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PIA - Delivering Value, Every Day

Just when you think you're holding your opponents successfully at bay, or that they are napping, a reminder can arrive that a looming threat...
April 24, 2006

PIA National Executive Vice President & CEO Leonard C. BrevikBy Leonard C. Brevik
Executive Vice President & CEO
PIA National

Just when you think you're holding your opponents successfully at bay, or that they are napping, a reminder can arrive that a looming threat is still looming. Such is the case with those who want federal regulation of insurance. More about that in a moment.

Another truism is that the sweeter the victory, the shorter the amount of time you will have to savor it before it's time to do battle again.

In late 2004, days after we were celebrating a successful push that helped secure renewal of the National Flood Insurance Program, Mr. Spitzer dropped his bombshell and we were off on a year-long campaign to assure everyone that independent insurance agents do not engage in the kind of unethical behavior in which some others in our industry had engaged.

PIA did battle with misinformed reporters, the editors of Consumer Reports, consumer activists who never liked our industry in the first place, and even the CEO of one of the world's largest brokerage houses. We publicly opposed the NAIC. In the end, our efforts to defend the integrity of professional insurance agents were hugely successful. Even Mr. Spitzer changed his tune, and began to defend the integrity of Main Street agents.

In November and December, 2005, PIA National conducted Grassroots Action campaigns urging Congress to renew TRIA, and to provide additional funding authority to the NFIP so it could continue to pay flood claims from insureds resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

These two efforts at one point were conducted simultaneously, keeping PIA members busy contacting their Members of Congress and generating significant positive coverage in the insurance trade press. More than 3,200 unique messages were sent by agents to Representatives, Senators and President Bush during this two-pronged campaign - a strong testimonial to the importance of grassroots advocacy.

Both grassroots efforts were successful. NFIP funding was extended and TRIA was renewed for two years.

At the start of 2006, we shifted our focus to two primary issues pending on Capitol Hill. We launched a campaign against proposals for Optional Federal Charters; and we ramped up efforts to support creation of an appropriately-drawn national, natural catastrophe plan, as endorsed by the PIA Board in September 2005.

This year has seen a renewed push by advocates of federal insurance regulation to revive a proposal that has, fortunately, languished since it was first introduced in the Senate in 1976, optional federal charters for insurers. It needs to stay dead.  PIA supports state-based functional regulation of insurance. PIA opposes an optional federal charter. PIA supports the NAIC's successful efforts to modernize the state system.

The devastating hurricanes of 2005 demonstrated vividly the need to prepare not just for routine disasters, but also for the kind of super-catastrophes that we have been experiencing lately. That's why President Ray Peretti has appointed a special natural catastrophe task force, to guide PIA's policy initiatives in this area.

During the April PIA National meetings, a PIA Membership Summit is being held for affiliate leadership and staff. During the Summit, attendees will share ideas as they discuss specific efforts they are using successfully in their states. PIA National staff will unveil the new, groundbreaking PIA Membership Tool Kit, a collection of resources available to all affiliates, developed based on last summer's affiliate membership survey. The goal of this effort is to provide more concrete assistance to those PIA affiliates who would like help with their membership development programs.

While developing and maintaining a constant stream of products and services is of prime importance, so too is promoting membership growth. The lifeblood of any successful association is not just having a broad range of products, or a deep bench of professional lobbyists. It is having a strong, active, committed membership willing to put grassroots "boots on the ground" at a moment's notice, in order to win legislative and regulatory battles.

Much is said in our industry about the need for perpetuation. Many PIA affiliates have active programs designed for young agents. This year marks the debut of the first annual PIA National Young Insurance Professional of the Year Award, in conjunction with our sponsor, Rough Notes magazine. It is PIA National's effort to move perpetuation of our association to the next level.

As PIA marks it's 75th Anniversary year, let's remember that PIA is dedicated to providing desk-top value to members, every day. That means the best advocacy, the best networking, the best representation and the best value for each dues dollar.

Len Brevik lenbr@pianet.org is Executive Vice President & CEO of PIA National.

PIA Connection

This article originally appeared in the April 2006 PIA Connection.

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