Monday, March 1, 2010

Running the Red Queen's race in Washington

Official Washington leaves much to be desired these days.

Here we have the presidency, the House and the Senate all in the hands of the same party, and yet we have a classic case of legislative gridlock. We're even starting to see progressive senators jumping ship, including Indiana's Evan Bayh, who cited partisan bickering and a disturbing lack of progress for his decision to retire.

Frankly, it's probably fortunate for business that our elected officials are mired in the muck. You know Washington.

And then there's the economy. Stuck in neutral, seemingly unable to burst forward due in large measure to weak consumer confidence, a still-sluggish housing market, and commercial banking still climbing out of the ditch of overcapacity, problem loans and tight lending.

We're at a standstill.

It's perfect timing for Alice in Wonderland to arrive in our local theaters. In that wonderful, classic fable, there's a metaphor that could just as easily have been written to describe today's politics: The Red Queen's race through the looking glass.

"Well, in our country," said Alice, "you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you run very fast, for a long time."

"A slow sort of country," said the Queen. "Somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that."

Sound familiar? Is this what Bayh was talking about when he announced that he'd had it with the "do nothing" pace of Congress?

Indeed, getting from here to there is tougher than usual, for some.

There are several areas, however, where some officials -- especially at the agency level -- are pushing the ball forward, in the name of energy efficiency, and the like. Should they succeed, the results could be extremely costly to you ...

-- A move is afoot to limit the amount of glazing on commercial construction. I am part of a working group trying to head-off limits to the use of glass in the name of daylighting. The regulation, known as ASHRAE 90.1, is likely to come up at the ICC hearings in May. Bob Trainer's clarion call in an earlier blog for the "Got glass" campaign resonates strong.

-- I received an e-mail last week from a program manager in the environmental pollution control division within the state government of California. She was asking for help in gathering some facts and figures on the auto glass segment. It appears they're moving forward with their auto glass glazing requirements that she spoke about last year at an NGA event, which will require mandatory tinting by 2012. While there is mostly opportunity for the industry here, they are looking at requiring all shops to maintain and report on jobs completed within a 2-5-year period. This could increase your administrative costs by 5 to 15 percent.

-- Lead paint rules covering renovation and repair on homes and other structures built prior to 1978 are scheduled to take effect on April 22. How this ever escaped the Bush Administration, I'll never know; but it's clearly fueled by an even more activist EPA. Katie bar the door! Click on this link for more details.

While Congress may be running the Red Queen's race, it appears the agencies have no intention of relenting. At a time when business needs all the cooperation it can get from the government to grow and add jobs, it appears some activists have gotten the opposite message.

That's why now, more than ever, you need to get involved. When you see something objectionable or harmful taking place, respond quickly and proactively. Write your policymakers. Let them know you're watching, and tell them what they need to do better. In this tumultuous election year particularly, they should listen more attentively, even if they are huffing and puffing through the Red Queen's race.

— By David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

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