CONTACT: Jenny Scala
SAF Members Put Industry Issues
ALEXANDRIA, VA — March 12, 2015 — Nearly 90 retail florists, wholesalers, growers and suppliers were in Washington, D.C., March 9-10, for the Society of American Florists (SAF) 35th Annual Congressional Action Days (CAD). The group included representatives from 25 states and 18 first-time attendees. The delegation met with lawmakers and staff from about 140 offices in the Senate and House of Representatives during this two-day event that included an issues briefing, big-picture insight from Washington insiders, and expert advice on how to best capture and keep the attention of elected officials.
The CAD delegation arrived on Capitol Hill at a time when two major industry issues — immigration and health care reform — are especially prominent in national headlines (and, notably, hot button topics for both political parties). The delegation lobbied for targeted, common sense solutions, including:
And, despite, the highly partisan environment in Washington, CAD attendees had real and recent proof of just how effective citizen advocacy can be: Two weeks after CAD wrapped up last year, legislation to change the ACA’s threshold for full-time employment from 30 to 40 hours a week was introduced in the House, and was reintroduced this past February in the 114th Congress. And in the summer of 2014, as a direct result of lobbying by SAF members during CAD, a bill to clarify the definition of “seasonal” in the ACA was introduced in the House. Sen. Ayotte is currently looking for a Democratic co-sponsor for that bill, giving SAF members a specific “ask” during their visits.
“Having these really specific things to ask for helped a lot this year,” said second-time attendee Mike Mooney of Dramm & Echter in Encinitas, Calif. Rather than lobbying for big-picture reform, SAF members could use real-life stories to tell their lawmakers about specific, often technical changes, that could quickly help small-business owners in the floral industry and beyond run their operations more effectively.
“Overall,” Mooney added, “I think people seemed more open and receptive to our concerns this year.”
Before meeting with lawmakers and their staff, attendees gathered to hear about the state of politics (and projections for the near future) from David Wasserman, House editor for The Cook Political Report, who discussed the fallout of the 2014 midterm elections, the current polarization of the country and Washington, and presidential prospects for 2016, among other topics.
“[The] 2014 [midterm elections] were like watching a car crash in slow motion for Democrats,” he said. “This was a function I believe, not of changing opinion but of changing turnout. You would have to go back to 1942 to find an off-year election with lower turnout.” (A year, he noted, when many eligible voters would have been otherwise occupied with World War II.)
Still, he added, another seismic shift, this time among Republicans, came last summer in the form of the unexpected primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) — a loss that continues to have effects in Congress. “Now, just about every Republican is fearful of a primary loss, the threat from their right,” he explained. “That’s why it’s so hard for them to come to an agreement. No one wants to be the next Eric Cantor.”
Advocacy guru Stephanie Vance also returned this year to prepare members for their meetings on the Hill. With her trademark humor, Vance drew from more than 25 years of experience to encourage the SAF delegation and gave tips on how to focus personal stories around the issue to make a persuasive case.
“So far, 2,672 bills have been introduced this session, that’s 78 bills per day,” said Vance, who also introduced a new tool, the AdvocacyApp, to help SAF members better manage their Hill meetings. “You don’t have to know about those; you need to tell your story. Basically, [these meetings] are sales meetings, and you all know how to handle that.”
She also painted a vivid picture for members of what they could expect in meetings, and why those expectations might not match what we’ve seen on TV or movies. “Don’t be disappointed if you’re talking to a staff person, rather than a representative or senator,” she said. Staff members may “look like they’re 12 years old,” but they have great influence over the lawmakers they serve.
“In fact,” she said, “with the staff member, you’ll probably have a more substantive conversation.”
That advice held true for Nick Fronduto of Jacobson Floral Supply, Inc., in Boston, who came to CAD with his son, Patrick, a student at Boston University.
“I’m constantly amazed by the access average citizens really have on Capitol Hill,” said Fronduto, who has participated in five CADs. “You go through a bit of security and suddenly you’re in the office of a congressman or senator. I’m not sure people realize that. If they did, maybe they’d advocate more. The truth is, based on my experience, these lawmakers want to hear from us.”
“Collectively, we can make a difference and we can affect change,” said SAF President Shirley Lyons, AAF, PFCI, of Dandelions Flowers & Gifts in Eugene, Ore. “Every time you come to CAD or send an email to Congress, you make a difference.”
SAF gratefully acknowledges CAD sponsors BloomNet, FTD and Teleflora. In addition, AmericanHort provided additional funding, and the Capitol Hill Club Hospitality Suite was underwritten by Hortica Insurance and Employee Benefits.
SAVE THE DATE: The 36th Annual Congressional Action Days takes place March 14-15, 2016.
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The Society of American Florists is the leading organization representing all segments of the floral industry. SAF is proud to provide marketing, business and government services to its members, including growers, wholesalers, retailers, suppliers, importers, educators, designers and allied organizations. The association was chartered by an act of Congress in 1884.
SAF Goes to Capital Hill
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