Miami chamber plans to send lobbying delegate back to DC
By Suzy Valentine
Miami-Dade delegates, just back from lobbying in Washington last week, are preparing a return trip in June.
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce sent a 15-person contingent to the capital for two days of discussions on issues of regional concern including immigration, homeland security and transportation.
The organization's advocacy center is comprised of three committees - local, state, and federal and global. The local panel plans to convene Friday. The chamber hasn't set debriefing dates for the other two panels, which meet monthly.
The chamber's senior vice president said regional cooperation strengthened the group's efforts last week.
"The South Florida delegation is unusual in that we work together on a variety of issues," said Rana Brown. "We've been recognizing that clout and building upon it over the past year. Our Washington hosts seem to have welcomed the collective effort."
Besides joining forces with other South Florida interests, the chamber teamed with a delegation from the county for the trip.
"It was a great opportunity to reinforce our public-private alliances," said Mary Lou Tighe, director of governmental affairs at law firm Tew Cardenas. "Combining the forces of the commission's chairman, Joe Martinez; vice chairman, Dennis Moss; and commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Sally Heyman with business leadership reaps dividends."
She is one of several participants who bridged the public-private divide, having worked at the chamber before entering private practice two years ago.
"I think the partnership is very effective," Ms. Tighe said. "It's more than just holding hands. It's very important to show a unified front."
Chamber representatives met the congressional delegation and representatives from the Office of the US Trade Representative, the US Chamber of Commerce and the US departments of commerce, state and homeland security.
Free-trade issues surfaced during the talks.
"We spoke to the US Trade Representative about the rollout of DR-CAFTA - how to implement it and similar agreements," Ms. Brown said.
The proposed date for successive lobbying fits with the chamber's goals conference, scheduled for May. "We're looking at June," said Ms. Brown. "We plan on regrouping and debriefing right after the conference. We may take up some new issues at that point."
The panel discussed the Immigration Reform Bill, which could be passed during the current congressional session. The chamber's objective is to remind officials how holdups in processing professional visas here are detrimental to trade in the region.
"The results of our efforts are dictated by the legislative and budgetary cycles in DC," said Ms. Brown, "but with this bill on the horizon, we're hoping our talks bear fruit."
Other objectives could take longer to come to fruition. "Some issues form more long-term goals," she said, "and require constant dialog, but it's important to have that face-to-face time."
"If we can keep the pressure up by getting in front of the agencies, that should work," said Jack Lowell, vice chairman of Codina Realty Services. "Sometimes, the process is akin to Chinese water torture."