Irving, Texas

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Irving, Texas

Rep. Pete Sessions
Deep in the Heart of Texas

I recently made a stop in the city of Irving situated in the 32nd congressional district of Texas. NASE Member Mike Beene, a lawyer from the Dallas area, joined me in attending a town hall at Las Colinas Elementary School hosted by Rep. Pete Sessions. Mike is not only a member of the NASE but he also is on our Board of Directors, acting as the association’s general counsel. Due to his role with the NASE, Mike clearly understands the policy areas we work on in the Washington, D.C. Office. He was looking forward to the opportunity of asking his Congressman some questions on our legislative priorities.

Two key topics dominated the discussion at Rep. Sessions town hall: the economy and immigration. The Congressman began his presentation with a look at our current economic picture. He believes that we have grown our economy successfully over the past years through smart economic policy with the passage of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and the creation of new jobs. Rep. Sessions is a strong supporter of making permanent these tax cuts which are set to expire in 2010. He also highlighted the need to maintain America’s competitiveness by continuing to create a favorable environment for business since we are now faced with a global economy in which countries such as China and India are growing at a fast rate.

The Issues
Since we were on the topic of the economy and the Congressman mentioned taxes, Mike asked about the unequal tax treatment of health costs faced by the self-employed. Currently, if you are a sole proprietor you are unable to receive a full deduction for your health insurance costs and thus end up paying more in FICA tax (self-employment tax) than any other business entity. The NASE has been hard at work on Capitol Hill trying to get legislation (H.R. 3660/S. 2239) passed that would correct this inequity and help the over 20 million self-employed Americans save money on their taxes.

Rep. Pete Sessions

The Congressman was aware of this inequity and agreed that it should be corrected. In fact, he remarked that all Americans should receive the benefit of a tax deduction for their health costs. Mike and I were very pleased to hear the response of Rep. Sessions to this issue and we hope that he will sign on to cosponsor our legislation, the Equity for Our Nation’s Self-Employed Act. To watch and listen to what the Congressman had to say first hand, please watch our video.

As I mentioned earlier, immigration was the other key issue of concern to the constituents of Rep. Sessions and this topic dominated most of the conversation that evening. Attendees were irritated at what they saw as a lack of progress on accomplishing any real immigration reform by Congress. The Congressman echoed their frustrations regarding the delay in action. He is a supporter of the SAVE Act (H.R. 4088) introduced by Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina. The bill is a three part plan to stop illegal immigration. Rep. Sessions believes this legislation could pass the House if leadership allowed it to come to the House floor for a vote.

Final Thoughts
As the event winded down, I asked Mike if he enjoyed the experience of attending a town hall. He commented:

“Absolutely. There is no better way to get involved than by having direct dialogue with an elected official. Seeing and hearing from others, whether you agree or not, is helpful to an understanding of the process. The experience showed me that a few active members in a district can have a great influence on their representative and the political process. Also, you have a chance to see how an issue your district seems to agree on may require compromise in Washington from your representative to at least get a partial solution. Media sound bites are an irresponsible way to educate ourselves on the legislative process and what is going on in Washington D.C. Until you have a face to face discussion with your legislator it can be difficult to see why a compromise solution may be better than an absolute position that will never become law.”

I inquired if Mike thought it was important for micro-business owners to participate in advocacy activities such as this one. He had some insightful remarks:

“Unfortunately, very few from our community participate, thus those that do have a much greater influence and understanding of the issues. Whether you agree with your representative on issues or not, there is more room for dialogue and influence than you would realize. Participation is crucial to prevent the passage of laws that have unintended consequences. Don’t assume anyone understands your situation or will speak for you. In the end, we probably get the government we deserve. It feels good to honor a system and those who sacrificed to give to us by responsibly participating.”

Big thanks to NASE Member and general counsel, Mike Beene, for joining me in Irving, Texas and also a thank you to Rep. Pete Sessions and his staff for allowing us to participate in their town hall event.

For more information on self-employment tax deduction on health insurance premiums, please visit NASE’s Advocacy Website. Stay tuned for our next stop on the trail!

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