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Joint Advocacy: Your Voice to Policy Makers

IT IS OFTEN SAID the three things never to be discussed in mixed company are money, politics and religion. But given the very nature of private clubs and the boards and committees that serve them, robust discussions and debates about money and politics are unavoidable and, in fact, required.

This column is not about politics—it is about policy. (We’ll save money and religion for another time.) The National Club Association (NCA) is the only organization in America advocating for state and federal legislative and regulatory policies that benefit the private club industry. How do we determine what policies are best for private clubs? By listening to and talking with our members.

Of course, that value proposition requires a two-way street of communication. We need to hear what pending policies, both positive and negative, are most important to our clubs and their membership. What is your club’s policy regarding policy? Do you have a formal governance mechanism (a committee, perhaps?) where legislative and regulatory threats and opportunities are vetted and brought forth for consideration for engagement by the club, staff, board or individual members?

Club memberships are generally comprised of civic-minded people who want what is best for the club, but even more, they want what is best for their community. They are business people small and large and, in many cases, they are employers, so they can be a tremendous resource in developing policy goals for the club and strategies to achieve those goals. How do clubs best engage them?

It starts with the general manager (GM) gaining a commitment from the president and board that policy considerations are a priority for the club. From there, the club forms a committee or working group to determine the positive or negative effects of the policy on the club. Once a position on whether to engage is taken, it’s time to determine what level of engagement is appropriate and, at that point, the GM should contact NCA to apprise us of the club’s interest in a particular policy matter.

NCA’s primary interest is creating, sustaining and protecting a policy environment where clubs thrive, employees prosper and members are satisfied with the financial investment they have made to their club. It is from that perspective that we take a holistic view of what policies are good and bad for our clubs, employees and members.

For example, the Waters of the U.S. rule, employee classification, tax reform, National Labor Relations Board rulings, and H-2B visas are some of the issues that NCA is diligently working on to protect the industry. Our voice is amplified when we hear from clubs about how these matters impact them. These stories resonate with policy decision-makers when we advocate on Capitol Hill—even more so when club representatives are present in Congressional offices.

More specifically, NCA is working closely with engaged clubs on state issues that impact private clubs. For instance, changes to property tax laws recently proposed in New York and in Montgomery County, Md., would not only affect the financial stability of clubs, but also the well-being of the clubs’ employees and their communities. NCA is supporting clubs in these communities.

Keep your club leaders and policy group informed by regularly reading the “Laws & Regs” section of our monthly newsletter NCA CONNECT, which tracks and informs you about the latest issues coming from the courthouses, state- houses and federal agencies that impact clubs—several of which have come to our attention directly from clubs like you. When Congress is in session, “Washing- ton Weekly Update” provides just the sort of insider information to keep your club up-to-date on federal legislation.

NCA is your outlet to voice legal, legislative and regulatory concerns. By developing this communication network, you have a direct line to decision makers who can create positive change for clubs. Please talk to your governing body to discuss their level of commitment to policies that can impact the club.

Rob Smith is one of Venable’s top senior legislative advisors, representing and advising a diverse lobbying client base. He is a member of the NCA board of directors and serves on the Government Relations Committee. He can be reached at [email protected].

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