Letter from the CEO: When advocacy priorities and personal beliefs clash

Written on Jan 24, 2017

The 2016 election was one of the most divisive in recent history and pitted many Americans on opposite sides of debates that morphed from policy and political issues to social justice and basic American rights.

At this important time in America, leaders in government and business must work together to move our country forward. Yet many disagree on what issues should be top priority for President Trump and the new administration.

I recently participated in a discussion that grew out of this new environment. As Chair of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the association representing nearly 40,000 association management professionals internationally, I had the opportunity to talk about how that organization will respond to potential policies introduced by the new administration. It’s a delicate tightrope that associations walk in making decisions about what issues to support or remain neutral on. Policy staff and boards must look at the mission and priorities of the organization and weigh what is best for the majority of members while remaining sensitive to issues that may be personally important to others.

While ASAE’s membership is broadly U.S. based, OSCPA serves a statewide membership. But both organizations represent a diverse base of professionals working across many sectors. That reality brings a responsibility to ensure we are adequately communicating what we are doing and why in our policy agenda. And it also means members will sometimes disagree with our stated direction.

But that’s okay because diversity of thought and perspective is important. It results in richer dialogue and forces an organization to thoughtfully consider all angles of an issue before acting.

Here is where I think the rubber meets the road for a successful advocacy program:

It’s member informed and led. OSCPA invites broad involvement in our advocacy work, even at the developmental stages. We have a Government Relations Advisory Council comprised of members from all sectors and regions in the state. They, along with our State and Local Tax and Federal Tax Committees, vet any legislative issues that could affect the membership or business community and make recommendations to your Executive Board for review and a vote. We stick to our mission and stay narrowly focused on issues that are core to our primary purpose: helping CPAs advance Ohio business.

In addition, our Accounting and Auditing Committee and Public Companies Committee provide valuable input on proposed standards and regulations.

We solicit input. Before signing on to support or oppose major initiatives, we will survey members for an accurate read on how best to leverage our experience and influence.

Transparency counts. We widely communicate our policy decisions and the resulting progress. You can read the latest news in CPA Takeaways and we recently launched a new electronic newsletter, LegUp, which provides a weekly roundup of legislative activities of interest to CPAs.

Feet on the ground. Finally, we have an active volunteer Key Contact program where members serve as liaisons between the Society and their state and federal legislators to help OSCPA build important relationships. We also are getting more professionals involved through our Young CPA Day at the Statehouse.

When you consider the significant issues facing our state and profession in the coming year – a threat of a sales tax on many professional services, a possible recession, and likely changes at the federal level – it’s important that OSCPA be positioned to actively promote and protect the views of our members. See page 4 for a round up of the regulatory issues OSCPA is following in 2017. Our channels for member input, extensive volunteer network, team of professional lobbyists and Ohio CPA/PAC, are all critical to our ability to succeed on your behalf.

There’s no way to get full consensus on advocacy priorities when you are serving a broad-based group of individuals. But we’re confident our approach is well informed, effective, and remains an important benefit to Ohio CPAs and the businesses they serve. More importantly, our Government Relations team is available to explain our positions and answer questions about our legislative priorities.

Feel free to contact myself, Barb Benton, vice president, government relations, or Greg Saul, director of tax policy, at any time at government@ohiocpa.com. We’d love to hear what’s on your mind.

Scott Wiley, CAE
President & CEO
The Ohio Society of CPAs
(614) 764-2727, ext. 2218 (office)
(614) 546-9430 (cell)
Twitter: @ScottDWiley
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/scottwileycae

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