Regional Members Appeal To Legislators

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Regional members continue to reach out to legislators on the issue of healthcare legislation and its impact on the promotional products industry.

Wayne Greenberg, MAS, and Bob Hechler met with the chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida in October to explain the impact of current healthcare legislation on the promotional products industry, particularly the Physician Payments Sunshine Act.

Greenberg, president of Tampa, Florida-based distributor JB of Florida, a division of Lewiston, Maine-based distributor Geiger (UPIC: geiger), and Hechler, executive vice president of Boynton Beach, Florida-based supplier Windbrella Corp. (UPIC: Windb858), spoke to Chief of Staff Pete Mitchell and an aide who handles healthcare legislation issues for the senator, and eventually were greeted by Sen. Nelson.

“We introduced them to the industry and made the point that what we do is help small businesses advertise and market themselves,” says Greenberg. “I specifically pulled out a sticky note pad and a [BIC] Clic Stic and asked them both if they thought either one would cause a doctor to alter their way of prescribing medicine.

“Of course they agreed it wouldn’t,” he says.

The two businessmen then ran through the sales volume numbers for the state of Florida and made the case that promotional products, the medium of small business, is about to face a major blow with this legislation by being lumped in with lunches, golfing trips, etc.

“Pete was incredulous,” says Greenberg. “He looked at me and said I had to be wrong. The aide assured him that I was right. He wanted to know who the sponsor was and he said he would discuss this further; he clearly saw the unintended consequences of the way the law is written now.”

Greenberg and Hechler stated their request that the following exclusion be added to S. 301 at the point that it discusses reporting gifts once an aggregate total of $100 is reached: “with the exception of any product $10 and under that is imprinted with a logo.”

“Of course, we’d rather have that raised to $25,” says Greenberg. “But the exclusion would be enough to save a lot of jobs around the country.”

Last November, several New York- and New Jersey-based members of Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY) traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with the staff health aides for each of their respective senators.

PPAI legal counsel and chief Washington lobbyist John Satagaj was also in attendance, and he advised the teams on some of the ins and outs of, and updates on, the legislation that is changing almost daily.

The New York team consisted of current SAAGNY President Jonathan Riegel, CAS, of Hewlett, New York-based distributor Concepts Unlimited (UPIC: CONUNLIM); Alan Baker, CAS, of Albany, New York-based distributor Creative Marketing Concepts (UPIC: creatve); Ken Tymula of Sterling Cut Glass Co., Inc. (UPIC: STERL881) and Eric Rackoff of Overland Park, Kansas-based distributor Staples Promotional Products (UPIC: AMER0016).

Representing the New Jersey contingent were Joel Schaffer, MAS, of Randolph, New Jersey-based supplier Soundline, LLC (UPIC: 1SOUNDLN); incoming SAAGNY President Brett Schaffer, CAS, also of Soundline; Brian Seltzer of Bellville, New Jersey-based supplier Premium Shapes (UPIC: PREMIUM); Nancy D’Andrea of Clifton, New Jersey-based distributor Thomas Direct Sales, Inc. (UPIC: THOM0003) and Michele Jennrich, MAS, of Zeeland, Michigan-based supplier Howard Miller Co. (UPIC: clocks).

“Both offices agreed our requests are reasonable, but they also agreed it is going to be so very difficult to amend the legislation, as it is now rolled into the total healthcare reform package,” says Joel Schaffer.

“Our arguments were well received. However, we felt the interest was most keen when we spoke of economic devastation this legislation can have on our industry. This is what they needed to hear. When you bring it down to their voters, they take notes.”

Schaffer shared an example from Amsterdam, New York, where three of the top 10 employers operate in the promotional products industry. “Amsterdam has already lost its industrial base,” he says. “This legislation, in Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s own backyard, could devastate their local economy even more. That is impact.”

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