What's your legislative lobby IQ?Nancy Bolt, CMC, CRMSlobbying tips, Washington, D.C., legislators, government affairs What a great country we live in. America is a nation where we can meet with our legislators and express our opinions about how we should be governed. For more than 18 years, members of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers' state affiliates have gathered in their state and national capitals to visit with our legislators. These are the people who write the laws that govern how we do business and have the potential to protect or harm our customers. However, many lawmakers do not have the benefit of knowing how the mortgage industry works. Many of our associations have taken it upon themselves to educate our legislators so they may better understandand therefore, better assistthe consumers who utilize our services. Looking at the ever-increasing photos on my walls, I am still amazed that so few members have achieved so much. And yet, we can achieve so much more with the benefit of greater numbers. Having a voice as strong as the National Federation of Independent Business, the AARP or the National Association of Realtors, would certainly ensure that our government would listen. NAMB will hold its 2005 Legislative and Regulatory Conference from Monday-Wednesday, April 11-13 in Washington, D.C. Many states are also holding lobby days at their state capitals. Even if you are not a political person, consider making a lobbying trip this year and see for yourself how worthwhile it can be. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your trip: 1. First and foremost, we are in partnership with our lobbyist. Our lobbyists can accomplish some of their efforts without us and we can achieve things without them, but together, we can accomplish so much more. By developing personal relationships on a local level, we open up the possibility of our legislators calling on us whenever an issue comes up that may affect our industry. Lobbyists can speak for us when we are not readily available. Although the creation of a law is a relatively long process, making changes to bills, keeping other proposals from being tagged on, or clarifying issues for committees is something that must happen quickly or else the opportunity is lost. Our lobbyists reside in the state capitals and Washington, D.C. and stay on top of these situations, reacting quickly with information provided by the state associations when situations arise. By increasing the number of members that our lobbyists represent, we are giving them a stronger position. Once again, I encourage you to participate and solicit others to join. 2. Check the legislative calendar. Before you schedule a lobbying visit, check the legislative calendar that is typically available through your state's legislative Web site. Know what committees your legislators are on and look to see when the Senate and House are actually in session. 3. Dress in business attire. Remember, you are representing your state association. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, and be prepared for cold weather, impromptu photos and a lot of walking. 4. Bring a camera and extra film. Have someone in your group who can take good photos quickly. In Florida, former Rep. Porter Goss asked his assistant to take our photo using his camera and sent everyone an enlarged copy. We also have photos with President Bush Sr.; Sens. Bob Graham, Connie Mack and Fred Dudley; Reps. Nancy Detert, Keith Arnold, Tim Ireland and Greg Gay; and many others. 5. Allot extra time to visit the gallery if legislators are in session. Contact your legislators in advance for group passes and ask to be announced as visitors. Make certain that you are in the gallery at the designated time, since you don't want to embarrass your legislators by not being present if you are announced. They may not have the opportunity to announce your group, but usually remember you for this gesture. 6. Review your position papers and make certain that you understand the content. Include business cards from the people in your visiting group, and bring extras to hand the person presenting you to the legislator or assistant. Sign the visitor's book and include a notation of your associations name, as well as the other information. 7. Go through each building sequentially, via connecting bridges when possible. Also, don't turn down an appointment just to maintain your schedule; send part of your group, if necessary. You can also split up if you are short of time, but larger groups are always more impressive. 8. Be prepared to "walk and talk" in hallways, elevators, etc. One of our members once rode in a tramcar with Sen. Bob Dole through the underground system that connects government buildings in Washington, D.C. Others were invited to "legislators only" elevator rides. Be prepared for impromptu conversations, but tell your legislators that you can leave papers and gifts at their office. 9. Request special passes for tours of the White House or the Capitol. Each legislator has a limited number of these tours available, so be sure to make your request in advance. 10. Don't underestimate your legislators staff. Your legislator's assistant may be the one to present your papers or champion your cause. 11. Request the business cards of legislative staff members. You will want their names and titles for future letters of introduction or thanks. 