NBFAA Advises Members on How to Work with Legislators

There are a number of bills currently pending in the U.S. Congress that have the potential to affect our businesses. As Congress heads into its August recess, our Government Relations team reminds members that now is a great time to get involved.

Although NBFAA’s Government Relations team has been meeting with key members of Congress and is providing an elevated status and general awareness level in Congress about the NBFAA, nothing can take the place of you contacting your elected officials. Your representatives in Congress need to hear from you,

The following is a general strategy and update on our legislative initiatives, as well as a step-by-step guide on how to interact with your representatives and senators during the month of August. We urge you to get involved as these initiatives have the potential to directly impact your business.

How you can get involved and make an impact on legislative issues The NBFAA has legislation introduced on behalf of the industry. Now it is time to make them a “hot” issue on Capitol Hill.

Remember this key point – Keep it Simple! Also, remember that the NBFAA Web site (www.alarm.org) offers an excellent array of resources and information on our issues if you are not sure of some specifics, or are looking for additional points to raise.

Personal meetings with representatives and senators

This is a very good opportunity for you, as an NBFAA member, to take the lead in representing your company and industry. One of the best ways to make a meaningful and lasting impact with your member of Congress is to meet with them personally. Your congressional representatives are usually in their home states for the entire month of August. Unlike “meet and greets” during your family trips to Washington D.C., this is a real opportunity to get some quality face time with your elected officials. A well orchestrated personal meeting can set the tone for all future interactions when you contact the representative or senator.

Make an appointment in advance

Call your representative’s office and ask his or her staff about the possibility of setting up a meeting. Let them know you would like to discuss a few issues affecting the alarm industry, such as VoIP, retrofitting nursing homes with fire alarms and a tax deduction for alarm purchasing and installation. Be patient and open to scheduling an appointment several weeks in advance.

Participants

You should certainly feel comfortable meeting on your own; however, if it would make the situation more relaxed, arrange to bring one or two other NBFAA members from the district or state to the meeting. Avoid walking in with a large group; it may be distracting. One or two people should be sufficient to deliver your message.

Have a plan

In advance, know who will speak and how you will approach the legislator. You should be brief but concise in your issue. Having a handout with some key bullet points will help the legislator focus and understand the issue. Members of Congress and their staffs are usually inundated with material that is hard to follow and never gets read. Do not offer something that will not be useful. Try to keep the meeting focused as well. Legislators are very busy and will appreciate a well-timed meeting. Please contact John Chwat, NBFAA Government Relations director for individual issue handouts at (703) 684-7703 or gov.info@alarm.org.

Sending a letter, fax or e-mail

The easiest and most common way to communicate with Congress is through letters, faxes and e-mails. We have posted a draft letter to your Senator and a draft letter to your Representative.

Remember though, members of Congress are impressed by large volumes of mail from their constituents on a particular issue, but they are decidedly NOT impressed by 300 copies of the identical letter. If you decide to use the draft letter, please personalize it in some way.

One other caution

Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives Chief Administrative Officer announced a new feature to the Write Your Representative online service designed to reduce unwanted mass e-mail by requiring a user to complete a simple puzzle before being allowed to send a message to a member. The idea is that only an actual person would be able to complete the puzzle and not mass e-mail programs. To use this service to send e-mails to your representative go to http://www.house.gov/writerep and follow the instructions.

Due to more advanced anti-spamming technology and the exuberant amount of e-mail House and Senate members receive, NBFAA recommends its members return to the days of faxing and postage as a first choice. Sending your representative a fax is just as quick as e-mail and isn’t blocked by filters. Postage on the other hand will take a little longer as all mail must pass through several security screenings before it may be delivered to the individual.

Whatever method you select, remember to include an address

The most important, yet often most overlooked, aspect of a written correspondence to a member of Congress is the return mailing address. Without this incredibly important piece of information, the member of Congress, or more likely his staff, will immediately stop reading and file it in the trash bin. With so many contrived and mass mailings these days, legislative staffs only have time to address correspondence from their district.

Make sure you send your correspondence to the right person

When sending a letter to a member of Congress, be sure it is to the person that represents you. Contacting a member who does not represent you may be a bigger waste of time than failing to include an address.

If you are unsure who represents you, refer to the search options on the following Web sites: www.house.gov and www.senate.gov. This site includes complete contact information for every representative and senator.

Keep the NBFAA informed

Whenever you make contact with a Congressional representative or staff, be sure to keep NBFAA Government Relations informed. Any response or feedback you receive, please pass this information along to John Chwat at gov.info@alarm.org.

You should also fax a copy of any letter you send to Congress to (703) 684-7594 or e-mail them to gov.info@alarm.org. John and his staff keep the correspondence from our members and consolidate for use when talking to specific members of Congress. This helps them magnify our voices and expand our influence.

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