Legislation and your business Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
We all know that legislation has an effect on our business. This becomes very evident even as a business is just starting to be formed. As the business grows, more laws are passed and other laws that affect businesses based on their size come into play. Some laws help business, some provide challenges, while others can be anti-business. Laws, ordinances, rules and regulations are passed at the local, state and national level. How can you be sure that your business is getting fair consideration as these laws are being developed?

“While we all have to be aware of and follow all the various laws that affect our business, it is just as important to know what legislation is being considered that could potentially impinge on our business,” says Fred Dobbins, city president, Wealth & Investment Management, SunTrust Bank in Tampa. “It is much easier to help shape a bill than it is to change a law after it goes into effect.”

Smart Business talked with Dobbins for more insight on how we can be effective in making sure our thoughts are considered in any new legislation.

How do I find out what laws are being considered?

Don’t wait until bills are introduced. The earlier in the process your concerns are known, the better chance you have of influencing a positive outcome.

Get involved in your local Chamber of Commerce. It monitors business impacts by government at the local, state and national levels. Devote as much time as you can to finding out what issues are being considered by the various governmental entities. At least scan the newspapers and review your Chamber’s governmental summary. Know what committees are working on. Look for comments by legislators that might indicate their interest in passing new laws to solve a perceived problem that crops up from an event that has received media attention.

What are some additional ways to obtain this information?

Become active in local, state and national associations that represent your business segment. Talk to your business banker, express your concerns and enlist help through his or her contacts and associations. Subscribe to a good legislative summary service that is specific to your business. It should provide weekly or — at a minimum — monthly electronic updates to what is happening on the legislative level that might affect your business.

Encourage all employees, and especially key employees, to become active in associations that represent their business responsibility. Regularly obtain feedback from these employees on what they see on the horizon as far as legislation that could potentially affect your business.

How involved should I get in the legislative process?

It depends on the size of your business and the time you have available. You may only have one hour per week to build your knowledge, but start now and your impact will grow. Devote as much personal time as possible and supplement that with the assistance of your peers, colleagues and others with similar interests.

What should I do when I hear about legislation that could potentially affect my business?

Even before that, get to know your representatives at all levels. Also get to know the administrative officials that might be involved in implementing or enforcing regulations.

Officials — elected, appointed or hired — need to hear from their constituents. They want professional input that will help them. Even if they don’t agree with you, they’ll usually welcome your input and at least consider your thoughts, especially when you contact them in a professional manner. Attend public meetings and events to facilitate networking with these individuals. Talking to the legislators in their element will help you get to know each other on another level.

When legislation is being considered, contact your representative and express your thoughts. Attend public hearings or at least send a representative. Participate in political action committees. If there is not a PAC that represents your interests, you can form one.

Besides being keenly aware of how any particular legislation might affect your business, try to look at the big picture. When you know what legislators are thinking and why they have an interest in a particular bill, you’ll have a better chance of influencing them in a way that might help them come up with a solution that helps them, their overall constituency, your business and yourself.

SunTrust Private Wealth Management is a marketing name used by SunTrust Banks, Inc., and the following affiliates: Banking and trust products and services are provided by SunTrust Bank. Securities, insurance and other investment products are services are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., an SEC registered investment adviser and broker/dealer, and a member of the NASD and SIPC. Securities and insurance products and services are not bank guaranteed. They are not insured by the FDIC or any other government agency, and they may lose value.

FRED DOBBINS is city president, Wealth & Investment Management, SunTrust Bank. Reach him at (813) 224-2601 or fred.dobbins@suntrust.com.