The process of making political change can be frustrating, tedious and LONG. I just finished my SECOND ACA International Washington D.C. fly-in, so this reality is still fresh on my mind.
During my first fly-in I was fairly nervous. It can be intimidating to walk into your Senator or Congressman’s office for a meeting. This time I knew what to expect and was better prepared to promote our industry.
Since my last fly-in, ACA has promoted our industry well, and they did a lot to prepare its nearly 50 participating association members to share our message with elected officials. Printed information we used included
A List of 7 Legislative/Regulatory Initiatives
An introduction to ACA International
A brief outline of the Ernst & Young study “The Impact of Third-Party Debt Collection on the National and State Economies”
Before our individual meetings, ACA held a briefing. Senator Jim DeMint visited ACA’s office during the meeting to encourage us to keep pushing forward in our activities. Senator DeMint currently serves on the Senate Banking Committee and Commerce Committee, but before entering politics, he was a small business owner.
After listening to Senator DeMint, I know our industry has at least one strong ally in the Senate. He understands what it takes to run a business and how government regulations/taxes impact it. I am grateful he is on our team!
I visited the offices of three Utah Representatives: Senators Lee and Hatch and Congressman Chavetz. In each case, I met with the same staff members I did last year and concentrated on talking about the FDCPA and TCPA.
Senator Mike Lee’s staff did their homework. Senator Lee was available, so I met with him for a few minutes before he left for the Senate floor to give a brief speech. After Senator Lee left, I met with Rick James his legislative assistant. I was impressed with his knowledge about our industry and concerns. In fact, I learned that Senator Lee’s staff researched and wrote a brief about our pending visit. Our scheduled 15 minute appointment lasted about an hour.
This meeting was extremely positive. Both Senator Lee and Mr. James understood the need to collect money owed to businesses AND they expressed understanding about the need to modernize the FDCPA and TCPA. Both were dismayed that the TCPA would actually prohibit calling a cell phone with an autodialer.
Senator Orrin Hatch’s staff learned more about industry needs. I next had a great discussion with Senator Orrin Hatch’s banking/financial staff assistant, Alvin Chan. Again, a 15 minute appointment became a 40 minute discussion, but he became slightly more educated about our needs.
Even though he was pressed for time, Mr. Chan took the time to ask questions. Because of our meeting, I think Mr. Chan understands our concerns much better. He informed me that he would be writing a brief about our meeting for Senator Hatch.
Congressman Jason Chavetz’ staff attitude was improved. My meeting with Congressman Chavetz’ legislative assistant, Mike Jerman, was the shortest of the day, but it was a good visit. Last year Mr. Jerman’s views about dialing cell phones with autodialers and updating the TCPA were not particularly favorable. During this year’s meeting, I could tell that his stance had softened greatly. ACA’s efforts paid off because the attitudes and knowledge of this office have improved.
If the process for political change were simple and straightforward we would only need a few people championing our cause. But it isn’t. It’s frustrating. It’s tedious. And it’s LONG. As an industry we need to rally together and push our concerns forward in order to effectuate positive change.
I look forward to the next ACA fly-in and seeing first hand the progress that is being made for our industry.