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PIA Political Involvement 2004: The Time is Now

Robert PageChairman, PIA National Federal Affairs Robert Gyle IIIChairman, PIAPAC Have you ever wondered why many of your colleagues in PIA always seem to...
September 10, 2004

By Don Flanders
Chairman, PIA National Regulatory Affairs

Robert Page
Chairman, PIA National Federal Affairs

Robert Gyle III
Chairman, PIAPAC

Have you ever wondered why many of your colleagues in PIA always seem to be getting involved in politics?  And have you also wondered why those of us who are actively involved are always encouraging every member of PIA to do likewise?

As the principals of independent insurance agencies, our political involvement goes beyond personal reasons.  Involvement is necessary for the support and success of our businesses.

But first, a few words about our personal reasons. One of the things many of us grew up learning in civics classes was that Americans not only have the right to participate in our nation's political process, we also have a duty as citizens in a free society to participate.

This is not a responsibility that is required by any law. Those of us who choose to become involved in political affairs believe in contributing more to the common good, just as those who volunteer for military service or take part in service organizations do so out of a desire to give more to their country and community.

Different PIA members choose different ways to participate in the political process. Some of us serve on city or county advisory boards. Some of us run for local political office and offer our services on a local or state level, with many serving in their state legislatures and on state boards and commissions.

Over the years, many former PIA members ran for, and many have been elected to, Congress.  Most recently, in 2002, Rick Renzi from Arizona was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. A current PIA member, Richard Codey, may become acting Governor of New Jersey in November.

PIA members serve on political party committees and get involved in the campaigns of candidates who understand our issues and support our agenda, which we make sure always includes positions and actions specific to PIA independent insurance agencies' needs.  And then there is the large number of politically active PIA members that make the time to have our insurance needs and voices heard by writing letters, sending e-mails, making local political office visits and going to local campaign events underscoring that how we vote depends on what politicians do for our insurance business!

When looking at the insurance challenges PIA members face today, we need to realize that at every elective office, proposals are advanced and issues addressed that can have a significant impact on independent insurance agencies.

Any municipal order or action, state or federal legislative proposal, or state/federal regulatory initiative has the potential to be neutral, to help, or be disastrous for PIA members' business success. Very often, which way it goes depends on two factors: (1) whether an elected official is informed and knowledgeable about PIA's position; and/or (2) whether an elected official is successfully persuaded to see things from PIA's point of view, as they cast their votes.

As a matter of successful management of our businesses, politics is more than just personal. The political process is an essential key to the success of our businesses. With the right laws and regulations - those that assure that we are able to compete on a fair, level playing field - independent insurance agents gain and retain the access to business opportunity as we implement our strategic plan for success.  But if ill-advised laws or onerous regulations are adopted, the road to pursuing our insurance business success may be far more complicated, costly, carry unfair legal exposure, and/or be entirely blocked.

Reform in insurance of both our industry and oversight systems continues to ramp-up. It is a yearly fact of life in every state legislature, department of insurance and other state agencies and administrations, Congress, and federal agencies and the Administration.  From among these many proposals, each year more and more changes succeed.

Leaving it totally to "others" to get the job done right is not the answer. In business, we don't expect our competitors to leave our customers out of their marketing efforts. In our agencies, we know that the work must get done on time even if everyone has to "go at it" in overtime. Pulling your weight in achieving the political outcomes PIA agencies need for their collective and individual success is no different realty.

As we move into the closing months of the 2004 political campaigns, we urge all members of PIA to get involved.  The specific nature of your involvement matters less than just the fact that you are involved.

But it all starts and always includes getting your checkbook out and writing a contribution to both your state and your national political action committee (PIAPAC). Both PACs support pro-insurance candidates with political contributions that give PIA clout, when and where it will count.

Then, as you are able, keep writing checks directly to the candidates of your choice. Let your political conscience be your guide as to who to send them to, just send them - and when you do, let all recipients know that you are a PIA independent insurance agent, and share the desired outcomes PIA members are supporting at the state and national level.

To make the circle of success complete and stronger, be sure to let your state and national PIA political staff know who you are, how you are involved and what candidates and issues you are supporting.

You may wish to be more actively involved.  Do you know a candidate that has a particular knowledge of the issues facing independent insurance agencies and agrees with PIA's support of functional state regulation? Contact him or her and offer more than just a check. Host a fund-raiser in your home, call your friends and urge them to get involved.

And as we look toward the next election cycle beyond 2004, consider doing what many of your fellow PIA members have already done: run for office yourself.  Imagine how much better positioned our agenda would be if there were a PIA member in every state legislature, and enough of us in Washington to meet as the House PIA Caucus.

When it comes to insurance, one thing is paramount: we want support for PIA's pro-agent agenda. This is a critical election year. That is why it is so important for you to take action. It is up to you to determine the action you take and your specific level of support.

Finally, it goes without saying, but we'll say it again: you must vote, and get all of your relatives, friends and professional colleagues to vote, as well.

In 2004, one thing is certain: doing nothing is not an option for any PIA member!

Don Flanders of Laconia, New Hampshire is Chairman of PIA National's Regulatory Affairs Committee. He is a Republican State Representative in New Hampshire, and serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL).

Robert Page of Houma, Louisiana is Chairman of PIA National's Federal Affairs Committee and is incoming Secretary-Treasurer of PIA National.

Robert P. Gyle, III of New Fairfield, Connecticut is Chairman of the Professional Insurance Agents Political Action Committee (PIAPAC), a gubernatorial appointed member of the State of Connecticut Insurance and Risk Management Board and Chairs the PIA of Connecticut Political Action Committee (PIACONPAC).

For more information contact PIA National Director of Political Affairs Kellie Bray kelliebr@pianet.org

This article originally appeared in the September 2004 PIA Connection.