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In a whirl…

When I was born back in the dark ages, my dad – who was very excited to have a son after four daughters – went into the recovery room, kissed my mom, grabbed the doctor and…headed to the track!  When he arrived, the woman at the betting window said, “Mr. Annotti, you look like you’re in a whirl.”  He explained the reason for his exuberance, looked down at the program, and noticed that there was a horse in the next race named “In a Whirl.”  Of course it was a longshot, of course he bet the house, and of course it came home a winner.

While not quite as exciting – or profitable – I had several of those “in a whirl” experiences last week.  Here’s a quick recap:

Monday, June 19 – Traveled to Springfield where Alliance Advocacy and Policy Director Melanie Hinds and I led a delegation of representatives from seven of the Alliance’s ten Illinois-domiciled societies in a meeting with newly-appointed Illinois Insurance Director Jennifer Hammer and a cross-section of Illinois DOI officials.  The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the Director to the sizeable fraternal community in the state, establish the Alliance as a player in the advocacy and policy arena, and discuss regulatory issues important to both fraternal life insurers and the Illinois DOI.  We accomplished that and then some.  It’s no secret that the relationship between the Department and fraternals was more than a little contentious in the recent past.  But thanks to cooperative and collaborative work between the Alliance and the DOI on state legislation that enhanced fraternal solvency and governance regulation, we’ve managed to transform the relationship into one of mutual trust and respect.  And it appears that momentum will continue under the leadership of Director Hammer.  Outreach to state regulators – particularly in those states with a significant number of domiciled fraternals – has been an important (and sometimes overlooked) component of the Alliance’s advocacy agenda.  And with new regulators likely to be appointed in two other key fraternal states – Pennsylvania and Texas – we’ll continue our proactive efforts to communicate with regulators and shape the outcome of debates on regulation that impacts Alliance members.

Tuesday, June 20 – Wednesday, June 21 – Spent two days on Capitol Hill with the Jenn Fogel of Capitol Counsel, the Alliance’s retained federal advocacy firm, meeting with the tax counsel from six members of the Senate Finance Committee and five members of the House Ways and Means Committee.  The purpose of these visits was to make sure that the lawmakers who will be primarily responsible for writing the tax reform legislation (that will almost certainly be introduced later this year) know who fraternals are and what fraternals do before the debate on the overhaul of tax code begins in earnest.  We were also hoping to pick up a few more co-sponsors for the fraternal resolutions (SCR 7 and HCR 10) introduced in the House and Senate earlier this year.  The feedback we received from Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle was exceptionally positive: 1) you’re doing the right thing by getting your message out to the tax writing committees early in the process; 2) there is no specific threat to the fraternal exemption right now; but 3) everything is on the table.  The Alliance’s objective is to keep the fraternal exemption off the tax reform menu.  We’re doing that by focusing the lobbying efforts by staff and our advocacy firm on key congressional committees.  As the debate moves forward we may need to broaden our outreach to include larger numbers of contacts from fraternal executives, field representatives, local chapter leaders, and rank-and-file members.  So my message to you is this: Watch for updates on the tax reform issue from the Alliance on a regular basis and BE PREPARED TO MOBILIZE YOUR MEMBERSHIP AT MOMENT’S NOTICE!

Friday, June 23 – Saturday, June 24 – Traveled to Atlanta to attend the Foresters Financial Convention and Leadership Development Conference and to speak to the society’s Board of Directors.  Foresters CEO Tony Garcia was adamant about his support for the fraternal model, stating in his opening comments that “Foresters has been a fraternal for 140 years and will be a fraternal for the next 150 years.”  Society leaders provided members with an overview of the organization’s strong financial results and Foresters plan for continued growth over the next 10 years.  The Board was very interested in the overall health of the fraternal sector, the opportunities for mergers and shared services within the fraternal community, and the operational and political challenges facing fraternals and the life insurance industry.  Finally, the educational programs provided to Local Chapter leaders were like none I’ve ever seen at an Alliance member convention.  Foresters will send its most engaged members home with hands-on tools and information they can put to use to do more good in their own communities.  Very impressive…

Whew!  That qualifies for an “in a whirl week.”

Next week I’ll be taking a few days off from work and this blog.  So please enjoy Independence Day celebrations and look for my next post on July 10.

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