Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Thrill of Lobbying: Experiencing Democracy in Action

This month the Society of American Florists (SAF) held its 36th annual Congressional Action two-day event in Washington D.C. A 90 member delegation gathered to lobby and advocate on behalf of the needs of the floral industry. On the first day, attendees learned about the issues and how to use their influence as constituents while preparing for day two, when they headed to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and their staffs to advocate for the industry.

The event was held at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City located just minutes from downtown Washington. Upon arrival attendees were greeted with flowers and a welcome card which read: You are about to experience the thrill of democracy in action! Get ready for the thrill of grassroots action in Washington. Over the next two days we’re going to hear from fascinating political insiders, talk about critical industry concerns, and learn how to influence decision makers in Congress. Thank you for taking the time to represent your business and make a difference for the industry. When we speak as one, our voice will be heard across Capitol Hill!

There’s no doubt ‘Lobbying’ is definitely a thrilling experience, especially if it’s your first time on the Hill. This experience was made much easier by the experts that SAF brought in to help attendees learn about the two issues they would be discussing in meetings with their congressional offices: immigration reform and the STARS Act. Immigration reform is an issue the floral industry is very familiar with and has been advocating for years. However, SAF recognized that corrections to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were needed to reflect the realities of today’s workforce, introducing the STARS Act which would define “seasonal employee” as a worker who is employed on a seasonal basis for six months or less during a calendar year, consistent with Department of Treasury regulations. The act also would simplify the methods for seasonal employers to determine business size and ultimately whether the business and seasonal employees are subject to required offers of coverage under the ACA’s employer mandate.

As far as the political insiders, their lobbying tips were all about persuasion and selling a point of view. Here are a few highlights: Former lobbyist Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the Airports Council International North America, reminded attendees that Lawmakers care mostly about how the legislation affects voters in their district. Lobbyist Lynne Jacquez, CJ Lake LLC, provided some advice on how to talk about immigration reform with those who oppose it. And Stephanie Vance, of Advocacy Associates, gave some hard and fast best practices for approaching members of Congress and their staff.

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