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Government relations.

Educating government officials. The American Society of Civil Engineers, Washington, D.C., achieved a major milestone in August when it enrolled the 7,000th member in its "Contact Program"--a grass-roots lobbying network created in 1988 to keep members apprised of national issues affecting civil engineers and encourage them to express their input to members of Congress. ASCE's Contact Program received an award in the category for overall program, federal level, staff of 25 or more.

"It's in their professional interest as well as the public's interest that civil engineers provide timely input to Congress," explains Charles V. Dinges, ASCE legislative affairs manager.

When a bill or amendment before Congress would affect the civil engineering profession, ASCE begins to put its Contact Program in motion. ASCE staff members mail a one-page alert to the 7,420 key contacts--listed on the association's data base--to inform them of the details of the issue, the policy of the association, and what action the members need to take. Typically, that action is having members write letters to representatives in their congressional districts or to the editors of their local newspapers to draw attention to their views on an issue.

According to Dinges, the commitment by these contact people contributed to the success of ASCE's 1990-1991 legislative year. Namely: the reauthorization of surface transportation assistance programs; funding for the National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C., and for earthquake engineering research; and extension of the tax break for employer-paid educational assistance.

"Associations need to understand that they just can't make this type of program happen by snapping their fingers," says Dinges. "Our national leadership made the commitment, the money was there, and it's a lot of hard work. That's what makes our program work."

Taking a stand. The Pennsylvania Builders Association, Harrisburg--winner of the category for single campaign, state/regional level, staff of 24 or fewer--faced a serious challenge during the 1989-1990 legislative session: The Pennsylvania General Assembly planned to enact legislation to give municipalities the right to set and collect at their own discretion impact fees, which fund communitywife infrastructure improvements in residential construction.

"Builders were in some cases paying $22,000-$23,000 in impact fees per house. The problem was that local governments were setting arbitrary costs, collecting the money, and putting the money in the general fund instead of actually making the infrastructure improvements," explains Debra Tingley, PBA director of communications.

"We knew that impact fees were a reality in today's real estate market and that builders were going to have to pay some part of those fees. We just wanted to be sure that builders would be paying their fair share and no more," she adds.

To win on the impact fee issue, PBA worked to

* convince and motivate PBA membership--9,800 builders of residential single-family home construction--about the impact fee issue (members donated more than $200,000 to the cause);

* filed and won lawsuits against local governments that were charging impact fees and not using the money to pay for the infrastructure improvements promised to the consumer;

* educated legislative contacts on PBA's position through builder-legislator meetings, a videotape, and position papers; and

* met with editorial boards across the state to tell the builder's side of the story. Media kits, letters to editors, and press conferences were among other vehicles the association used to spread the word.

PBA's strategy worked. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed HB 1361, which has become known as one of the strongest and tightest impact fee laws in the country because it sets specific limitations on impact fees. "The success really lies with our membership and their willingness to come forward. They made it happen," says Tingley.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Hard-Earned Rewards; award winners of the American Society of Association Executives
Author:Mascari, Patricia A.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:Finance and administration.
Next Article:Membership marketing.

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