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On speakers and chairs and prime ministers…

After much contemplation and debate, it appears that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) – the current Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee – will soon be elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Ever the optimist, I’m hopeful that his election will be one step toward more bi-partisanship and less polarization in the GOP, the House of Representatives, and the Congress. Perhaps it will even signal a return to legislators seeking ways to work together for the good of the nation rather than the good of what seems to be increasingly narrow and fragmented constituencies. Let’s all hope so.

Paul Ryan

One thing is for certain, however, and that is that Rep. Ryan’s move to the Speaker’s office will mean that the Ways and Means Committee – the chief congressional tax-writing body – will have a new Chair. The Alliance has enjoyed a solid working relationship with Rep. Ryan. He is a member of one fraternal, has a close working relationship with the fraternals domiciled in his home state of Wisconsin, and always expressed support for the fraternal model to Alliance leaders that met with him both before and during his tenure as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. One characteristic I appreciate about Rep. Ryan is his straightforward assessment of the fraternal tax exemption. He once told me that “as long as you are relevant to current members, growing your organizations by appealing to new members, and doing the right things with the money you would have paid in taxes, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” Amen.

Right now it looks like three individuals – Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) are interested in taking over for Ryan as Ways and Means Chair. Alliance members and staff have visited with each of these policymakers during our biennial “Day on the Hill” events in Washington, D.C., and our federal advocacy counsel has regular contacts with staff members in each of these legislators’ offices. Nonetheless, the change in the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee means that there is more work to be done in terms of building relationships and promoting the value of the fraternal business model and the tax exemption that allows us to fulfill our unique financial and fraternal missions.

And speaking of changes…

The surprising results of recent elections in Canada mean that our member societies domiciled and doing business in that nation have some new political challenges on the horizon. In case you haven’t heard, Justin Trudeau – the son of Pierre Trudeau (probably the only Canadian Prime Minister most Americans can name) – was elected Canada’s Prime Minister earlier this month. Trudeau’s election came after the longest political campaign in Canadian history – 78 days. (Come on, tell me you wouldn’t kill to have a 78 day presidential campaign here in the U.S.) Canadian political analysts are still trying to sort out what it all means, i.e. a shift to the left after more than a decade of conservative control of Parliament. I’m wondering if it means that we’ll elect a Clinton or a Bush to the presidency in 2016 continuing political dynasties in both nations.Justin Trudeau

But again the election comes with a certainty for Canadian fraternals. Many of the friends we made at this year’s first ever “Day on Parliament Hill” have been sent home. That means an entirely new set of legislators will likely be determining the fate of the renewal of the Insurance Companies Act – the federal law that establishes the regulatory guidelines for Canadian insurers – in 2017. And the time to get to know these folks is now.

If ever there was a need for the Alliance…

I guess the underlying message here is that effective political advocacy is never completed. Political winds change, but the need to communicate effectively with lawmakers doesn’t. That’s why most fraternal CEOs say that political advocacy is the primary benefit of membership in the Alliance. With plates full of decisions to be made on governance, distribution, product development, local chapter management, and a host of other complex issues, they find confidence and comfort in the knowledge that the Alliance’s number one priority is making sure the fraternal message is heard by members of Congress, state legislators, and state regulators whose decisions can dramatically impact the laws and regulations on which the fraternal model is built.

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