NAA Apartment Industry Mobilization Service Grassroots Program
This is the second in a series of monthly communications to members of the Apartment Industry Mobilization Service (AIMS) to help you advocate for the apartment industry. This information will focus on our federal policy initiatives, the legislative process, important committees, key members of the House and Senate, and briefing materials. We hope you find this valuable and invite you to suggest other topics to cover.
This month our focus is a call to action! Now is the time to make your voice heard by meeting face to face with your members of Congress when they are in recess in August.
Many NAA members cannot travel to Washington, D.C., in March for the annual Capitol Conference lobby day. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard for nothing more than a little time and the cost of gas.
You may not think that your involvement will make a difference. Or, you may think you don’t have time even to set up a meeting – and even if you get one, what would you say?
NAA Government Affairs wants to make it easy for you. Here’s how:
Your involvement will make a difference. In fact, you have a seat at the head of the table! Among Congressional staff recently surveyed, 46 percent said that an “in-person constituent visit” will have “a lot” of influence on a member of Congress who is undecided on an issue. Another 51 percent said it will have “some” influence.
Information on how to plan and schedule your meeting in the district/state office is available below. Since the meeting will be held during the recess, you should schedule your meeting with the district/state office. At other times, the meeting should be set up through the Washington, D.C., office.
To help you prepare, issue talking points and issue fact sheets will be made available next month. If you still feel you need an “Inside-the-beltway” perspective for your meeting, we will do our best to arrange for a NAA/NMHC policy expert to be on the speaker phone for a two-way conference call.
If you are turned down for a meeting in the district/state office, you are still in luck. In 2010, the House of Representatives’ calendar had five district work periods. This year’s calendar has 13. That means Representatives have more time to participate in town hall meetings and local events – as well as more time to spend conversing with you in those venues.
Almost every member of Congress holds town hall meetings to take the pulse of their constituents. While they are considered an underutilized resource, the same survey reported that 87 percent of Congressional staff said that questions from constituents at town hall meetings had “a lot” or “some” influence on an undecided member of Congress.
To find out the date, time and location, check your local newspaper or the member of Congress’s website. However, it is best to contact your member of Congress’s district/state office. While some town hall meetings are open to everyone, keep in mind that some offices will only contact constituents who have signed up to be notified. Be careful to note if you need to register to attend, send an RSVP, or sign up to ask a question (the latter typically occurs on-site). Always provide your name and home address, telephone number and e-mail address. (This will be used to verify that you are a constituent.)
Events provide a great opportunity for two-way dialogue – especially if you’re the event’s host. Invite your member of Congress to tour your apartment community and meet with residents over an informal barbecue. Or, invite your Senator or Representative to speak at a breakfast with your employees.
Pitch the visit to your local newspapers and television stations. This type of face time with constituents makes for good news media coverage for both the member of Congress and you! (And if you are in an early primary state, you might be lucky enough to piggyback on a Republican presidential hopeful’s visit to town as well.
Always remember that your personal stories trump everything else you say. You don’t need to be an expert on federal issues affecting the industry, but rather a resource on your business and how a particular issue impacts it. Members of Congress want and need to benefit from your expertise and point of view. By doing so, you become a relied-upon source for future multifamily housing issues, and they become more knowledgeable about our industry and the impact of legislation on your livelihood.
Measure your success in increments over time. To oversimplify an arduous process, it can literally take years for most bills to become laws. Added to that, most proposals never pass. Those that do frequently are re-introduced numerous times over different legislative sessions. And that’s not taking into play the growing Election Day turnover in Congress. So celebrate the baby steps, such as when a U.S. Senator finally agrees to meet you after declining your requests for several years.
We’re looking forward to hearing about your plans for your meetings. Again, the recess is between August 8 and September 5 and it is important to schedule meetings as soon as possible. Please keep us posted!
Thank you for your attention to this e-mail. If you have questions or comments on any of the material contained in this message, please contact me at 703-797-0633 or Kathleen@naahq.org.
Director, Political Affairs
National Apartment Association