Information gathered from these meetings will be used by IFA to develop strategies and alliances for the 2012 legislative sessions.
Franchising World September 2011
By: Wayne Weikel
This past summer, the International Franchise Association used various gatherings of elected officials to aggressively advance its policy agenda. Following the natural ebb and flow of state legislative sessions, many major policy groups choose the routinely slow summer period to host their annual meetings. When most people think of summertime, they might think of warm weather, school vacation, cookouts and trips to the beach. When a government relations professional thinks of summer, they think of conferences.
Eastern States Retail Executives Conference
Annual Meeting July 11-13 Portland, Maine
The common interests of members of IFA and members of each state retail association create a natural affinity between the groups. This conference, of which IFA has been a supporting sponsor for a number of years, brings together the leaders of retail associations from the Eastern United States for a policy discussion of issues that affect the retail environment.
During this year’s meeting, IFA conducted an educational seminar on its ongoing efforts to reform independent contractor laws in the context of the franchise relationship. As an issue that has been the subject of many legislative battles, retail executives are quite familiar with the many policy disagreements surrounding states’ efforts to regulate the use of independent contractors. Despite this background, some were unaware of states’ efforts to tighten independent contractor definitions and treat the franchisor-franchisee relationship as that of employer-employee. The Q&A session that followed the presentation illustrated many ways the IFA could partner with local retail associations on this issue.
American Legislative Exchange Council Annual Meeting Aug. 2-6 New Orleans, La.
The next conference on IFA’s dance card was ALEC, which describes itself as committed to “Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.” This meeting brings together approximately 2,500 right-leaning legislators with representatives of the business industry to work on pro-business and pro-growth initiatives. In the past, ALEC and its members have been helpful in advancing IFA’s legislative agenda.
In its efforts to forward a conservative policy agenda, over the years ALEC has adopted a collection of so-called “model laws” that states are encouraged to use as a framework when developing their own legislation. At this year’s conference, IFA presented to the Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force, of which IFA is a member, a proposed revision to existing ALEC model law which would more clearly recognize that the franchisor-franchisee relationship is not akin to that of employer-employee. The new language will be reviewed by the Subcommittee on Labor and Business Regulation before being considered for a vote by the whole committee at the next ALEC meeting in December. Depending on political make-up and general ideological leanings, this new model law will be a useful tool in many state legislatures moving forward.
National Conference of State Legislatures 2011 Legislative Summit Aug. 8-11 San Antonio, Texas
The NCSL annual meeting has grown to become the cannot-miss event for those looking to influence policymaking at the state level. By routinely drawing more than 5,000 attendees from across the country, the NCSL summer meeting presents a great opportunity to communicate with legislators and learn about the policymaking environment in their states. Because IFA’s policy agenda is tailored to each state’s existing laws and political structure, having elected officials from so many different states all in one location allowed IFA to efficiently advocate on a wide range of issues. Throughout the course of this year’s conference, IFA was able to meet with numerous legislators from key states to discuss policy priorities. As usual, the conference setting allowed for a less formal, but more frank, discussion of the issues. Whereas the vast majority of legislative bodies are now out of session for the year, information gathered from these meetings will be used to develop strategies and alliances for the 2012 legislative sessions.
Council of State Retail Associations Annual Meeting Sept. 24-27 Deadwood, S.D.
Soon after this issue was published, IFA participated in the CSRA Annual Meeting. While similar to the Eastern States Retail Executives Conference described earlier, attendance at the CSRA meeting will draw from state associations around the country. As the premier event for retail professionals, attendance is expected from nearly all 50 states. State retail associations are on the frontline of policy debates in state capitols all across the United States and have been partners of IFA for many years. In turn, IFA has sponsored the CSRA conference as a means to strengthen this natural bond and strategically align with potential allies.
Policy Agenda Advances
While IFA staff travels the country extensively to advocate on behalf of its members, these types of public policy conferences offer a unique opportunity to engage a wide cross-section of both legislators and non-government entities that can be influential in the state legislative process. Through targeted sponsorship and participation at these meetings, IFA is able to greatly extend the reach of its government relations team and forward its policy agenda.
For more information on International Franchise Association activities in the states, contact IFA Director of State Government Relations & Public Policy.