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Congress-To-Main Street Meetings

Community bankers in Utah discuss H.R. 1697

Congress-To-Main Street Meetings are designed to provide lawmakers and legislative staff with a personal understanding of the complexities of the community banking industry. If done properly, he/she should walk away equally proud of the contributions you make to your community’s economic success, and frustrated at how difficult it can be to effectively serve your community – their constituents –in the current one-size-fits all overly burdensome regulatory environment. Hosting a member of Congress at your bank is an opportunity to represent the entire community banking industry to your lawmaker and the greater Congress.

Be Heard will walk you through the process by which you, constituent and community banker, can initiate or nurture a relationship with your lawmaker's office. It is the perfect opportunity to showcase the partnership with Main Street that allows your bank to truly be known as a community bank.  In addition to the “how”, Be Heard also provides the resources to educate you on timely policy issues, allowing you to effectively communicate the “what” to your lawmakers.

THE DISTRICT MEETING SCHEDULING PROCESS

You are more likely to find your way onto your lawmaker’s calendar during a recess work period when YOU make the request directly. Addressing constituent requests is a lawmaker’s highest priority, especially when coming from a trusted, well-respected business in their district with a personal relationship to thousands of their constituents.

The following is a step-by-step walkthrough for the general protocol to secure a meeting with your member of Congress at your bank:

+ | Step 1 - Submit a Formal Request for a Meeting

Whether an event is scheduled in Washington or back home, the Representative or Senator's Scheduler in their Washington office is generally the gatekeeper of the lawmaker's schedule.

Click here for a current staff listing of Schedulers in the House and Senate to find the person you need to speak with to secure a meeting.

After identifying your lawmaker’s Scheduler, submit a formal request to the congressional office. As a matter of protocol, the letter should be addressed to the member of Congress, with the Scheduler and Financial Services or Banking Legislative Assistant copied at the bottom.

ICBA strongly recommends that you fax the request to your lawmaker’s office. It will be received and submitted for consideration much quicker than a mailed letter. For the increasingly tech-savvy community banker, many lawmakers host an online “Meeting Request” form on their individual website that can be used in place of a faxed request. Visit www.house.gov or www.senate.gov to find your lawmaker’s individual site and determine if this is an option. After a reasonable amount of time to accommodate transmission, call the Scheduler to confirm receipt of the request.

+ | Step 2 - Securing a Meeting

Do not be discouraged if it takes some time for your lawmaker’s Scheduler to contact you further about your request. Lawmakers’ schedules are often fully booked a month or more in advance. With the short amount of time allotted for recess work periods, Schedulers must be fair and equitable with scheduling priorities and previous commitments across the district or state.

Once contacted, work with the Scheduler to arrange a mutually agreeable time for the visit to occur. Reaffirm to the Scheduler that you would like for your lawmaker to visit the bank, discuss how it operates in the current regulatory environment, and learn ways in which the lawmaker can actively help. The more specific you can be about who will attend, what will be discussed, and why you would like to meet with them, the more likely the request will be approved.

+ | Step 3 - Meeting Secured? Inform ICBA and Your Colleagues

As soon as you have confirmed a meeting with a lawmaker, or one of their staff, please email all relevant details to Brian Anderson, Director, Congressional Advocacy at ICBA. This will ensure you have all the support and resources you need; whether providing one-pagers on the current top issues affecting your community bank, data showing the community bank impact in the state or district, or having an ICBA lobbyist call in to the meeting to help discuss a technical policy question, ICBA will fully support your advocacy efforts.

Finally, share the opportunity with your colleagues. There is strength (and influence) in numbers. Personally reach out to your fellow community bankers nearby and invite them to attend. If you need help obtaining contact info for community banks in a specific Congressional district, Be Heard can help!

+ | Step 4 - How Can ICBA Help Follow Up?

A meeting with your lawmaker is invaluable when seeking to promote a pro-community bank policy agenda before Congress, but it is equally invaluable to report on the meeting's outcome to ICBA. For instance, perhaps the lawmaker requested specific information that could not be provided during the course of the meeting. Maybe he/she agreed to cosponsor a particular bill and ICBA should reach out to the lawmaker’s staffer to ensure that happens.

You are already reallocating time and attention from running your community bank to meet with your lawmaker. Pass the baton to ICBA and let us know what needs to be done to further promote the value of community banking to the lawmaker. Your role as a constituent community banker is to show-and-tell, so let ICBA tie up any loose ends afterward.

+ | What If I Am Only Meeting with My Lawmaker's Staff?

Staff members are often overlooked when seeking to "meet with Congress." Some people construe a visit from a lawmaker's staff instead of the actual lawmaker as a slight to their cause. This is an enormous misconception.

Like many people, staffers may be familiar with banking from a customer perspective, but depending on their issue portfolio, the inner mechanics of a community bank might not be intuitive. A "Community Bank 101" can go far in creating a basic understanding, for instance, of how a loan is processed from origination to disbursement, or an explanation of the scale and structure of the staff at your bank and how the already limited resources available due to the size and scale of the bank are further encumbered by increasingly burdensome regulations.

Congressional staffers are a vital part of every member's office. Meeting with a lawmaker's banking or financial services staffer presents an excellent opportunity to initiate or nurture a relationship that allows for delving much deeper on substance and issues than most lawmakers have the time to devote. Meetings with staffers can generally be much broader in scope, and longer in length than the usual meeting with a Representative or Senator. The opportunity to demonstrate the "big picture" of how your bank impacts the community is only limited by your own time and creativity.

ICBPAC, a top financial advocacy political action committee, contributed $1.8 million to federal candidates for the 2011-12 election cycle, strengthening the community banking industry’s reputation in Washington. Supported by thousands of community bankers, ICBPAC is a vital part of Be Heard.

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