June 26, 2018

Written by Dan Deans, Asurion

japac flyin dandeans johnthune 600x300Dan Deans met with Senator John Thune of South Dakota.
Asurion is a proud member of Jewelers of America. Last week JA’s political action committee, JAPAC, held its eighth annual legislation fly-in to Capitol Hill to speak with members of Congress on major issues affecting the jewelry industry. Asurion was fortunate enough to participate for a second time (I described last year’s visit here), and I appreciate this opportunity to share my observations of our experience on the Hill along with describing our advocacy with legislators and their staffs.
We were joined this year by more JA Members, new to the fly-in, which increased our numbers by nearly half. This welcome addition to our ranks increased our presence, when meeting legislators as a group during lunch or dinner, and our reach as we spread across the Capitol to visit more of their offices to speak to them directly. It was my pleasure to join with a Maryland jeweler, new to this experience, whose sincerity and passion for her business immediately captivated the attention of legislators and their staffs. They cared about our issues because she cared and that kept them engaged throughout her visit. Because of our ability as jewelers to welcome and create relationships with those we meet, we are uniquely qualified to effectively advocate our needs to our representatives. Our Marylander’s newness to activism was never a hindrance to her from the beginning -- her unscripted voice was even an advantage! All of us can, and should, participate in directly exercising our First Amendment rights regardless of our previous political experience. (You can take action today at JA’s Legislative Action Center.)

JA’s staff supplied us with background on every topic, recent political developments, and impressive materials to share with our representatives. In nearly every encounter jewelers shared new information with a legislator or their staff about which they were unaware, even though it greatly affected those of us in the jewelry industry. They welcomed our insight. The response we typically heard, again and again, was, “That’s why meetings like this are important!” These facts gave them reasons to take action and allowed us to request a commitment from representatives to champion for our industry. Knowledge matters, and only when hearing from jewelers can we expect them to act on our behalf.

Tim Haake of Haake & Associates, JA’s D.C.-based legislative counsel, described to us the political landscape in Washington: “It’s a very competitive environment to get your point across.” In this we were ably assisted by Tim and Senior Managing Director Valerie Nelson and Managing Director Margeaux Plaisted of Dentons. They coordinated and accompanied our visits with legislators and their staff through scheduled office meetings, but their impact went far beyond facilitating meetings. They were always aware of opportunities to promote JA’s presence on Capitol Hill. Time and again they were recognized by Congressmen and Congresswomen, Representatives, Legislative Directors and other decision-makers. This created impromptu meetings in the Halls of Congress, or the grounds of the Capitol, which were effective and exciting: any jeweler who has closed a sale on Christmas Eve knows the feeling! The combination of JA’s staff, Haake & Associates, and passionate jewelers gave us the competitive edge necessary to make our voices heard.

japac flyin dandeans meeting 600x300Dan meets with legislators of his home region.

What did Congress hear from jewelers during this JAPAC fly-in? We focused on three important topics during each meeting: Sales Tax Fairness, Protection for LIFO, and Updating the “Made in USA” Standard.

  • Sales Tax Fairness. We were aware that the United States Supreme Court ruling was pending on whether states would be allowed to require collection of sales tax on internet sales. JA’s Director of Public Affairs and Education, Susan Posnock, prepared us for any outcome. Our message to legislators was to take action if the Supreme Court ruled against sales tax fairness; and to consider federal legislation, when necessary, if the Court ruled for sales tax fairness. (The Supreme Court subsequently ruled in our favor.)
  • Protection for LIFO. While JA has won the battle against repeal of the last-in, first-out (LIFO) inventory accounting method thus far, pressure remains for its repeal. Our Congressmen and Congresswomen must be ever vigilant to defend the right of jewelers to continue using LIFO and protect us against this imposition of punitive taxes on our businesses.
  • Update the “Made in USA” Standard. We asked our legislators to assist our recommendation to the FTC that “Made in USA” be applied to jewelry manufactured in the United States. The present outdated standard ignores the substantial transformation that raw materials undergo in the hands of skilled American artisans. (A gold wedding band does not appear underground and proceed unaltered to the showcase.) Forbidding American jewelers from proudly displaying “Made in USA” imposes an unfair advantage to imports.

Dentons’ Valerie Nelson escorted my group on Capitol Hill and, when meeting representatives or staff in between appointments, would introduce us with, “These are America’s jewelers!” Then allowed us to address our concerns on the spot. For those we met, our genders, principles of faith, political affiliation, or income levels did not define us: our unified presence in D.C. as “America’s Jewelers” is what gave us strength. The American standard “United We Stand” was never felt more acutely by many of us than in those moments. When America’s jewelers join together, with JA and JAPAC, Congress listens. Make your voice heard! If you are not a member, join JA and JAPAC so that your interests will be actively presented and listened to; if you’re a part of JA, consider joining the next D.C. Fly-In. Every jeweler I spoke with at the Fly-In loved the experience of making their voices heard and hopes to return again.

Standing together we make a difference to our livelihoods!
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