Your voice on public policy carries beyond the voting booth. Regardless of how you feel about politics, the lasting legacy of our American system of representative democracy is that we the people are the bosses and elected officials are our employees. A little bit of guidance or encouragement from constituents can go a long way. It’s as easy as a quick local phone call that takes only a few minutes.
The key to getting your voice heard is by learning the right communication channels and how to navigate them. Many people do not even know how to contact their representatives for the same reason they might choose not to vote: They believe they can’t make much of a difference. But the relatively few people who do reach out have a better chance to influence public policy. The truth is it’s quick and easy to contact your officials, and the return you get for the few minutes you put in can lead to massive savings on business expenditures or taxes. Sometimes this influence can be even stronger if it is a constituent company or business reaching out, and stronger still if it’s an association with many members — like the Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International. This is what HARDI does on behalf of our members and the HVACR industry through our advocacy efforts.
Place the call
People and businesses can all contact their representatives by phone, letter, email, social media or an in-person meeting. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. The trick is to contact the representatives’ local in-state offices. Every individual and business has at least three Congressional representatives: one in the House and two in the Senate. Each representative has an office in Washington, D.C., and at least one at home in their district or state. Don’t forget the importance of contacting state and local lawmakers as well for issues closer to home. Your voice can be even louder in those arenas. You can find out the names of your representatives at each level of government through HARDI’s advocacy portal at www.hardinet.org.
Being active and engaged with your lawmakers does work. From our activity with them here at HARDI, we’ve been asked to testify to Congress twice on the estate tax, and lobbied for the modification and permanent extension of Section 179D (energy-efficient commercial building deduction) business expensing in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act that passed. In another example, we were supportive of an energy bill, but had a few issues with the original draft. It was amended to address our needs, and we were able to support its passage last year.
Because constituents are vital to keeping their jobs, many lawmakers will do everything in their capacity to keep you happy, and that is the primary goal of the staff in their local office. Don’t discount them. Pick up the phone and let them know how you feel about the death tax, proposed health care reform policy or any issue for your business you think deserves their attention. Remember, they work for you and help shape the platform that is representative of your voice.