How to Be Involved in the Legislative Process Without Spending a Lot of Time
Have you thought about the ASA-PAC? Getting involved starts with you.
Time is critical to small business owners and certainly to Automotive Service Association (ASA) members. Many ASA members have expressed interest in participating in the legislative process to improve the industry but stressed that they had trouble finding the time to do so.
ASA has tried to make member participation in the legislative process as effective and personally painless as possible. In an AutoInc. article last year, we discussed several key areas for political activity. Two critical areas are:
• Political Education
• Campaign Finance
Meetings with policymakers and traveling to state capitals or Washington, D.C., require time and expense. ASA members who don't have the time to leave their shops and directly engage with policymakers have other options that are much less stressful and more cost effective. If a member does not have the time to spare for meetings or traveling to their legislature, another option is to take a look at ASA's legislative Web site, www.TakingTheHill.com.
ASA members can find a lot of information about state and federal legislation as well as regulations on the TakingTheHill.com site. In addition, the site offers members an opportunity to communicate directly with state and federal policymakers on issues of importance to the industry. With little more than your e-mail address and an interest in public policy, service and repair professionals can send electronic letters to Capitol Hill or their state legislature.
Although hundreds of bills around the country are introduced each year that impact the automotive repair industry, ASA selects specific bills for members to track on the site. State bills are updated regularly on the site.
Federal legislation of interest is also included on the site. Members can send advocacy letters directly to their member of Congress or senators.
Technology provides us with unique opportunities for political education or advocacy. It's not the only tool available to participate in the political process without travel and loss of time in the business. Political action committees (PACs) also provide an option for participation.
Many small business organizations have political action committees; i.e., realtors, home builders, new car dealers, etc. Although these are some of the larger PACs with two-year election cycles totaling in the millions of dollars, having this large of a sum is not a necessity to have a successful PAC. Despite ASA having a variety of issues important to its policy agenda, most issues are settled by a small number of legislative committees.
Eddie Ehlert, ASA member and shop owner participant in the ASA Government Affairs Committee, emphasizes in a recent letter to AutoInc.'s editor (click here to read) the importance of political involvement and making your voice heard for our industry. Eddie's message is so important to help move the policy messages of independent repairers. Political contributions are just one piece of the political process but have become increasingly important at both the federal and state levels in recent years.
Public financing of campaigns has been discussed for many years but most political observers would agree that changing the current system for financing campaigns is not on the horizon. How do candidates finance the heavy media buys and consultants for political campaigns? They have to raise money. This process is taking an increasing amount of time for political candidates, demanding phone calls, participation in fundraising events, etc.
Congress passed a major campaign finance reform bill several years ago but political action committees still play an integral role in the electoral process. ASA's Governmental Affairs Committee will place special emphasis on the ASA-PAC at the 2009 ASA Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., later this month. ASA members are encouraged to go to the TakingTheHill.com Web site, fill out a PAC permission form and make a contribution to the ASA-PAC. Even a small number of ASA members participating in the PAC can make a significant difference in the process.
You may have received a phone call from an ASA leader or an ASA-PAC brochure in the mail. ASA hopes that you will consider completing a brief permission form and contributing electronically or mailing a contribution to the ASA-PAC.
Contributions to federal candidates can be tracked via the Federal Election Commission's Web site, www.fec.gov.
ASA members regularly send letters to members of Congress, participate in meetings with key legislators and now they have an opportunity to participate in a political action committee, ASA-PAC.
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