On April 16, 2013, the National Club Association joined other prominent voices in the world of golf for the 6th annual National Golf Day on Capitol Hill. These allied organizations, forming the WE ARE GOLF coalition, met with Congressional representatives from across the country to discuss the many important ways that golf is more than “just a game,” addressing key economical, health and wellness, social, charitable and environmental policy concerns connected to the sport.
NCA Board Directors Kevin Vitale, general manager/COO of Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey and Robert I. Schramm, a member of the Capitol Hill Club of Washington, D.C., joined President & CEO Susanne R. Wegrzyn and Vice President of Government Relations and General Counsel Brad Steele represented NCA at the event. Over the course of National Golf Day, NCA completed a full schedule of productive meetings with staff of prominent Senate and House Republicans on issues important to the future of the golf industry.
Senate Representative Meetings
NCA representatives had the opportunity to meet with the chiefs of staff for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Minority Whip, and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Republican Conference Chairman. These two Senators serve in the second and third-ranking leadership positions for the minority, respectively and, through their high-level positions, these decision makers and their teams play an important role in crafting the agenda for small businesses, such as private clubs, in the Senate.
In a meeting at the Capitol Building, Minority Whip John Cornyn’s chief of staff acknowledged the concerns of small businesses such as private clubs regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and recognized the enormous time and financial losses many private clubs will experience under the reform. He also expressed his expectation for a lively debate upcoming in the Senate regarding the issues of temporary workers and immigration, though no promises were made. Legislation regarding temporary workers, which could greatly affect available staffing for many private clubs, may play an important factor in whether or not the current proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill will pass.
In a meeting with Sen. John Thune’s chief of staff, strong support was conveyed for Thune’s continued efforts to combat the regulations and rulings issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Despite the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the January 2012 recess appointment of three individuals to the NLRB was unconstitutional, the NLRB has continued to issue rulings, especially regarding workers’ unionization, which could cause serious issues for clubs.
Additional meetings occurred with lead staffers for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Jeff Session (R-Ala.), the ranking members of the Senate Finance and Budget Committees, respectively. The teams of both Senators expressed their support for a more fair tax code that does not continue the government’s policy of picking winners and losers in the private sectors under the current tax code.
House Representative Meetings
Several influential Republican leaders in the House of Representatives also met with NCA throughout the day, discussing numerous critical matters of policy related to the private club industry. As the Republican Party holds the House majority, the possibility of meaningful change in policy areas important to the golf and club industries seems much more likely from the House than the Senate.
NCA met with Congressman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), who is a Subcommittee Chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee. He was responsible for introducing the legislation that halts NLRB rulings after the NLRB ignored the orders of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to stop conducting business. Although he expressed his uncertainty for the bill’s future in the Senate, Roe reaffirmed his continuing commitment to fighting the NLRB. A similar conviction was echoed in a separate meeting by the chief of staff for Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the fifth-ranking leader in the House and Republican Policy Committee Chairman, who also indicated his support for small businesses, including clubs.
In sessions with lead staffers for the Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, Rep. Sam Grave (R-Mo.) and the Chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), NCA discussed issues relating to the H-2B visa program, which allows foreign workers to be hired for seasonal jobs. The Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have halted the program after a federal court ruled that DOL must cease a certain process used to determine seasonal job wages. Although this court ruling did not require DOL and DHS had to stop issuing H-2B visas, they have done so while addressing the court’s decision. Naturally, that decision has affected the available labor supply for many clubs. Grave’s and Kline’s staffers all expressed their sympathies for the situation, and their commitment to pressuring DOL’s attorneys to get the mandated response into the court on time as required.
The support of key allies on the Hill is invaluable to NCA’s fight for the rights and prosperity of the private club industry. Though the struggles will continue, the combined efforts of our WE ARE GOLF allied organizations reflected by National Golf Day is a reminder of golf’s and private clubs’ importance in our society, and the need to keep our nation’s decision makers informed of that importance.
Curtis Rogers is NCA’s marketing communications assistant manager.