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National Restaurant Association - National Restaurant Association: 'A potent policy force'

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National Restaurant Association: 'A potent policy force'

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Restaurateurs peppered lawmakers and lobbyists with questions about health care reform, interchange fees and building depreciation this week as part of the National Restaurant Association's 25th annual Public Affairs Conference.

The conference, which began Wednesday with education sessions and an awards gala, wrapped up Friday with a meeting on tax issues. About 500 restaurateurs from 44 states participated in the event.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who addressed the attendees Thursday morning before they headed to Capitol Hilll, discussed the regulatory and legislative impact on the restaurant industry.

“We have to make better choices, wiser choices, to create an environment where job creators can create more jobs,” he said. He called the National Restaurant Association "not only a potent political force but a potent policy force.”

Walden was one of several members of Congress who spoke at the conference. Others included Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Reps. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Kristi Noem (R-S.D.).

Manchin thanked the attendees for being "the backbone of America."

“Restaurants are one of the toughest industries," he noted. "The number of hours you put in, working with pennies on the dollar -– you do it and do it well."

In the Thursday morning session, Manchin and Walden discussed the federal budget, which was the topic of several votes that day in the House and Senate.

Walden also acknowledged restaurant-industry and business concerns about health care legislation. “Only now are we finding out fully what [the health care law's] implications are for you,” he said.

Before attendees headed to Capitol Hill for 250 meetings with lawmakers and key aides, they also heard from Anthony Guida, senior vice president, regulatory affairs and strategic development, Education Management Corp./The Art Institutes.

After the Capitol Hill visits, more than two dozen senators and representatives mingled with attendees at a reception at Art & Soul restaurant. Eight Maryland ProStart students helped prep and serve the food.

Other conference highlights included a gala dinner Wednesday, where the NRA named the winners of its Restaurant Neighbor and Faces of Diversity awards. Fox News analyst Tucker Carlson spoke after award presentations.

Conference sponsors were: (gold) Heartland; (silver) American Express, BMI, Buffalo Wild Wings, Cintas, Education Management Corporation, Golden Corral, PepsiCo Foodservice; (bronze) Diageo, Livebookings, PeopleMatter, White Castle; and (product) CustomTakeoutBags.com, Diageo, Distilled Industry Spirits Council (DISCUS) and Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board.

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