SCACPA encourages all its members to offer their expertise as CPAs for our advocacy efforts through the State House. We know our members offer well-researched and objective knowledge in budgetary issues, economic forecasting and audit controls.
With a strong presence in Columbia and through the grassroots efforts of our members, SCACPA has a successful track record at the State House. We depend on your insight and opinions to help drive our involvement. Our success can go even farther when our members are prepared to maintain relationships with their elected officials.
When speaking with legislators, it is hard for them to refute a real, live person standing in front of them who is directly affected by an issue. Your voice is powerful, use it!
The Association works hard to support positive legislation that benefits the profession, the business community and the public at large, while fighting unfair legislation that hinders the ability of CPAs to practice their profession and effectively serve the clients and businesses they work for.
Help make our messages even stronger by getting involved in SCACPA’s legislative efforts. As a CPA actively engaged in providing professional services to the public, business clients or your employer, you have a finger on the pulse of how well (or how poorly) regulations and laws are working.
Send us your comments, ideas or challenges, and let us know which issues are most important to you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep up to date with SCACPA Advocacy actions, along with details about the South Carolina CPA-Political Action Committee, on our Legislative Efforts landing page: www.scacpa.org/legislative-efforts.
Remember when reaching out to legislators that there is value in your personal narrative. You know your business and your story, so embrace it and be confident. This is typically the most relaxing way to communicate with legislators, especially if you don’t regularly engage with legislators. Do not underestimate the value of your personal story.
Be useful to legislators as a source of correct information. Do not guess at answers. If you do not know, promise to locate information and follow through. As valuable as it is to research facts and figures about an issue, real life is not a Power Point presentation. Officials are people first, officials second. Approach them in a cooperative, non-adversarial manner and be positive and polite. Treat their opinions with respect.
Most of all – make it fun! With every interaction, you’re working to make a better South Carolina for yourself and your community. Your passion and expertise are appreciated.
Best Practices for How to Talk to Legislators and Other Key People
Getting to know your local legislators is critical as the SCACPA Advocacy Team looks to strengthen its communication relationships in 2019. Here are tips and strategies that put SCACPA members at ease in opening a dialog – even if you’re not exactly a social butterfly.
- Get started by finding your legislators’ contact information with the “Find Your Legislator” tool at www.scstatehouse.gov/legislatorssearch.php
- Become aware of which legislators in the Chapter area are in key leadership roles
- Find a way to connect with them in their hometowns as opposed to Columbia
- Depending on the relationship, a meeting may need to be 10 minutes in their office, over a meal or as an invitee to a larger gathering
Chapter Leaders should make a point to know the Legislative Delegation Chair from each respective county. Develop a “grapevine” strategy that assigns CPAs in every Chapter to the appropriate legislators.
Do Your Homework to Learn About Your Legislator on a Personal Level
- Where did they grow up?
- How long have they lived in the area?
- Figure out their personal interests (you may be surprised to find you share hobbies or common interests) by simply reading their www.scstatehouse.gov bio
- Take notice and thank everyone who has helped you and SCACPA, especially if it was in your Chapter area
Legislators are overbooked and can never make it to everything they are asked. This makes it critical that we cultivate local personal contacts.
- Be mindful of legislator’s time – a 5- to 10-minute visit is perfect
- Be positive and assume your legislators can be allies (they probably are!)
- It can be embarrassing to mix up a legislator’s title, so remember to call Senators a “Senator,” House members a “Representative,” and a Congressman/Congresswoman “Congressman/Congresswoman”
- Is the legislator a committee Chairman/Chairwoman? A finer point is to call him or her “Chairman/Chairwoman (Last Name)” because it proves you’ve done your homework on their responsibilities
Develop a Year-Round Relationship
Advocacy is about cultivating relationships for the long run. Why is it important to interact with elected decision-makers regularly? Because when you have an issue to discuss, you already have established a relationship.
- Visit the newly elected. Introduce yourself and your relationship with SCACPA
- If you see them at a social event, reintroduce yourself; they will start to remember that they’ve seen you active in the community
- Add their names to mailing lists and invite them to your CPA social and networking events
- Introduce them at events, or give them special greetings upon arrival
Other Rules of the Road
In developing and maintaining relationships with public officials, keep in mind:
Constituent Power – Officials are most responsive to registered voters from their own district.
Elected Officials NEED to Hear from You – Hundreds of bills are introduced each year. It is impossible for a legislator to study them all. They rely on constituents, organizations and lobbyists to familiarize themselves with the many bills.
Timing is Everything – Familiarize yourself with the deliberate nature of the State House’s decision-making process. No legislator appreciates hearing from you the night before the bill is scheduled for a vote.
Don’t Overwhelm your Legislator with Information – Keep your conversation concise and easy to understand. Avoid workplace jargon that’s familiar to members of your organization but might be unfamiliar to the legislator (e.g., tax conformity. “Conforming to what?”).
Never Make it Personal – If it so happens the legislator opposes the SCACPA position, don’t attack the legislator or others who oppose it. Simply stick to the issues. Regard those who oppose you not as enemies but as temporary adversaries. Coalitions are always shifting, so the legislators and advocacy groups opposing us today might bail us out tomorrow.
Listen, Listen, Listen – If the legislator opposes the SCACPA position yet offers good points, acknowledge them rather than knocking their overall stance. Politely point out what you see as flaws, then give reasons why your proposal is better.
When ‘Mailing It In’ Is a Good Thing
To write to your legislator, first know whether he or she is a Senator or Representative. Address the letter to:
The Honorable (official’s First and Last Name)
State Representative OR State Senator
And although it might seem old-fashioned, hand-written Thank You notes are still appreciated. Saying “Thank You for Your Help” always goes a long way.