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PIA Members Take Our Message to Capitol Hill

[See photos and video from event at end of article.] PIA members from across the country descended on Capitol Hill April 7 for the...
April 10, 2005

2005 PIA Federal Legislative Summit Boasts Highest Attendance in Years

PIA National Senior Vice President of Communications Ted BesesparisBy Ted Besesparis
Vice President, Communications
PIA National

[See photos and video from event at end of article.]

PIA members from across the country descended on Capitol Hill April 7 for the 22nd Annual PIA Federal Legislative Summit (FLS), held in Washington. D.C. Agents spent the day receiving briefings and visiting their local Members of Congress.

Three key issues topped the agenda. PIA members lobbied for quick passage of a two year extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA); shared their concerns about the draft of an insurance regulatory reform bill; and advised Congress that no federal action is needed on broker disclosure and compensation issues.

PIA President Terry Adams welcomed attendees to the annual summit during a kickoff breakfast held at the Capitol Hill Club. Adams noted that participation in the FLS was the highest it has been in many years.

"Let me extend a special welcome to those PIA members who are attending their first PIA Federal Legislative Summit," said Adams. "Although final figures are not yet in, already we know that the 2005 Summit will boast the best attendance in many years. This is a testament to the commitment of PIA members to personal involvement in the political process. Give yourselves a round of applause."

"PIA National has done a lot for PIA of Nebraska in helping our lawmakers understand our issues." 

--Phil Winkelmann, PIA of Nebraska

PIA National executive vice president and CEO Len Brevik said agents come to our nation's capital every year to participate in the process of expressing their views directly to the people who represent them in Congress.

"It is important that while we are here, we speak truth to power," Brevik said. "That is our only mission here. We need to be proud that we offer choice to consumers - and we must remember that choice is not a conflict. Some consumer activists have said that the choice that agents offer to consumers is a conflict. It is not."

"Since all politics are local, Congress knows that every local community is home to an independent insurance agent," said Brevik. "PIA members are the backbone of the American free enterprise system. PIA members are local agents, helping local people. PIA members are your friends, your neighbors and the people you trust for help with all of your insurance needs."

Rep. Bachus Keynotes

Rep. Spencer Bachus, (R-Alabama), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee's Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, was the keynote speaker at the FLS kickoff breakfast. Rep. Bachus said that the Financial Services Committee is prepared to move on extending TRIA as soon as the Treasury finishes its report on the usefulness of the current legislation. That report is expected by the end of June at the latest. "We will move on that [legislation]," Rep. Bachus said. "Hopefully, it will be a good report," he added.

"It is impossible for you to assess the risk and calculate the premium on terrorism exposures without the TRIA backstop," Rep. Bachus told the agents. "I know you're already setting your premiums to insure people through 2006 and 2007, so you need it now." Bachus said TRIA renewal legislation likely wouldn't move until after Congress is presented with a report on the matter from the U.S. Treasury Department, which is due in June.

At the kickoff breakfast, PIA National lobbyists Kellie Bray and Peter Bizzozero gave attendees an in-depth briefing on the prime focus issues for the summit.

Bizzozero said it was crucial that PIA members press for passage of TRIA now. "We can't wait for that report," Bizzozero said. "The report might be good for us or it might be bad for us, but we need to press our case now. Congress has shown it can move quickly in response to a crisis, but we need them to move before there is another crisis. We can't let it get to that."

"It was amazing how open they were to us, and there was a good response to our issues."

--PIA National President-elect Ray Peretti

Administration officials say the much-anticipated U.S. Treasury Department survey on the federal government's role in the market for terrorism insurance will be delivered by its June 30 deadline. The study is viewed by many as key to any Congressional action to either extend TRIA or craft a more permanent federal role in insuring terrorism risk. Both Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) have insisted that Congress will take no action on the matter until after the report is delivered.

Brevik said the turnout for the annual legislative event was the largest in at least five years and was evidence of a revitalized PIA. Brevik said PIA has seen a significant interest from agents wanting to join PIA in recent months - due in part to heightened concern about compensation and disclosure issues in the wake of investigations of mega-brokers by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. He said PIA has gained hundreds of new members since the Spitzer investigation began and the increase in membership is continuing.

In addition to TRIA, the top issues of concern for agents who participated in the 2005 PIA Federal Legislative Summit were ensuring that insurance regulatory reform is accomplished within the context of state regulation of insurance and advising Congress that no federal legislation is needed regarding insurance broker compensation disclosures, because the states have the matter well in hand. In addition, PIA met with officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency (RMA), the agency that oversees federal crop insurance.

"I always tell our members of Congress that we're the people that come to see them who aren't asking for money," said Carter A. "Cap" Peterson of Wayne, Nebraska, PIA National's 2005 Professional Agent of the Year. "We're out there working for the consumer and we always get an excellent reception from the legislators we meet with."

"PIA's annual legislative summit is an important part of our year-round program of legislative advocacy," said Jon D. Spalding, Chairman of the PIA National Federal Affairs Committee, following the congressional visits. "I think we owe it to ourselves as business people and to others in our industry to make our case directly. We are the people who are living with the laws made here on a day-to-day basis. What may be good in Michigan may not be reflective of the same need in Louisiana. We have to bring that insight to our elected officials."

PIA Message Well Received

PIA's message and members were well received during the Congressional visits.

"…they were very impressed, and very receptive to our message. They knew we had over 170 people on the Hill today."

