An industry as large and multi-faceted as promotional products is affected by a variety of laws, regulations and government policies that can be extensive and complicated. Through its programs and initiatives—PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.), this month’s Product Responsibility Summit and other education and outreach—the Association works to inform promo marketplace companies and professionals on legislation and the product responsibility regulatory landscape that may impact them. Maurice Norris is an instrumental part of PPAI’s efforts to understand, respond to and communicate these issues.
The road to Norris’ position as the Association’s public affairs manager led him through state and federal government and private law firms. His stint with federal government included several years of active-duty military service with the United States Army. And as a legislative staffer in the Georgia General Assembly, he advocated on behalf of his boss’s constituents with other branches and levels of government as well as outside organizations.
It is common for government workers to transition between the public and private arenas throughout their careers. Once he left government service, Norris continued his work advocating for consumers and small businesses at private law firms prior to joining PPAI.
“My interest in government stems from a pursuit of public service,” Norris says. “Most of my career positions involve some aspect of service to others. It is important for policy makers to understand the ramifications of the decisions they make for the people who would be affected by those decisions. In this sense, my line of work involves essentially humanizing the statistical information policymakers are reviewing.”
Former PPAI Board Chair Brittany David, MAS, worked with Norris on a range of legislative issues during her tenure with the Association’s leadership. She says, “Maurice was the perfect addition to the PPAI public affairs team. He is cool, calm and collected, and incredibly knowledgeable on current policy, policies in the works and how things could have an effect on our industry.
“He has a magic in his delivery that takes complex issues and helps to unravel, simplify and explain what is taking place and the potential impact or repercussions issues could have on our industry.”
PPAI’s government affairs initiatives—led by PPAI Director of Member Engagement Anne Stone, CAE, and managed day-to-day by Norris—are critical to protecting the interests of all PPAI members, distributors and suppliers. In nearly every state, the promotional products industry employs thousands or even tens of thousands of professionals.
Norris collaborates closely with PPAI’s Government Relations Advisory Council (GRAC), which brings the Association together with member volunteers to assess legislation’s impact on the promotional products industry and how they can leverage their influence to shape it. The industry’s most high-profile legislative outreach is through PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.), an annual event Norris helps manage that connects with lawmakers and their staffs in Washington, D.C. to inform and educate them on regulations and issues affecting promotional products businesses.
“Through GRAC, through L.E.A.D and through the constant attention of Maurice, PPAI has had great impact in staving off onerous legislation, or adding language to bills favorable to the industry,” says Rick Brenner, MAS+, former PPAI board chair and a GRAC leader. “Maurice is a consummate professional. He not only tracks the progress of bills, he researches the backstory, the impact on our industry, and champions a strategy to enlist volunteers and get the work out. Maurice is a gem and PPAI has been very fortunate to have him on board.”
Davis says, “In an industry that is somewhat still a mystery, we don’t want to get overlooked in Washington. We need to be a voice, not an afterthought, on how bills and laws affect our industry and our people. The relationships that are built through L.E.A.D., lobbying and initiatives that PPAI puts together are powerful. They give a name and face to a voice on the hill. Maurice has been a huge champion in our government affairs.”
Often the point man for the Association on legislative affairs, Norris typically has the television in his office tuned to CSPAN, tracking Congress’s deliberations. And he is quick to share his assessments of new policy announcements and tease out relevant points from the jargon of government legislation. Much of his attention is focused on regulatory areas of particular importance to the promo industry.
“Most of the issues I have encountered here involve labor, trade or tax concerns,” Norris says. “In the trade category, tariffs have certainly had impacts beyond the additional costs they impose on our members. The supply chain problems also adversely affect our members’ access to their products. In all three categories, there has been a litany of legislative and regulatory proposals that we have worked on, ranging from the stepped-up tax basis to the Ocean Shipping Reform Act to the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, among others.”
For Norris, the machinations in Washington and statehouses across the country means that there’s something new needing his attention almost every day. And he’s tracking the progress of several issues that have come over the horizon.
“Labor, trade and tax issues remain of significant importance,” Norris says. “Any time Congress proposes a new policy, the relevant funding mechanisms often involve tax plans that affect our members. The trade and tax issues overlap by way of the tariffs because tariffs are taxes on businesses and consumers. The independent contractor and joint employer issues continue to fluctuate in Washington, D.C. and those outcomes weigh heavily on how our member companies interact with each other.”
Norris also has his eye on larger, global issues that will ultimately impact promo. He says, “A relatively new issue that I see as unavoidable is the multifaceted impact of climate change on our industry and others. We are already seeing some of these developments through legislation, for example California recently signed a law that establishes new requirements relating to extended producer responsibility. California’s policies often serve as a precursor to other state and federal developments, so that is one of the states we track more closely.”
Norris will bring his expertise to this month’s PPAI Product Responsibility Summit, to be held September 18-20 in Newport Beach, California—learn more about the conference at www.ppai.org/events/product-responsibility-summit. Along with playing a major role in organizing and running the conference, Norris is also a speaker. His sessions will focus on bringing those new to product responsibility up to speed, educating attendees on supply chain mapping best practices and sharing the latest developments on legislation that may impact the promotional products industry.
Promotional merchandise’s unique needs as an industry make it critical for it and its members to have a voice on Capitol Hill, in federal regulatory agencies and with state-level legislatures and regulators that have the authority to implement policies affecting it. Norris’ leadership in PPAI’s public affairs efforts and outreach ultimately boils down to magnifying promo’s critical messages to lawmakers.
“We empower members to communicate with policy makers,” Norris says. “There are times when it may make sense for an advocate to speak on behalf of this industry, but messages are often more well-received from the people who are actually in the industry. Those voices make a huge difference.”
Promo Products That Keep The Environment In Mind
PPAI Government Affairs Manager Maurice Norris counts climate change among the larger issues that will have an unavoidable impact on the promotional products industry. Promo businesses have recognized its affect on the market as well, and now offer customers an increasingly diverse range of eco-friendly products to meet a variety of needs.
Cool down without warming up the planet. The Titan Biodegradable Cooling Towel’s hyper-evaporative material not only stimulates cooling, it’s also eco-friendly. It’s strong, durable polyester fibers are designed to biodegrade in landfills and oceans in as little as 300 days.
High Caliber Line / PPAI 205801, S10 / www.highcaliberline.com
A green gift that keeps on giving! The Growables Planter’s fiber pot is 100% organic, sustainable and biodegradable—made from spruce wood, without glue or binders—and ready to put in the ground. Recipients should see results in two to three weeks. The pot is packaged with a soil pod and a seed packet—options include cumin, oregano, mint and jalapeno, among many others.
Jornik Manufacturing Corp. / PPAI 111065, S6 / www.jornik.com
Bring more natural materials indoors. Bamboo Coasters are a daily-use product with the added advantage of being made from environmentally-friendly materials. The round coasters are naturally heat and bacteria resistant. It is probably best to handwash these.
Evans Manufacturing / PPAI 110747, S10 / www.evans-mfg.com
Used With Permission From PPB