At the start of the new year when planning for a new legislative session, we always begin with an assessment of the previous year to establish a baseline for advocacy efforts on behalf of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) and its member companies.
What happened on Capitol Hill in 2023 makes this a difficult task as 2024 begins. This past year, political crises and drama, especially in the House, were never-ending. The historic 15 ballots it took for Rep. Kevin McCarthy to secure the House speakership set the tone for the chaos of 2023 that also included political brinksmanship over a potential federal default, initiation of impeachment proceedings, multiple threats of a federal shutdown, lapses in authorization for several major federal programs, removal of McCarthy as speaker, and multiple attempts to elect a new speaker. All of this was set against the backdrop of thin majorities in both chambers and multiple volatile international security conflicts.
Additionally, 2024 is a presidential election year. In a typical election year, efforts on major legislative packages tend to abate given the distractions of campaigning. All policy initiatives are viewed through the lens of campaign messaging and a condensed legislative calendar because of the demands of fundraising and physical campaigning. Messaging is particularly impacted during the primary elections as both parties tend to focus their rhetoric further to the left for Democrats and to the right for Republicans to appeal to the parties’ bases because those voters will determine the primary outcomes. For the general elections, the focus for messaging shifts to whatever will work best to sway the presidential race and the broader fight for control of both the House and Senate.
With all of this in mind, we do not expect a quiet year on Capitol Hill. While it is unlikely many pieces of consequential legislation will make it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, we do anticipate a lot of legislative activity where FPA will advocate on behalf of the flexible packaging industry. At the top of the list of federal priorities are efforts to restrict the use and manufacturing of plastic packaging. Legislation such as the revised Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act will require aggressive efforts to educate policymakers and their staff members to ensure they understand the positive environmental impact of flexible packaging.
Regulatory oversight will also be front and center in D.C. because the Biden administration will continue to increase the promulgation of regulations. Biden also will push back through oversight activities such as hearings, letters, and inquiries. Other priorities will be similar to past priorities, including recycling, sustainability, labeling, extended producer responsibility, and trade.
On the federal advocacy front, the only certainty we have is that 2024 will be busy and dynamic, and it will require our collective efforts to protect and advance the flexible packaging industry.