CPAs, Advocacy and Politics: Where do you fit in?

by Kimberly Scott, CAE | May 03, 2016

Have you ever been interested in something and want to get involved, but you didn’t know how? I have. It is typically something that I am passionate about—either for or against. I really want to get involved to make a change, or support the cause, but I am not certain how to start or whether my participation will be valued. Sometimes it takes a personal invitation to convince me to participate.

If you have the passion to get involved in politics, I am inviting you to participate. CPAs have unique experience and expertise in issues such as taxes, small businesses, budgeting, and the long-term impact of financial decisions. CPAs who serve in elected offices bring a perspective that is often missing, needed and valued. Washington State currently does not have a CPA in the State legislature or in Congress. However, there are a few CPA members serving at the county level in elected roles in Washington State.

There are CPAs serving in elected roles from other states at the federal level. AICPA Senior Vice President for Congressional & Political Affairs, Mark Peterson says this about the elected officials, “The 11 representatives and senators who are CPAs or accountants bring a unique perspective to financial policy debates on Capitol Hill.”

If you are interested or ready to run for an office, let me know and I will share the available resources to assist you.

Running for office may not appeal to you, but everyone can make a difference by getting involved in other ways. This is an election year (in case you have missed the media coverage), not just on a national level, but at the state level as well. Here are a few ways you can get involved:

  • All campaigns need a CPA with campaign finance experience. If you know someone who is running for office and they don’t have a CPA, this is your opportunity to volunteer.
  • The CPAPAC will be looking for CPAs to deliver campaign checks to their local representatives or senators this summer. If you are interested in helping, please contact me by the beginning of June.
  • Legislators like to hear from their constituents about how issues affect them. You would be surprised at how valuable your input is to legislators. Reach out to your local Representative or Senator about an issue, or attend an event they will be attending to meet them in person.

If you decide to get involved in one of the above ways, please let me know so that I may share resources to assist you.

Maybe you are interested, but want a way to learn more, or start slowly:

  • Attend Washington State Board of Accountancy (WBOA) meetings. The quarterly meetings are open to the public and the decisions directly affect you as a licensed CPA in the state.
  • Join a WSCPA committee. Often times when a legislative issue arises at the state or national level, we invite committee members to provide feedback on the issue.
  • Join the Grassroots Committee to stay updated on issues. Sometimes this group is asked to reach out to their representatives or senators when the WSCPA is weighing in on bills or key issues. If you’re invited to phone or email a representative in this way, you’ll be provided with tools, such as talking points, to enable you to highlight the key issues and concerns.

Some of our Grassroots volunteers jumped in this legislative session to support the bill we ran that updated the definition of attest, and allows firm mobility.

  • WSCPA members and WBOA members worked together to draft the bill language.
  • Once we found a legislative sponsor and officially had a draft bill, some members testified in support of the bill in Olympia.
  • Other members called or sent emails to their legislators letting them know they supported the bill and asked that the legislator support the bill and pass it out of committee.
  • More than once the relationship that the CPA had with their local legislator as a trusted advisor or friend made all the difference in securing their support for the legislation.

I am thrilled to report that on March 1st our bill, ESHB2433, was voted off the floor of the Senate and was on its way to the Governor’s desk for a signature to be signed into law. If you were following what happened in Olympia this session, you know that legislators went into a special session when regular session ended March 10th. Legislators needed the special session to finish the work on the budget. The Governor was not signing bills until their work was completed. The majority of the bills passed by the House and Senate must be signed by the Governor into law within 20 days after the end of session. If they are not signed, they are considered dead and need to be ran through the houses again. Our bill made it into law with just a couple days to spare. ESHB2433 was officially signed by the Governor March 31st.

It was a team effort and a real testament to the credibility of CPAs and how essential relationships are in getting a bill passed through the legislative process. A special thank you to Bill Simer and Tom Neill for testifying. However, many more members sent emails and made phone calls. Thank you to everyone involved!

If advocacy or politics is something you are passionate about, please let us know. Your voice is powerful and your help is always needed.

Kimberly ScottKimberly Scott, CAE, is WSCPA Vice President of Government and Member Relations. 

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