--PIA National Vice President Donna Pile

"I think that they were very impressed, and very receptive to our message," said PIA National Vice President Donna Pile of Lexington, Kentucky. "They knew we had over 170 people on the Hill today - they knew that." Pile also noted that each congressional staff was given a supply of PIA mouse pads. "As I handed them out, I said 'now, you're going to put them by your computer - and whenever you have a question about insurance, who are you going to call? You're going to call PIA!'"

The PIA of Nebraska delegation met with Sens. Chuck Hagel (R) and Ben Nelson (D), along with all of the state's House members. PIA member Phil Winkelmann said the meetings went well.

"We had good visits with Senators Nelson and Hagel, and Rep. Tom Osborne and the rest of the House members," said Winkelmann. "Senator Hagel and especially Senator Nelson told us that they rely on PIA for information. PIA National has done a lot for PIA of Nebraska in helping our lawmakers understand our issues."

"Our visits went very well," said PIA President-elect Ray Peretti of Renton, Washington. "It was amazing how open they were to us, and there was a good response to our issues. It was great."

"He's doing very well. He was just cleared to travel. He'll get stronger as he continues cardiac rehabilitation."

--Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), giving members of PIA of New York an update on her husband, former President Bill Clinton's recovery from heart bypass surgery.

Members of PIA of New York met with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York). In addition to presenting Sen. Clinton with PIA's positions on insurance issues, they heard a brief medical update. "He's doing very well," Sen. Clinton said of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who continues a long recovery from heart-bypass surgery. "He was just cleared to travel. He'll get stronger as he continues cardiac rehabilitation."

At day's end, a reception was held for all Summit participants in the U.S. House of Representatives' Rayburn building.

"Professional insurance agents are the basis of communities," said Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D-Pennsylvania), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises, speaking at the PIA Congressional reception.

"As you know there is tremendous transition in financial services," Kanjorski said, "but I'm one that wants to preserve the independent insurance agent because long-term, if we don't have these types of individuals - small businessmen located in middle sized and small communities - we're going to lose the benefit of community development in the United States. That would be a great loss and it could disappear without our realizing it."

Later that night, the PIA Political Action Committee (PIAPAC) conducted its annual fundraising dinner. Charlie Cook, Editor and Publisher of The Cook Political Report, was the featured speaker at the PIAPAC fundraising dinner. Cook is a columnist for the National Journal magazine and CongressDailyAM, and he is also an analyst for NBC News as well as CNBC and MSNBC.

Grassroots Action Center

In tandem with the FLS, PIA National launched a new online Grassroots Action Center that allows all of its members nationwide to lobby their elected officials from their desktops. In the week preceding the legislative conference, PIA members who were not planning to attend were able to go online and send letters to their Members of Congress in support of meetings that the PIA delegations had scheduled. In addition, attendees were able to send custom press releases to their local media outlets, noting their participation in the PIA Federal Legislative Summit, as well as thank-you notes to the lawmakers with whom they met.

"PIA's entire membership across the country is now hard-wired into Congress," said PIA National President Terry Adams. "Our new Grassroots Action Center will greatly enhance the ability of all PIA members to quickly add their voices in support of PIA National's day-to-day legislative lobbying on Capitol Hill."

With just a few keystrokes, PIA members from Hawaii to Maine can ensure their representatives and senators understand the views of Main Street insurance agents," Adams said. "Best of all, because members start from a pre-written message, communications are quick and on point."

The Grassroots Action Center also allows users to track House and Senate bills that relate to PIA's core issues. Visitors can also look at key Congressional votes, learn in-depth information about their elected officials' records and more.

PIA wishes to thank the sponsors of the 2005 PIA Federal Legislative Summit: AIG Agency Auto (Gold Level Sponsor); PIA-CCEO (PIA Company Council of Executive Officers - Gold Level Sponsor); The Hartford, Main Street America Group, MetLife Auto & Home, Travelers, and The Vesta Insurance Companies (Silver Level Sponsors).

PIA Federal Legislative Summit Video Compilation

The video below is a compilation of moments from the April 7, 2005 FLS.

Version 1: Windows Media Player 256kbps (for slower Internet connections)
Click here for Florida Markets Update video.

Version 2: Windows Media Player 700kbps (for faster Internet connections)
Click here for Florida Markets Update video.

Version 3: Real Player
Click here for Florida Markets Update video.

FLS Photos

Senators John Warner (R-Virginia), at left, and George Allen (R-Virginia), center, hear from former PIA National President Stephen E. Watkins, Jr., during PIA's April 7 Federal Legislative Summit.

PIA ND Contingent Meets with Senator Byron Dorgan: (from left to right) PIAND President-elect Gary Ihry; Kent Olson, PIAND executive director; Mary Ihry; Dan Weber, PIAND vice president; Mike Just, PIAND president; Margaret Kozojed; Mike Kozojed; Senator Dorgan (D-North Dakota); John Krabseth; Brenda Ihry; Joyce Krabseth; Keith Ihry; Corey McGillis; Gordy Delano; Brent Newgard; and PIA National Director Larry McGillis.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) makes a point while meeting with PIA NY's President Steve Ruchman and David Dickson, a PIA NY Director.

Representative Ed Royce (R-California) meets with PIA National Director Leonard E. Freeman and Steven Freeman during PIA's 22nd Annual PIA Federal Legislative Summit.

PIANY Director Marty Koles, right, stresses the importance of the issues confronting congress while meeting with Senator Charles (Chuck) Schumer (D-New York), left, while PIANY President-elect Shawn Viana, center, follows along.