Let’s start this conversation off with some candor: “Politics” is a bit of a four-letter word. What we see on the news and read online can induce frequent stomach-flips and make us feel even more removed from the political process, unable to have any impact.
I assure you democracy is still alive and well, and opportunity abounds for you to get involved and affect legislative outcomes that impact you, your organizations, and your clients. Change is daunting at a federal level, but much more accessible locally.
I’m relatively new to working in advocacy at NCACPA, but it’s quickly become apparent to me that our CPA community’s input is a necessary part of shaping state-based legislation, and that input has earned us several successes over the years.
There are many ways you can get involved and help continue to move our community’s advocacy efforts forward:
Tell Us About Your Issues
What’s keeping you and/or your clients up at night? Maybe it’s a filing process, or a complex/outdated statute, etc. While NCACPA tracks North Carolina legislation of importance to our members, Connect has become a great channel for us to pick up on the issues you encounter most frequently. If it’s an issue for you, it’s definitely an issue for your peers, so take to Connect and let us know what’s on your mind. (It’s also where CEO Sharon Bryson shares timely legislative updates, and has the opportunity to connect with a greater number of our members about where they need us to advocate—this is an immensely helpful resource!)
Come to a Legislative Committee Meeting
I attended my first committee meeting at the Legislative Office Building in downtown Raleigh in early March, along with a representative of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). It was a meeting of the Joint Legislative Administrative Procedural Oversight Committee, and the discussion was in regards to streamlining governmental audit and accounting procedures for state boards of licensed professions. In addition to seeing some of my hero representatives that I follow on Twitter, in real life, it was a great opportunity to observe the political process in real time. State Auditor Beth Wood (also an NCACPA member) presented information on the proposed auditing process, and representatives had the opportunity to ask questions in advance of the legislation potentially going to the floor for a vote.
Meet With Representatives
It was evident in the meeting I attended that some representatives had more accounting knowledge than others, which means there is a lot of opportunity for you to educate them in the area(s) where you’re truly an expert. It helps them make more informed votes on your behalf—a win-win situation. NCACPA will give you all the support you need, from developing talking points, to scheduling the meeting, to going with you to the legislator’s office. These meetings are critical for showing representatives and senators that CPAs are their go-to resource whenever there is legislation regarding business in North Carolina. Relationship-building is key to moving our legislative agenda forward.
Donate to the NC CPA PAC
I am the ultimate skeptic when it comes to donating my money. But, the inconvenient truth remains—money is the name of the game, and it’s a “pay to play” world in politics. Our political action committee isn’t designed to win votes or move elections, and we don’t favor one party over another. We’re focused on supporting state-level candidates who are pro-business and have the CPA profession’s back. Our PAC contributions give us a foot in the door to help build those key relationships previously mentioned and give YOU, our CPA members, opportunity to voice your concerns directly to the legislators voting on your behalf.
Tell Us Who You Know
Critical to every great advocacy initiative is a key person program. It’s a who-knows-who database that allows NCACPA to see which state legislators our members have personal relationships with, to help us in our outreach efforts. It could be that the state senator whose tax return you do each year serves on a committee of interest to NCACPA. Maybe the representative for your hometown is the parent of a childhood friend. Personal relationships are one, but a very important, part of the advocacy puzzle. If you have an existing relationship with a legislator, send an email to let us know so we can create an opportunity to collaborate with that legislator.
There are many ways for you to help NCACPA’s advocacy efforts, some more time-intensive than others, but all essential in the political process. There is a shortage of CPAs in elected office in our state, so it’s even more important that you use your influence as an expert to inform legislation that directly affects your profession.
It’s especially important for us, the younger professionals, to get involved in advocacy now so we can start small and have far-reaching impact for years to come.
Advocacy is not so much a daunting task, but it is one that takes commitment and community. We win some and we lose some, but we celebrate and we learn as a team. And it sure feels good when we can celebrate a win!