
Cravaack and three other U.S. representatives from Minnesota are members of the congressional General Aviation Caucus. They include John Kline (R-2-MN) and democrats Betty McCollum (D-4-MN) and Collin Peterson (D-7-MN).
Hoff realized the Internet makes it easier than ever before to contact members of Congress. "Everything is now electronic," he said. "So you send an e-mail asking for some time."
In some cases, he was unable to arrange a time with lawmakers themselves, but was undeterred.
"Talking with a staff member doesn't mean it won't get back to the lawmaker. In fact, sometimes, talking to the staff member who is most focused on the issue tends to make more of an impression on the lawmaker. That staff member is going to take the message back in a very focused manner."
After arriving in Washington, Hoff and Brackin went to NBAA Headquarters to consult with Lisa Piccione, the Association's senior vice president of government affairs.
"Having someone like Lisa, who is up-to-the-minute on these issues, talk with you before you go into the meeting helps you feel more confident that what you're saying is current and relevant," Brackin said.
In each of their meetings with lawmakers, Hoff and Brackin used an outline to make their key points. "The conversations flowed relatively easily because you're talking about things that are important to you, things that influence you, things you do every day," he elaborated.
High on their agenda was the recently reinstated BARR program. Brackin expressed his concern that General Mills' efforts to create new partnerships with companies nationwide were compromised by the fact that practically anyone with a computer could track his company's flight operations. Another topic: user fees. "We told them that taking the current, efficient funding model and building upon that is a much better strategy and approach than creating a new funding model that has a lot of bureaucratic and administrative requirements in order to facilitate that," Brackin said.
With detailed preparation, a series of firm appointments and a solid list of talking points, Hoff said he thinks they were effective in their meetings with lawmakers. "I think the people we met with certainly have a better understanding of how business aviation is impacted by the issues we brought up," Hoff said. "I left the meetings feeling that lawmakers got a positive message about business aviation and these issues."
For More Information
Use NBAA's valuable Contact Congress tool at www.nbaa.org/action to make your voice heard about policies impacting business aviation.