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Working the halls in Salem, Oregon…

October 1, 2018

Last week, I had the privilege of leading a delegation of representatives from five Alliance member societies through a series of meetings with state senators from Oregon. Our group consisted of government affairs professionals from the corporate offices of Thrivent Financial and Knights of Columbus; a home office fraternal executive from WoodmenLife; a member of the Sons of Norway International Board of Directors; and a field representative from Modern Woodmen of America. The Sons of Norway board member and the Modern Woodmen field representative were both native Oregonians, which proved to be incredibly important to our delegation’s success.

As you know, legislation that would have negatively impacted fraternals was introduced – and ultimately defeated – in the 2018 session. The purpose of our outreach effort was to increase the awareness of the invaluable and irreplaceable impact that fraternals have in communities across Oregon among the members of two key state senate committees and the senate leadership prior to the 2019 session in the event that the bill is re-introduced next year.

Without a doubt, we accomplished that objective, and that was largely due to the compelling stories told by members of the Alliance delegation. The passion for our business model and for the good works that societies do in the backyards of these lawmakers demonstrated by each fraternal representative was impressive and genuine. Moreover, having two delegation members from Oregon made our presentation even more effective and truly put fraternals “on the map” for these lawmakers, many of whom had little or no idea who we are or what we do in their districts on a daily basis.

We are now in a holding pattern until we determine if a bill that could undermine our ability to fulfill our financial services and community services is introduced in 2019. We could see legislative language for such a measure as early as next month – or as late as February 2019. The proposal could be aimed directly at fraternals, or it may include other non-for-profit entities, such as health care providers and hospitals. Once we see the specifics of the legislation, we will be able to plan our advocacy strategy. I will keep you updated on developments through bulletins and blog posts.

For me, the big takeaway from last week’s effort is this: we shouldn’t wait for a political threat to let state lawmakers know how fraternals improve the quality of life in their states. The most important project for Alliance members is to organize an annual or biennial “Day on the Hill” in your state capital to tell our story to key legislators. And, including a member of the National Association of Financial Insurance Counselors chapter in your state or region will dramatically impact your chances of success. The Pennsylvania Fraternal Alliance does this type of event exceptionally well. Theirs is a model others can follow. Interested in organizing this type of event in 2019? Contact me at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org to discuss in more detail.