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Skies are clear… so let’s start preparing for the next storm…

February 18, 2019

I spent several productive days in Washington, DC, last week meeting with Susan Neely, the new CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI); introducing the Alliance to the Legislative Directors of three new members of the House Ways and Means Committee; and leading the Alliance’s federal legislative strategy planning session. Here’s a quick rundown on each of those topics:

Alliance CEO Joe Annotti met last week with Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers.

Alliance CEO Joe Annotti met last week with Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers.

ACLI – The appointment of Susan Neely is a bold move for ACLI. The two previous CEOs have come straight from Capitol Hill, and while Susan has a boatload of political and public policy experience, she takes great pride in being a professional trade association executive and the broader responsibilities beyond pure advocacy – issues like governance, financial management, and membership benefits – that it entails. We had an interesting conversation about the challenges that both ACLI and Alliance members face – not the least of which is relevance in a world that’s being shaped by rapid advancements in technology affecting our members’ core business operations. The Alliance works closely with ACLI on advocacy issues that affect all life insurers – from annuity suitability to cyber security – and I think there will be even more opportunities for our two organizations to work cooperatively in the future.

Curt Zeck, CIO/Operations Executive, Royal Neighbors of America and Alliance CEO Joe Annotti at the LIC Annual Meeting in Destin, FL

Annotti in DC to conduct meetings with new members of the House Ways and Means Committee.

New Ways and Means Committee Members – Jenn Fogel, our federal lobbyist, and I met with the Legislative Directors from the offices of Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.); Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.); and Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.). While none of these lawmakers are new to Capitol Hill (Rep. Kildee is a co-sponsor of the Fraternal Resolution and knows the two Michigan-domiciled societies very well), they are all new members of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, the committee where tax legislation originates. To say these offices are busy is an understatement. We were part of a long succession of visitors from organizations with tax exemptions or preferences that wanted to get to know these new committee members. Legislative staff are literally drinking from a fire hose as they try to come to grips with all the players on issues that come before the committee. The most positive takeaway: a comment from one legislative staffer who looked at our materials and said, “Oh, you’re the good guys.” Yes, we are! Jenn and I will continue our “getting to know you” tour in the coming months and plan to meet with every new member of both Ways and Means and Senate Finance by mid-year.

Alliance Federal Legislative Planning – Government affairs professionals from the Alliance’s four largest societies – Thrivent, Knights of Columbus, Modern Woodmen of America, and WoodmenLife – along with Nick Benoit, president and CEO of Royal Arcanum, spent a full day meticulously working their way through rosters of key congressional committees, returning Fraternal Resolution co-sponsors, and new Members of Congress and making specific assignments for outreach to dozens of lawmakers. Because there appear to be few major tax initiatives that will affect fraternals in the 2019 session, our primary federal advocacy objectives this year will be to re-introduce our House and Senate Congressional Resolutions, secure as many co-sponsors for these measures from new and returning Members of Congress, and introduce ourselves to the many new members of key congressional committees.

I’ll be writing much more about these initiatives in future blog posts and bulletins – including specific suggestions for how Alliance members can help secure co-sponsors and introduce the fraternal community to new lawmakers – so stay tuned. But there is one idea I want you to start thinking about today:

The skies are clear now, but they won’t always be. The legislative measures that could undermine our ability to serve members and communities ten years from now will have their origins today. State and federal lawmakers need to understand who we are and what we do so we can continue to be viewed as “the good guys” and not the “pay fors” in the next tax reform debate. That means the investment we make in outreach today is like an annuity that will pay benefits over the course of a lifetime. So, let’s all commit to stepping up our game by doing the following:

  • Get to know your state and federal legislators and invite them to tour your home office or participate in a community service event
  • Contribute to the Alliance PAC so that we can forge lasting bonds with lawmakers that support the fraternal community
  • Attend the Alliance’s Executive Summit and serve as a fraternal ambassador on visits with Members of Congress
  • Put together a “just in case” emergency plan to generate widespread grassroots contacts from your employees, agents, members, and the organizations that benefit from your society’s good works if our tax exemption comes under direct attack.

Got comments or questions? Send them to me at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org

Field rep meets with South Dakota Legislative leader.

Alliance CEO Joe Annotti met last week with Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers.

Curt Zeck, CIO/Operations Executive, Royal Neighbors of America and Alliance CEO Joe Annotti at the LIC Annual Meeting in Destin, FL

Annotti in DC to conduct meetings with new members of the House Ways and Means Committee.