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July 15, 2019 3:31pm

What you missed at GLI’s 2019 DC Fly In

Early in the morning on July 9, GLI led a group of regional business leaders representing an array of different industries to Washington, D.C., for a two-day trip to advocate for the Greater Louisville business community’s most pressing federal priorities. The 2019 GLI D.C. Fly In, presented by Kindred Healthcare, marked GLI’s fifth Fly In since reviving the program back in 2015 and dovetailed with the release of GLI’s 2019-2020 Federal Agenda. This year’s trip included candid meetings and conversations between GLI investors and federal agencies and members of Greater Louisville’s congressional delegation. The 2019 Fly In served as a unique opportunity for members of our business community to get an inside perspective on how D.C. operates and to speak directly with decision-makers about the needs and priorities of the Greater Louisville region. 

Day 1

Day 1 of D.C. Fly In kicked off with a meeting with representatives from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. USTR is part of the Executive Office of the President and is responsible for coordinating U.S. Trade Policy and resolving trade disputes between the U.S. and its trading partners. The meeting focused heavily on the status of the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, or USMCA, an international trade agreement that will update the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. President Trump and leaders from Canada and Mexico signed USMCA in November, but Congress must approve statutory changes to U.S. federal law in order for the agreement to go into effect. USTR officials briefed Fly In attendees on the ins-and-outs of USMCA as well as its prospects for congressional approval. GLI notified USTR officials of the Greater Louisville business community’s support of USMCA because of the certainty it will give to regional businesses engaged in international trade. The meeting also presented an opportunity for regional business leaders to stress the negative impacts many businesses in Greater Louisville are experiencing as a result of U.S.-imposed tariffs and retaliatory tariffs imposed by other countries. 

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

The second key meeting of the day was with the Office of National Drug Control Policy. ONDCP is a White House agency tasked with coordinating the development, implementation, and assessment of U.S. Drug Policy. The work of ONDCP is vital to the Greater Louisville region. Kentucky has the fourth highest death-by-drug overdose rate in the country. This is one of many reasons why GLI advocates for increased funding substance use disorder treatment and proactive strategies aimed at helping individuals struggling with substance use disorders find access to treatment and employment opportunities. ONDCP officials provided an overview of their top priorities, which include initiatives aimed at working with local communities, identifying emerging threats, and reducing the use and flow of dangerous drugs such as fentanyl and cocaine into the United States.

Office of National Drug Control Policy

 

A third key meeting of Day 1 allowed Fly In attendees to meet directly with Federal Highway Deputy Administrator Brandye Hendrickson, who previously served as the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation. Infrastructure was a key theme throughout the 2019 Fly In. While Hendrickson noted that talks between Congress and the White House over a major infrastructure package had stalled, policy discussions over legislation such as reauthorization of the FAST Act have proved more promising. Hendrickson also spoke to Fly In attendees about programs such as BUILD and surveyed current federal highway needs. 

Federal Highway Administration

In addition to meeting with federal agencies, Fly In attendees also enjoyed a lunch and lecture at The American Enterprise Institute. AEI is one of the premier think tanks in Washington, D.C. Research Fellow Dan Cox presented on AEI’s recent Survey on Community and Society to discuss public opinion on issues such as the American dream, loneliness, and the importance of neighborhood amenities to community development and civil society. As GLI President and CEO Kent Oyler said during the trip, it is critical that business organizations build relationships with think tanks like AEI not only to learn from them but also to inform them as they shape policy discussions in Washington and elsewhere. 

Day 1 of D.C. Fly In closed out with dinners and a reception that featured a surprise visit from U.S. Senator Todd Young of Indiana. Senator Young talked with attendees about his work on U.S. trade policy, immigration, health care, and other policy areas important to the business community. 

Day 2

Fly In attendees outside the U.S. Capitol Building

After an action-packed first day filled with federal agency meetings, Day 2 of GLI’s 2019 D.C. Fly In focused on Capitol Hill and lawmakers from the Greater Louisville region. U.S. Chamber V.P. of Political Affairs and Federal Relations Sara Armstrong kicked the day off with a survey of the current political landscape. She walked through the dynamics of the 2020 presidential election as well as the complexities of the battles for the House and Senate. Joining Armstrong was Kevin Courtois, Manager of Congressional and Public Affairs the U.S. Chamber’s Greater Lakes Regional Office. Courtois spoke about some of the Chamber’s top legislative priorities, which included GLI priorities such as passage of USMCA, immigration reform, infrastructure investment, and workforce development.  

Following the U.S. Chamber’s morning political briefing, Fly In attendees headed for Capitol Hill for a full day of meetings and discussions with lawmakers. After settling into the Senate side of the Capitol Building, attendees heard from staffers from Senator Todd Young’s office as a follow-up to his visit on Day 1 of Fly In. Next, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the group to give an update on his work in the Senate, which included legislation he has championed related to Kentucky’s burgeoning hemp industry and increasing the federal minimum smoking age to 21—a key GLI health care and workforce priority. Leader McConnell emphasized the importance of having a Kentuckian hold the office of Senate Majority Leader and how this has benefited Kentucky and Greater Louisville. Senator Rand Paul followed Leader McConnell and stressed the need to reign in government spending and further curtail government regulations. Senator Paul also urged a shift in U.S. foreign policy and discussed his work to find a resolution to the war in Afghanistan. The fourth meeting of the day was with Senator Mike Braun of Indiana. Senator Braun won election in 2018, after serving in the Indiana General Assembly and owning and operating his own business. He emphasized key priorities such as lowering health care costs and supporting businesses. In all of these meetings, Fly In attendees made the case for immigration reform, passage of USMCA, infrastructure investment, and many other key GLI priorities. 

Leader McConnell

Fly In attendees enjoyed a quick lunch on the Hill before heading to the Cannon House Office Building for a final round of congressional meetings with Representatives Brett Guthrie, John Yarmuth, Trey Hollingsworth, Andy Barr, and Thomas Massie. All meetings took place in the Conference Room of the House Budget Committee, which Representative Yarmuth chairs. Conversations between Fly In attendees and House members were wide-ranging. Many members discussed bipartisan legislation they were working on. Chairman Yarmuth, for example, made mention of his support for the Restoring Investment in Improvements Act, which will help encourage investment by restaurant businesses and brands. Representative Hollingsworth discussed the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would help address a shortage in truck drivers by allowing 18-year-olds to drive trucks across state lines. Members also engaged in frank discussions on major issues like immigration reform, infrastructure investment, and even the current political dynamics shaping the relationship between Congress and The White House. 

Representatives Andy Barr and Thomas Massie

GLI’s 2019 D.C. Fly In provided many important takeaways. Congress, for example, is far more cooperative and bipartisan than what the media often portrays. Members have respect for each other—regardless of party affiliation—and strive to work across the aisle. In addition, lawmakers and agency officials alike take their responsibilities seriously and think deeply about public policy and how their decisions impact regional economies like Greater Louisville and affect the lives of Americans. Perhaps the most important takeaway, however, was—as Senator Young summed up succinctly on Day 1—“the importance of showing up.” It is critical that decision-makers in Washington hear from business leaders as they craft policies that have the potential to massively impact economic growth and quality of life. This was a refrain echoed by lawmakers and agency officials alike.  GLI’s D.C. Fly In offers a powerful and focused opportunity to “show up” and make the case for the priorities that will move Greater Louisville forward. 

Keep an eye out for information on the 2020 D.C. Fly In, read more about GLI’s 2019-2020 Federal Priorities, and finally, hear from 2019 Fly In attendees on their experience in the nation’s capitol!