Are you aware of H.R. 7?

The U.S. House of Representatives is in the process of finalizing a significant piece of legislation: H.R. 7, American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012.

I am personally impressed (not that my approval even registers on the “what is important in the world today?” scale) and somewhat encouraged by H.R. 7. The name of the legislation doesn’t include the word “comprehensive,” nor do the first letters of each word in the title make a cool sounding acronym.

For me, these two qualities in proposed legislation are a signal that they will have a similar effect on me as my first experience with Veal Sweetbreads Florentine.

Distasteful Stuff

Some 25 years ago, in Valley Forge, PA, I was at a restaurant well known for this “delicacy.” With the wonderful looking and smelling plate of Veal Sweetbreads Florentine sitting directly in front of me, and the waiter and head chef both standing there looking for my absolute glee and approval, I dug in.

My first mouthful of this dish produced much the same reaction as that notable scene in the movie Big where Tom Hanks was similarly convinced to try Beluga Caviar on a cracker. Neither of us could get the taste out of our mouths gracefully, cleanly, completely or quickly enough.

Similarly, with unpalatable legislation with cool sounding acronym names or the word “comprehensive” in the title, there is as much time and effort spent on the legislation’s marketing strategy (gently breaded, then sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, stock and savory spices, finally wrapped in the freshest of sautéed spinach) as is spent writing the massive kit bag of proposals, horse-traded deals and otherwise dead past legislation being given a new coat of paint.

Pet Projects

This is much of what we have seen coming out of Congress and administrations - past and present. Such actions are given a friendly name: “earmarks.”

Earmarks, or most pet projects - regardless of party, interest group or government agency (they actually do have lobbyists) - represent some pretty odd provisions that no one legislator would ever be willing to introduce, vote for or support as individual legislative proposals. But this is what makes up the pile that ends up in much of these massive proposals, with cool acronym names or as “comprehensive” legislation.

The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 is an important piece of legislation that will address many long-delayed actions on our nation’s infrastructure of roads, bridges, railways, etc. At the same time, it will look at several key energy needs.

Everyone within our industry has a huge stake in the success of this legislation.

As H.R. 7 stands right now, fresh out of Congressman John Mica’s House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, no earmarks are allowed.

To remove any lumping, bundling or hiding of secret provisions, each item in H.R. 7 will be discussed openly on the floor of the House - something that the current speaker has demanded.

Transparency can be an amazing thing when experienced and not just heard as part of a politician’s speech.

Misdirected Funds

We motorists pay hundreds of billions in fuel and road use taxes annually. This is all paid in good faith to be used for such projects as roads, bridges, etc.

Guess what? Fuel and road use taxes go in to a general fund and that we the people have to beg Congress to please use fractions of this fund on roads and bridges while Congress says it doesn’t have the funding for roads and bridges.

As my mom would say to me: “Where did the money go that I gave you for that?”

I suppose I could now say something predictable, like, “I spent it on Veal Sweetbreads Florentine,” but I won’t.

Bipartisan Support

Congress and the Administration have an opportunity to redeem themselves a little on this issue. Their’s should be bipartisan support, with everyone in favor of all of the elements within H.R. 7 because it will improve motoring and transportation, create jobs, improve productivity and provide many other real and long-term benefits.

The transparency part is of utmost importance. The lack of it over the past decade or so has been the main reason that congressional approval ratings are lower than that of garden armadillos. Both sound nice until you see them in action.

Now’s the Time

As I have said many times in this column and in other media and venues, it is imperative that your Congressional representatives know exactly where you stand on legislation.

Now is the time to share your thoughts on H.R. 7, American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012.

It is also as important to let them know you support the new “no-earmarks” model being tried by some courageous Democrats and Republicans in both the U.S. House and Senate.

Take a few minutes to call, write or contact your Congressional representatives. An easy way to contact them is through the MEMA.org website’s Action Center.

Congress needs to hear you now, or they need to understand that they will “hear” you during the next election with your vote.

Your Congress men and women you in your district and state.

They do not represent special interests from outside your area. However, your Congressional representatives hear from them - financially and verbally - all the time.

It is high time to get the attention of your Congressional representatives.

Tim Kraus is the president and chief operating officer (COO) of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA). Prior to joining HDMA, he served in various executive positions with heavy duty industry parts manufacturers. The Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association exclusively serves as the industry voice of the commercial vehicle product manufacturers. It is a market segment affiliate of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA). www.hdma.org

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