By: Ashley Sharp, VP State Advocacy & Legislative Counsel
As newly elected state and federal legislators are taking office, it is important to reflect on the importance of effective advocacy. Engaged credit union officials, employees and members are critical to the future success of the credit union movement. In Illinois and on the federal level, new legislators and constitutional officers are being sworn into office to represent their constituencies on a variety of matters facing the state and nation. Many incoming legislators may be unfamiliar with our issues, so educating new members on the value of credit unions is a top priority as legislators begin their terms of office. In order to effectively advocate on behalf of the credit union industry, forming relationships early on is critical.
The 116th United States Congress will meet in Washington, D.C. from January 3, 2019 to January 3, 2021. The U.S. Congress is comprised of 100 senators and 435 members of the House. The Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 Independents. The U.S. House has 235 Democrats and 199 Republicans, with one seat outstanding awaiting certification due to fraud allegations. Of those, 2 Senators and 18 House members represent Illinois districts.
Illinois legislators were sworn into office on January 9, 2019, for the beginning of the 101st Illinois General Assembly, and the inauguration of Governor-Elect J.B. Pritzker followed on January 14, 2019. The Illinois General Assembly is comprised of 59 senators and 118 state representatives. Democrats will have a 40-19 supermajority in the Senate and a 74-44 supermajority in the House. There are nearly 50 new state legislators taking office.
As constituents of these elected officials, your voice matters and can go a long way in influencing policy affecting our industry.
• Look for Opportunities to Meet Elected Officials – Often times, legislators will host local “meet and greet” events for constituents in district, providing a great opportunity to introduce yourself to your elected officials. When you meet your legislator, ask for their preferred method of contact for future follow up.
• Follow Up – Establishing a relationship with your legislators is an ongoing process, and follow up is key to forming a lasting relationship. After the initial meeting, follow up with your legislators to provide contact information and establish a line of communication, so that when you need to reach out on a specific matter of importance, they are familiar with who you are.
• Take Action on Specific Issues – Your voice is critical in helping to ensure success in the legislative arena. Often times, ICUL will issue Action Alerts regarding specific legislative proposals affecting our industry. When possible, provide your legislators with specific examples of facts and data to support your position. It is very helpful for legislators to understand the impact that legislation would have on credit union members in their district.
• Offer Yourself as a Resource – Legislators are faced with a large number of issues to address during their time in office, and they may need to rely upon your industry expertise. Offer yourself a as resource for legislators to rely upon in the future as they have questions on topics that pertain to our industry.
• Invite Elected Officials to Your Credit Union – Credit union meetings provide a great opportunity to familiarize legislators with issues specific to our industry. Additionally, legislators enjoy the chance to see how and where credit unions operate in their district, as well as meeting employees while they are there. ICUL staff is happy to assist in the coordination of in -district meetings.
• Show Appreciation – Thank legislators for their time and attention to our industry concerns. When appropriate, send follow up notes to thank legislators for their votes on key issues of importance.
• Encourage Others to Become Involved – Our legislative success is dependent on the grassroots advocacy of our members. The key to future success is encouraging others to be engaged in the movement. Educate new employees on advocacy opportunities, and continue to lead by example!
To find contact information for your elected officials, click here.
Please contact ICUL’s Advocacy Team if you have further questions about engaging in successful advocacy. Thank you for your advocacy efforts on behalf of Illinois credit unions!