WASHINGTON — The Textile Rental Services Association’s Leadership & Legislative Conference concluded last week with more than 30 meetings with key figures in Capitol Hill offices. The sessions enabled company leaders to enlist support of members of Congress in advancing the industry’s most pressing government-relations causes.
Hill Day was the conference climax, following TRSA committee meetings and presentations at the Fairmont Washington, the first time in the event’s three-year history that all activities took place downtown. Attendance exceeded 130, a conference high. Operator (launderer) members outnumbered Associates (suppliers) by a nearly 3-to-2 ratio.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor and two-time presidential candidate, primed attendees for their congressional visits immediately before their departure. Alexander offered his view of the nation’s fiscal crisis, noting that only 40% of government spending is budgeted each year. That portion of expenditures is at 2008 levels and is set to grow with inflation. The remainder is mandated by prior legislation (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) and is growing at three to four times inflation.
Issues TRSA members raised during the Hill meetings included competition from prison laundries, taxation of textiles as medical devices, and regulation of air emissions of volatile organic compounds from towel processing.
Following these meetings, participants regrouped at a Hill lunch spot to hear Rep. Mike Pompeo, a second-term House member from Kansas, who addressed the shop towel issue from his own perspective as a small business owner/operator.
The night before, at a TRSAPAC reception, Rep. Bill Huizenga of Michigan was honored as TRSA’s first-ever Legislator of the Year. He introduced 2012 legislation to level the playing field in competing with prison industries.
The industry-leadership portion of the agenda took place at the Fairmont March 18-19. Activities consisted mostly of committee meetings, where participants voiced their individual preferences for how TRSA should allocate resources. But the program included keynote speakers as well. Alex Castellanos, CNN political analyst, offered a cloudy forecast for clearing political gridlock in Washington. Alex Passantino, former head of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), gave participants pointers on overtime pay issues.
Randall Wentsel, Ph.D., senior managing scientist, Exponent Inc., explained the research his firm has conducted for TRSA that proves how reusable shop towels, foodservice napkins and healthcare isolation gowns are more sustainable than their disposable counterparts.