A new year is right around the corner, and while you may have been resting on your laurels politically in 2015, it’s more important than ever for you to get involved in Advocacy in 2016. 2016 is an election year where the country and our state will need to make some hard decisions about who we want as leaders. The South Carolina General Assembly is entering its second year of its two-year session and facing many challenges, many of which have been compounded by the flood. Legislators return in January to decide how to spend a $1.2 billion dollar surplus. And then there’s always Congress…
Here are a few ways you can get involved and leave your mark on 2016:
- Stay informed
Always easier said than done. In a time when we are inundated with information on TV and our smart phones, it’s easier than ever to get information, but harder to vet and sort through that information. This is especially true of state politics. You can stay up-to-date by signing up for our weekly updates that will keep you in the loop on which bills are important to business, and where they are in the legislative process. If there’s a bill that you’re interested in, the committee hearings all are televised and online, and are open to the public.
The Chamber has a number of committees: Legislative, Transportation, Healthcare, Environmental, and Education (among others). These committees hold monthly meetings with the expressed purpose to educate our investors. Plug in to one of these committees early in 2016 – we have a great list of substantive topics we’ll be covering.
Staying informed isn’t just important so that you can make small talk at your company’s next networking event, but’s important that you stay up to date on what’s going on so that you know when to make your move in advocacy. Which brings me to my next point…
- Make a move
It’s easy for many of us to sit back and complain about a do-nothing legislature or Congress (and sometimes warranted), but many do not want to pick up the phone, send an email, or meet with their representative to make their voice heard. Many times, people in the business community are willing to talk and complain amongst themselves about the ineffectiveness of those governing, but are unwilling to make a move in advocating. In a political climate that’s polarized and difficult to pass anything, it takes getting involved and pressuring elected officials to do what they were elected to do. If you don’t make a move, many times they won’t either. Or worse, they’ll make the wrong move.
When we’re working with our legislative delegations on issues, they often complain that they don’t hear enough from the business community. That’s right: they’re actually disappointed they don’t hear from you more. You can find out who your legislators are and how to contact them online. So, stay informed on how legislation affects you, where it is in the legislative process, and then make your move.
- Get to know the candidates, then vote
While it’s no secret there’s a Presidential election going on, there are other important elections happening next year. All of the U.S. House of Representatives and South Carolina’s U.S. Senator Tim Scott are up for re-election, and all of the S.C. House and S.C. Senate are up for re-election. It’s important to get to know the candidates before you head to the ballot box, and there are many opportunities over the next year to do that.
For the Presidential election, South Carolina is fortunate to be an early primary state, which means we have a window before our primary where all the candidates are here courting voters. Until February, candidates are on about a 3 week cycle between Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. On their days in S.C., they’ll usually make a stop in the Upstate, Midlands, and Lowcountry. This means you have ample opportunity to hear from any or all of them, whether it’s a breakfast at Tommy’s Ham House, or a luncheon at the Chamber. Take advantage of these opportunities to meet them and hear first-hand about their platforms. You’ll often find that you learn much more about who they are and how they would govern by hearing from them in person.
For the other elections whose campaigns will be gearing up after the New Year, take the opportunity to attend debates and forums, and talk to the candidates about what you expect from them as a representative. The Greenville Chamber will be hosting a S.C. Primary Candidate Forum in May, and a S.C. General Candidate Forum in October.
If you’ve already settled on a candidate and want to go a step further, donate your time or money to their campaign. It takes a good a campaign to get a good candidate elected.
The above are just a few short ways to get involved in Business Advocacy in 2016 whether it’s through the Chamber, or on your own. For more questions or inquiries on certain bills or events you can get involved with, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.