Your political representatives are just people.
I feel like many people forget that. Either because they are intimidated by the political process, or, on the flipside, feel complete antipathy toward politicians and don’t make it a point to get to know their representatives.
You need to change that.
Nick McLain As a business owner, a taxpayer, or voter, you possess powerful reasons for your representatives to pay attention to you. And you should use that. You don’t have to be a savvy political operator to get their attention.
And although people are often fixated on whom their representatives are in Washington, DC, I would encourage you to focus closer to home, and get to know your state legislators. After all, given the partisan gridlock in the nation’s capital, the vast majority of important legislation is being passed at the state level. And it is at the state (and to a certain degree, local) level where home technology professionals will be regulated.
So call your legislator, email them, or even better, visit them. In 2011, the Congressional Management Foundation surveyed congressional staff and found overwhelmingly agreement that constituent visits have a great deal more influence on undecided lawmakers than lobbyists. And I really do believe that to be true.
You don’t have to go to the statehouse, either. Many legislators work only part-time in that role and can be found, out of session, at events around your community. For example, I recently ran into my state representative at a tree giveaway event at my local park. While you don’t want to monopolize their time, letting them know who you are and making that initial contact goes a long way.
Many legislators will be facing election in November and will be even more accessible than usual as they are out campaigning. Use that to your advantage. Show up and talk with them. And don’t stop with that initial contact. Stay in touch, and let them know your opinions on legislation (civilly, of course). Tell them about what you do for a living, and let them know that home technology professionals are well trained and don’t need any additional red tape. Advocate for what you know–this industry. Cultivate a relationship.
And join the CEDIA Government Affairs Grassroots Legislative Network, our volunteer network that we call upon to help us whenever a bill in a particular state deserves our attention. One of our best volunteers in the grassroots network this year was Ryan Herd, owner of 1 Sound Choice in New Jersey. He’s come to various meetings with important state lawmakers and regulators. With his technical knowledge, he was able to demonstrate how the products he installs are extremely safe, demonstrations that my colleague Darren Reaman and I wouldn’t be able to do. While Darren and I know the industry pretty well, you are the technical experts. We need your insight to show legislators why our industry is in good hands.
The political process is all about relationships. Legislators see thousands of bills in a session. If they know someone affected, it becomes an issue with a face for them. You could become a resource for them on the issue, too.
For CEDIA and the home technology industry, the more ties we have to legislators, the better we can protect our industry. So take the first step and visit your legislator!