September, 2003
Washington Watch
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



ASHI, Voice of the Profession in Washington

RANDALL PENCE

BoardWashington.gifIn a whirlwind of activity targeting key power centers in the Nation’s Capitol, the ASHI Executives and Board (see photo) skillfully executed a government relations tour de force during its recent meetings in Washington D.C.

The three-day marathon brought ASHI face to face with key policymakers and staff in the General Accounting Office, the U.S House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the Pentagon, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

In doing so, ASHI members not only received late-breaking news from Washington insiders, they also sent a strong political message:  ASHI is an important voice with a growing presence and capability to shape federal legislation and regulations affecting its members’ future.

July 16:  General Accounting Office   GAO is the primary investigative agency for Congress. In an initiative originated in ASHI and forwarded to Capitol Hill, GAO is preparing a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind questionnaire to assess the effectiveness of HUD’s documents in persuading homebuyers to obtain home inspections.

Further, the questionnaire will investigate the clarity of HUD’s documents in explaining the distinction between appraisals and home inspections. GAO sought ASHI’s counsel in structuring the questionnaire to maximize its usefulness. The meeting exceeded two hours, yet all agreed the time flew by too quickly. GAO asked ASHI for another review session in September. When completed, the results of the GAO questionnaire will be sent to Congress for use in developing policy toward home inspections.

July 17: 
Capitol Hill, House of Representatives  ASHI Board members visited the office of Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), chair of the House Subcommittee on Housing, who took time out of his busy schedule for an impromptu meeting with the Board. The Board then visited the offices of Subcommittee Members such as Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-NE), Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT), and other offices representing ASHI Board Members. ASHI demonstrated its constituency power in these targeted House offices.

July 17:
Capitol Hill, Senate Leaving the House side, the Board trekked past the west facades of the Capitol to the Senate office buildings to deliver the same constituency message to U.S. Senators. The entire group met briefly with Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that controls HUD funding. Later, ASHI members split into three groups to make constituent visits to other offices in the Senate. Senators Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Wayne Allard (R-CO), Robert Bennett (R-UT) and Mike DeWine (R-OH) received ASHI constituent visits to build familiarity with ASHI home inspectors as a political force in every state.

July 18: the Pentagon  As community leaders, ASHI members have interests in broad issues affecting the national well-being, including national security. The Board members were given a Marine VIP escort through the formidable Pentagon defense perimeter to receive a briefing on current national security issues and military operations. In the heart of the rebuilt Pentagon, the Board received a 30-minute speech from a White House official tasked to the National Security Advisor’s staff, followed by a lively question-and-answer period. The speaker was as candid and forthcoming as security classifications would allow. The conversation ran the gamut of immediate challenges such as Iraq, Afghanistan, al Qaeda, North Korea, and homeland security.

July 18: Old Executive Office Building, White House complex  In the Indian Treaty Room of the Old Executive Office Building, overlooking the West Wing of the White House, ASHI heard speeches from Mr. Sean Cassidy, general deputy assistant scretary for Housing, and Laura Kolb with the EPA. Kolb gave a briefing on EPA’s views, actions and policy regarding toxic mold in buildings. Kolb has worked with ASHI in the past, and mentioned she is anxious to continue seeking ASHI’s support and input. Cassidy gave a wide-ranging speech regarding HUD’s views toward home inspection and indicated willingness to consider ASHI’s views toward HUD documents addressing home inspection. Both speakers took a substantial question and answer period.

notes.gifIn less than 72 hours, ASHI leaders reached deeply into both the Legislative and Executive Branches of the federal government, sending a political message to legislators on key committees on both sides of the Hill, exchanging views with regulators close to the home inspection profession, and working directly with GAO staff to craft key government investigative instruments. Only a few years ago, ASHI would not have had such access. Combined with the emergence of INSPECTPAC, ASHI’s ability to affect the destiny of its members in the federal arena is expanding, and rapidly, to provide benefits that ASHI members could not hope to achieve individually. We anticipate future exciting headlines as a result of these meetings.