How big was the crowd at CPA Day in Annapolis?
Big enough to spook the Statehouse security detail.
As a record crowd of nearly 200 CPAs gathered on the Statehouse steps for a quick photo, a worried security guard — perhaps fearing a well-dressed protest of some kind — approached MACPA Executive Director Tom Hood and asked, “What’s up?”
“We’re the Maryland Association of CPAs, just here to meet with our legislators,” Tom explained.
The security guard nodded, keyed his radio, and issued the all-clear: “It’s just a bunch of CPAs,” he told his colleagues.
Just a bunch of CPAs?
Don’t underestimate this group, my friend. We may not have come to protest, but we definitely plan to make a difference.
And what better time to do it. With a new governor, 42 percent turnover in the House of Delegates, and 11 percent turnover in the Senate, the time for Maryland CPAs to make their voices heard is now. The impact the profession can have in educating these new lawmakers is huge.
Here’s the secret about legislative advocacy: Lawmakers want too hear from you. They’re desperate to hear from you. They can’t possibly know everything about every bill that comes across their desks. They are looking to their constituents for guidance.
Maryland’s CPAs are definitely up to the challenge.
“I would not describe myself as politically active, but I think it’s my responsibility to be involved — it’s all of our responsibility,” said Steve Zelenak, senior vice president and senior loan officer at Revere Bank in Millersville, Md. “This shouldn’t be foreign to (CPAs). We must have a better understanding of what happens (in Annapolis), how lawmakers introduce bills, how the political system works.”
And the more CPAs who are involved, the louder our voice becomes.
That voice becomes impossible to ignore once we learn one universal truth: Legislators are not some larger-than-life, unapproachable figures. They’e people, they want information, and they want trusted advisors like CPAs to give it to them.
“(Lawmakers) are genuinely interested to hear what you have to say, even if it was just for 30 seconds,” said Mel Ruzicka, a first-time CPA Day attendee from Baltimore.
David Johnson, a first-time attendee from Harford County, agreed. “They’re real people, too,” he said. “You can sit down and talk to them about anything you want.”
In fact, said Hood, the number of contacts from constituents it takes for a legislator to take action on an issue stands at about two or three. They want to hear from you. They want to be educated by you. They are curious, and they want the information that will help them do their jobs and serve the public.
Given all of that — and all of our vast expertise as a trusted business advisors — don’t you think it’s worth at least a little of our time to help protect the profession?
The issues we’re watching — at least initially — include (a) a technical correction to the definition of “attest,” (b) proposed caps on appeal bonds, and (c) combined reporting of corporate income taxes. We’re supporting the first two and opposing the third, based on its complexity and implementation date.
Just as important as the issues this year are the relationships CPAs build with their legislators.
“We don’t often have an opportunity to meet (legislators) face to face,” Zelenak said, “but it’s a great personal opportunity, it’s a great professional opportunity, and they want to hear from us.”
Given what’s at stake, the feeling is mutual.
Keep an eye on CPA Success for updates on the 2015 legislative session.