12. Locate the refreshments area. A refreshment area is usually set up in the basement levels of the Capitol. Check your guidebooks for these locations to use as meeting places if a "lobby headquarters" is not set up. In Washington, D.C., the National Association of Mortgage Brokers usually reserves a room. 13. Use extra time to visit the area. Places like the governor's mansion, national monuments, the Smithsonian and the Holocaust Museum are wonderful to visit. Bring back something of our nation's history to share with other association members and encourage future participation in our lobbying efforts. If you can afford to add a little vacation time, check hotels for any specials they may have over weekends when business people often go home. Airfares over the weekends are often much less, too. Sometimes the lower airfare will cover the extra hotel stay. If you can enjoy the visit, you will be more likely to make your lobbying time count so the association will be happy to have you attend future meetings. Nancy Bolt, CMC, CRMS is president of Sun Mortgage of Southwest Florida Inc. and a state director for the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers. She may be reached at (239) 437-2600 or e-mail [email protected]. SIDEBAR Government affairs Step-by-step outline for effective lobbying I. Instruct your state association's legislative chair to: A. Do their homework: 1. Determine the geographical area covered by your group or chapter; 2. Log on to your state and federal legislature Web sites for the most up-to-date lists; and 3. Download or print information about all relevant candidates, legislators and their staff (scheduling secretary, secretary and legislative assistants). B. Write a letter of introduction, mentioning any member who knows them personally, to: 1. All candidates running for office (mention that you are interested in their views); 2. Winners of all primaries (letters of congratulations); 3. Winners of general elections (letters of congratulations); and 4. Any candidates who may run again (ask them to keep you posted in their future). C. Invite your legislators and candidates (if prior to elections) to a legislative event. 1. Write a letter of invitation to the legislator or candidate; 2. Telephone the legislator or campaign manager to follow-up; and 3. Call the scheduling secretary or campaign manager to confirm. D. Ask legislators to provide you with: 1. Information on their "pet" issues; and 2. Articles and photos for local or state newsletters. E. Offer to assist with campaign work, whenever possible. 1. Sponsor fundraisers; and 2. Encourage other members to assist in campaigns. F. Inform legislators on proposed legislation. 1. Explain how it could affect borrowers (their constituents); and 2. Explain how it could affect the mortgage industry and/or originators (also their constituents). II. Stay informed about proposed legislation in the following industries, and pass along the information to legislative committee members: A. Local and state legislation impacting real estate, mortgages or related industries; and B. Federal legislation in any related field (the National Federation for Independent Business and your state association are good sources). III. State legislative days: A. Consult with your state lobbyists for special appointments. 1. Determine who will make special appointments, and who will attend them; 2. Arrange for group photos whenever possible, using a media photographer; and 3. Provide information to your legislative chair to avoid conflicts. B. Provide forms to your legislative chair to make appointments in the state capital. 1. Oversee the distribution of forms; 2. Collect information with staff assistance; 3. Coordinate all appointments; and 4. Remind members to dress in business attire, bring comfortable shoes and warm clothing. C. Prepare your position paper. 1. Review the material from your state legislative committee with the executive committee and lobbyist; 2. Discuss the verbiage with your association's attorney; 3. Obtain assistance of staff to prepare final document and make copies for distribution; 4. Review with lobbying members via e-mail or fax; and 5. Provide a sample note for each designated association member to send to the legislators on the "floor" with the time and location they reserved in the "gallery," so they can be announced during the session. D. Arrange for token gifts, preferably with your association logo, for: 1. Legislators (something that they would keep in office or use); and 2. Legislative staff (something to eat or use in the office). E. Arrange photo sessions for: 1. Legislators and association members; and 2. Members at the capitol or other landmarks. F. Officiate a meeting in your state capital. 1. Provide instructions about the time of transportation; 2. Distribute booklets and review the layout of the House, Senate and capitol buildings; 3. Instruct members to visit all legislators who serve their districts, even if no appointment was scheduled. Some areas have an overlapits better to see them twice than not at all; 4. Distribute position papers and the business cards of all lobbying members; and 5. Distribute gifts. G. Send thank you letters on association stationary (obtained from the state office). IV. Federal legislative days: A. Make appointments with senators for yourself and your association's executive committee. B. Follow the same procedures as the state legislature meeting.