The events were part of the annual DC fly-in.
(Press Release) NEW YORK – Jewelers of America, national trade association for businesses serving the fine jewelry marketplace, hosted two days of legislative events for jewelers in Washington, DC, on June 20 and 21, giving retailers and suppliers the opportunity to learn about key issues that affect their businesses and meet with top lawmakers. Events, which were part of the Jewelers of America Political Action Committee’s annual DC fly-in, included a dinner and legislative forum at the historic Army & Navy Club on June 20, and a full day of meetings with Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill on June 21.
“The noise in Washington, DC, is louder than ever and jewelers need to speak with a strong voice to ensure our issues and concerns get heard,” said JA President and CEO David J. Bonaparte. “Our annual advocacy visit is one of the best tools we have to communicate with leaders on both sides of the aisle.”
The seventh annual advocacy visit was expanded this year to include a Tuesday evening dinner – sponsored by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co. and Richline Group – that offered an insider’s perspective on what’s happening in government from Jewelers of America’s DC-based legislative counsel, Haake Fetzer.
“What happens on Capitol Hill has an impact – good and bad – on Main Street, and we have to speak up to protect the future of our businesses and our industry,” says JAPAC Board Chair Jenny Caro, owner of Jewelry by Designs in Woodbridge, VA. “We recognize the importance of getting our message out, and it was great to get new jewelers involved this year.”
This year’s meetings connected jewelers with more than 40 lawmakers and legislative staff, including Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
“The Senators and Representatives we met valued our input,” says Dan Deans, senior business manager, Asurion, a first-time participant. He adds, “If we do not meet with lawmakers to advocate for our industry, other competing interests will, and they will win the day. I wish I had participated in previous years and I’ll be sure to do so in the future.”
In addition to focusing on ongoing issues like sales tax fairness, this year the JAPAC delegation sounded off on the Border Adjustment Tax, a proposed 20 percent tax hike on imports – including finished jewelry and mined materials used to produce jewelry, such as diamonds, gemstones and precious metals – that could be part of comprehensive tax reform.
While lawmakers were reluctant to take an on-the-record position on the proposed tax, given that it is still in the conceptual stage and legislation has not been introduced, the overriding sentiment was that the concept itself is too unpopular and politically volatile to pass. That said, the delegation emphasized its opposition, given the negative impact it would have on the industry were it to move forward from concept to legislation in its current or a modified form.
The group addressed the association’s challenge to the Federal Trade Commission on the use of the word “cultured” to describe lab-grown diamonds and on its requirements regarding use of the label “Made in USA.” Regarding the former, the FTC has proposed revisions to its Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries that would allow “cultured” to be used to describe synthetic diamonds, which Jewelers of America believes is deceptive to consumers. Regarding “Made in USA,” the FTC currently asserts that the point of origin of the materials needed to manufacture jewelry is the only consideration required when determining whether the jewelry can receive the “Made in USA” label. Jewelers of America believes the FTC should update its standards to reflect other factors related to jewelry crafted in America. Other topics of discussion included Jewelers of America’s ongoing fight against repeal of the Last-In, First-Out Inventory Accounting method, which remains an attractive revenue raising option as lawmakers consider tax reform.
In addition to Hatch, the JAPAC delegation met with other prominent members of Congress, including:
- Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA)
- Sen. Patty Murray (WA)
- Rep. Pete Sessions (TX-32), Chairman of the House Rules Committee
- Rep. George Holding (NC-2), a member of the House Ways & Means Committee
- Rep. Steve Stivers (OH-15), Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee and a member of the Financial Services Committee; Original Cosponsor, Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2017
- Rep. Barbara Comstock (VA-10), a member of the U.S. Joint Economic Committee
- Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23), a member of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee
- Rep. Bruce Poliquin (ME-2), a member of the Financial Services Committee
- Rep. Trent Franks (AZ-8), a member of the House Judiciary Committee
The fly-in participants also heard a breakfast presentation from Michael Kirlin, chief of staff to Rep. Pat Meehan (PA-7), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, on the prospects for tax reform and other key developments on Capitol Hill, and attended two JAPAC events.
Jewelers of America Members represented a variety of jewelry firms from across the country, including:
- Brian Alter, Alter’s Gem Jewelry, Beaumont, TX
- Jon Bridge, Ben Bridge Jeweler; Seattle, WA
- Jenny Caro, Jewelry by Designs; Woodbridge, VA
- Joseph Corey and Corey Johnston, Day's Jewelers; Waterville, ME
- Ronda Daily, Bremer's Jewelry; Peoria, IL
- Dan Deans, Asurion, Sterling, VA
- Nirav Doshi, Jewelex Group, New York, NY
- Linus Drogs, Au Enterprises, Berkley, MI
- Bill Farmer Jr., Farmer’s Jewelers; Lexington, KY
- Rodger Kadet, Roger Kadet Ltd, Lemont, IL
- Brian Mann, David Mann Jewelers; Potomac, MD
- Joseph Molfese, Bella Cosa Jewelers, Willowbrook, IL
Jewelers of America President and CEO David J. Bonaparte and Director of Public Affairs & Education Susan Thea Posnock led the delegation with Tim Haake and Chris Fetzer, managing directors of Haake Fetzer.
To learn more about Jewelers of America legislative advocacy and JAPAC, the only PAC that supports the fine jewelry industry in Washington, DC, visit www.jewelers.org/ja/advocacy.