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October 30, 2018 11:24am

D.C. Fly-In: Three major takeaways from the nation’s capital

Published by Insider Louisville on October 24, 2018.

Several days ago Greater Louisville Inc. took 30 business leaders to the nation’s capital to lobby for our federal agenda. We hadn’t planned to do a D.C. Fly-In this year, but quickly pivoted when it became clear that federal policies were hurting our businesses.

Our focus centered on tariffs, immigration and health care. It was a jam-packed few days, including visits to the Department of Commerce, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Center for Medicaid and Medicare, the Supreme Court, and meetings with several members of our Kentucky and Indiana delegation, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

For the readers who didn’t get to go, here are three major takeaways:

Immigration is important to our workforce

GLI has lobbied to expand the H1B visa program and pass a legislative solution to DACA. In Washington, we heard from several speakers on this topic, including representatives from the Cato Institute, the New American Economy and the U.S. Chamber.

We know that if it hadn’t been for immigration in recent years, Louisville’s population would have decreased. Moreover, the foreign-born population in our region contributes extensively to the economy by filling in-demand jobs and paying $429.5 million in federal, state and local taxes.

The Trump administration has added new regulations, documentation requirements and compliance rules on H-1B visas. These changes make it more costly for employers to use H-1B visas to hire skilled foreign workers, contributing to the 20 percent decrease of applications from 2016 to 2018. In a time when we are competing fiercely with our peer cities, we cannot afford to take a step back on this subject. We need to make immigration reform a priority for Louisville to succeed economically.

Patient and outcome-driven care is increasingly a priority

As Kentucky moves forward with managing its Medicaid program, everyone wants to prioritize more flexibility, accountability and integrity within our state’s system. We need honest guidance from the Centers of Medicare and Medicare Services and they need to hear from providers on the front lines regarding regulations that are unnecessary and ways to improve administrative burdens. Ultimately, everyone agreed that there must be an emphasis to maintain a sustainable Medicaid program that can also focus on improved health outcomes of nearly 500,000 Kentuckians covered under the ACA.

It is more important than ever to talk to elected leaders and their staff

Some people are skeptical that D.C. Fly-Ins make a difference. Others are skeptical that talking to leaders, elected or appointed, will influence them at all. Don’t they have their minds made up before the conversation begins? This was never more apparent to me than when we were talking to nine leaders from the Department of Commerce about the negative impacts of tariffs on regional businesses.

They had received mixed messages about the impacts to bourbon, our signature industry. Having representatives from the bourbon industry in the room to clear up any confusion was a step in the right direction. Citizen lobbying changes things, but you must be present for changes to happen.

An element of our mission at GLI is to serve as the voice of the business community. Along with that comes the responsibility to drive engagement, thereby strengthening our collective voice. I hope you will consider becoming involved in our advocacy efforts so that we can shape a stronger business climate for our region.