A Study in Contrasts: Musings on Boca Raton and Washington, D.C.
As the IT and Engineering staffing & solutions industry recently came together in Boca Raton, Florida for the TechServe Alliance Annual Conference to network and learn, our nation also headed to the polls for mid-term elections. While these events shared the same timing, the key takeaways could not have been more different in both style and substance.
At the conference, we recognized the 20 inaugural winners of the TechServe Alliance Excellence Awards for:
- outstanding, measurable performance
- extraordinary team productivity, and
- dedication to continuous improvement.
These were recurrent themes throughout many of the over 20 breakout sessions and 4 general sessions.
In contrast, attempting to hold our elected officials or policy-making process to these standards will sorely disappoint. What can we expect post mid-terms?
The Election: Less than Meets the Eye
While the election storyline centered on the change in party control in the Senate, the policy implications are actually less than many people think. While some pundits suggest one of the takeaways from the election is that the American people wanted both parties to work together to get things done, the system is structurally set up to yield little likelihood of progress on the big issues of the day.
Why? First, two of the three central players in the public policy process did not change: we still have a Democrat in the White House and Republican Majority in the U.S. House of Representatives (though the majority was expanded). While Republicans won a new majority in the Senate with 53 or possibly 54 seats (depending upon the outcome of the Louisiana runoff), few things of consequence advance in the Senate without at least 60 votes to defeat the threat of a filibuster. While Mitch McConnell rather than Harry Reid will set the Senate’s agenda in 2015, the new Majority Leader is unlikely to be any more successful in advancing contentious issues than the prior occupant of the office.
TechServe’s Legislative Agenda: Focused on Industry Interests
In the aftermath of the election, I have been asked how this will impact the association’s legislative agenda. While the TechServe Alliance Government Affairs Committee and ultimately our Board of Directors reviews the association’s legislative agenda annually, the election is unlikely to cause a significant shift in our public policy positions.
There are a number of reasons why there is minimal shift in our legislative agenda after each election cycle. As the association representing the IT & Engineering Staffing and Solutions industry, we rarely come out “for” or “against” a broad-based issue like immigration reform. Rather, we take a more granular approach by analyzing legislative proposals and determining if it is likely to have a positive or deleterious effect on our industry. For example, in the context of the Senate immigration reform proposal, we successfully fought back attempts to include language in the Senate bill that would have barred IT & Engineering Staffing firms from accessing the H-1B program. By limiting our public policy positions to issues that directly impact companies in our industry, we minimize the likelihood we will unnecessarily engender opposition among elected officials or within the membership on issues where we have “no dog in the fight.” While we may ramp up or ramp down our lobbying activity depending upon the political and legislative landscape, our public policy positions which seek to defend industry interests remain remarkably consistent through Democrat and Republican Administrations and no matter who holds the majority in Congress.
In it for the Long Haul: If Not Us, Who?
Experienced hands at government affairs understand that legislative outreach is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Constant relationship-building is a time-consuming but essential undertaking. For example, for years we have been meeting with the staff of a leading member of Congress during Lobby Day (our annual legislative event where individuals affiliated with member companies travel to Washington, D.C. to lobby) on our industry-specific concerns related to the H-1B visa program. While legislation never advanced in the House, those individuals are now in the Obama Administration formulating policy on the program. While the ROI of our government affairs efforts is not always immediately discernable through pointing to a direct cause and effect relationship, remaining visible and engaged – even when nothing seems to be moving – sets you up for the future.
While I am confident the next two years will not earn either the Administration or the Congress an “Excellence Award” for outstanding, measurable performance, extraordinary productivity, or evidence of continuous improvement, future threats to your business will emerge. Rest assured, TechServe Alliance will remain vigilant, prepared and ready to protect industry interests wherever and whenever they are threatened. I hope you will stand with us. If not “us”, who?
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