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In Washington, D.C., there is an old saying that sums up the importance of political engagement: “You’re either at the table or you’ll be on the menu.” Simply stated, it means that if you’re not actively engaged in the political process when Congress is considering an issue of importance to your organization or profession, you’ll likely be on the chopping block because it’s easiest to carve out the interest of those not involved because they’ll never know it happened until the issue is decided.

Before year-end, Congress will have to address a number of looming legislative matters including a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund federal agencies in the 2014 fiscal year which begins Oct. 1. Keeping the fiscal drumbeat going, Congress will also need to address raising the U.S. debt limit by mid-October. Thereafter, lawmakers are expected to turn their attention to comprehensive immigration and tax reform, which will have significant implications on the day-to-day activities of HR professionals.

Thus it is critical that SHRM members be actively engaged in the debates that will likely take place in the next six months.

If the HR profession is not at the table educating lawmakers on how these and other workplace proposals would impact employers and employees, there will be unintentional consequences. Specific to tax reform, employee benefits generate the largest annual loss in revenue for the federal treasury because of their current tax-deferred status. As a result, it is likely that tax reformists in Congress will be (or already are) taking a hard look at the tax code for ways to raise revenue.  Specifically, this will involve Congress examining employer-sponsored fringe benefits, including tax-free contributions to employee retirement plans, health care benefits and employer-provided educational assistance programs, just to name a few.

Some HR professionals are taking action now! With the desire to be at the table, instead of on the menu, a number of SHRM chapters and state councils are conducting Day Inside the Beltway (DITB) events on Capitol Hill throughout the fall. During their visit to Washington, these HR constituents meet with their lawmakers and their staffs to discuss relevant HR policy issues.

Most recently, Alabama SHRM conducted its bi-annual DITB on Sept. 12.  During the visit, the group met with the offices of Senators Richard Selby (R) and Jeff Sessions (R) and Representatives Joe Bonner (R), Martha Roby (R), Mike Rogers (R), Robert Aderholt (R), Mo Brooks (R), Spencer Bachus (R) and Terri Sewell (D).  Topics discussed during the meetings included the need to preserve employment benefits and immigration reform, specifically ways of enhancing the certainty and credibility of information provided to employers under the federal government’s E-Verify program for employment verification purposes.  Read a blog post by Juanita Phillips, SPHR, Alabama SHRM’s Co-director of Governmental Affairs (pictured above at left with Congresswoman Roby), about the group’s experience HERE.

Upcoming scheduled chapter DITB events include:

  • GA SHRM (Oct. 1)
  • HR Tampa (Oct. 8)
  • NOVA, DC, Richmond and PG SHRM (Oct. 9)

SHRM's Day Inside the Beltway program is an excellent way for members to share their views on pending legislation with their legislators.  During such visits, SHRM's Government Affairs staff pre-schedules meetings for chapter representatives and their representatives and senators, and provides a briefing on the issues prior to the meetings.  This allows SHRM members to show their knowledge and expertise on workplace issues, and ultimately advances the interests and enhances the visibility of the HR profession among lawmakers who, along with their staffs, need to hear from HR practitioners about making an informed decision when voting on HR-related public policy issues. 

For information on how to schedule a Day Inside the Beltway event for your chapter or state council, please contact Chatrane Birbal, SHRM's Senior Associate of Government Relations.

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