Follow along with the article below to go on your own WBA Capitol Day Adventure!
Chapter 1: Deciding to Attend
You first learn about the WBA Capitol Day event in an email from WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels. You make note of the date, May 21, but don't register yet. You're still not sure if it will be worth it for you to take a whole day away from the office.
"This is how our elected representatives learn the little nuances of different areas of trade and commerce that they can't possibly be expected to already know. The impact is strongest when the collective voice of an entire industry expresses unified beliefs using real-life examples." — Scott Romportl, AVP – risk management, River Cities Bank, Wisconsin Rapids
A few weeks later, you read about Capitol Day again in the Wisconsin Banker and learn just how much of an impact you as an individual will have. After all, you'll be meeting directly with the office of the lawmakers who represent you, your customers, and your community. You tell yourself you'll register that afternoon… but then a client comes in with an urgent request and you know you still have plenty of time before the event, so you put it off.
Then, just a few weeks before the big day, you receive another email from WBA reminding you that time is running out to register. You quickly forward it to a couple colleagues to see who else is planning to go, and then register yourself. It only takes you two minutes—the event is free, so you don't need to enter payment information.
You block off the date on your calendar and figure out how you'll get to the Monona Terrace in Madison by 9:00 a.m. on May 21.
Whew. You're all set.
Chapter 2: Learning About the Issues
Getting to the Terrace isn't a bad drive, especially in the Spring. (January, on the other hand, can be a bit dicey.) Parking is convenient, and you find your way to the Registration desk easily. It's surrounded by other bankers and WBA staff, bustling about with their coffee and getting ready for the day ahead. You help yourself to some of the coffee—hot and delicious—before mingling with your peers for a few minutes before you're ushered into the conference room for the Issues Briefing.
Other WBA members and staff speakers run through the key agenda items for the legislative visits today. You follow along in the event App, jotting down a few notes about what you want to say during your meeting. You're a little nervous, if you're being honest with yourself. You've invited your legislators to your bank for a visit before, but that's on your home turf. The Capitol is unfamiliar territory.
You learn more about the Access to Better Credit (ABC) budget provision WBA is supporting. It would incentivize credit to farmers by excluding from income tax net profits received by a lender for qualifying loans, which would have the added benefit of creating tax parity with credit unions for this kind of commercial lending. You also learn about the WBA Omnibus Bill, which contains several pro-banking provisions that will benefit the industry overall.
"Your ability to make a meaningful connection with your legislators through real-life stories about your customers and the impact legislation—both good and bad—has on them is something they will remember." — Mark Meloy, president/CEO, First Business Bank, Madison
Just when you start to feel a bit overwhelmed by all the information, you're reminded that the key is to focus on how these measures will impact your bank and your customers. That's the information your legislators need to hear.
The briefing concludes, and everyone stands up in the front of the conference room for a group photo before heading off to lunch.
Chapter 3: Lunch and Networking
You settle in at a table of other bankers for some conversation and lunch before the next speaker. You've been looking forward to this networking opportunity for a while. It's always great to hear from other bankers what they're doing and what challenges they're facing… and to get some new ideas on how to deal with challenges of your own.
You're especially encouraged to see several young bankers in attendance. You know this is a tremendous opportunity to help grow and develop the next generation of banking leaders.
"Capitol Day is a great opportunity for development of younger bankers to learn firsthand about the challenges to our industry and to have the opportunity to represent your bank in a meaningful way." — Mark Meloy
After the speaker finishes but before everyone gets up from lunch to walk up to the Capitol, you take the chance to mingle with a few other tables, reconnecting and exchanging business cards with a few bankers who you look to for advice. This is an opportunity for your own growth that you don't want to miss!
"Despite the competition within the industry, Wisconsin bankers tend to root for one another and support each other's individual career growth and development. It can be extremely advantageous to get to know as many industry peers as possible, and Capitol Day serves as an ideal opportunity for expanding those relationships." — Scott Romportl
Time to head up to the Capitol. You gather your things and head out the doors into the cool spring air. You continue your conversation with a peer along the way. You both comment on how striking the view is. Looking ahead, you see a long line of hundreds of bankers making their way up the sidewalk to the state's Capitol. Even several blocks away, you can see groups of them opening the large, heavy wooden doors and stepping inside.
Chapter 4: Meeting with Legislators
Once inside the Capitol, you take just a moment to enjoy the beautiful art and architecture inside. One of these years, you really need to take Mike up on that offer for a behind-the-scenes tour…
You check the app to verify the time and location of your meetings for the afternoon, as well as the bankers who will be joining you. Your first meeting is in room 413 South and you have no idea how to get there, so your first stop is the Rotunda in the center of the building. You know WBA staff will be stationed there throughout the afternoon to give directions.
"Learning to navigate the Capitol building takes some practice, as each door seems to lead to another hallway with 10 more doors… Fortunately, WBA staff members are posted up in the Rotunda area to help with this. If you're like me and feel overly prideful (to a fault) about never asking for navigation directions, this is definitely one of those rare exceptions." — Scott Romportl
You make it to your legislator's office, and the two other bankers who will be joining you are waiting outside. You open the door and let yourselves in—that was a tip from WBA staff, too. Only newbies knock on the office doors in the Capitol.
A staffer greets you and confirms your appointment. She invites you to take a seat and goes into the back to let the Representative know you're here. Soon, you're face to face with the lawmaker responsible for representing your interests in state government. You take a breath, and then jump into the conversation.
"Face-to-face meetings are an important part of messaging to legislators. Remember, these are smart people, but that doesn't mean they are all well-versed in banking regulations and the impact and costs thereof. Our ability to articulate the challenges rules and regulations have on us and our customers is key." — Mark Meloy
One down, one to go. Your first meeting went very well, you think. The other bankers from your district have other appointments later in the afternoon, so they each head back to their bank. That means you're on your own for your final legislative meeting today.
You find the room more easily this time and let yourself in a few minutes before your scheduled appointment. The staffer greets you and invites you into the back office. He lets you know that your representative is "in district" today and so isn't available to meet. WBA staff told you that meeting with legislative staff is just as impactful—it's their job to communicate your needs and concerns to the legislator.
The staffer is very knowledgeable and asks good follow-up questions, taking careful notes throughout your conversation. You leave confident that you made your points well and that your legislator will hear what you had to say. You swing by the Rotunda on your way out to say goodbye to a few peers, and then start your drive back to the bank.
You know, without a doubt, you made a positive impact on Wisconsin's banking industry today.
Will WBA achieve its goal of 100% participation in representing the industry? Will every Wisconsin lawmaker hear from at least one banker constituent on May 21?
You decide! Click here to register for your Capitol Day adventure.
Advice From the Other Side of the Desk
Two Wisconsin lawmakers offer tips to constituents about how to have effective face-to-face meetings.
Rep. Cindi Duchow | Assembly District 99 (R-Town of Delafield)
- "While emotions and being passionate about issues are important, it is effective to be clear and concise with your concerns and requests because I make decisions based on facts."
- "The most important part of my job as an elected official is representing the constituents of the 99th Assembly District. I depend on and need their input to be effective as a legislator. Constituent input has an incredibly huge impact on the decisions I make."
- "One of the best parts of my job as a legislator is having one-on-one meetings with constituents from my district. These discussions help me in understanding and representing their interests at the state house. Also, I like to learn how constituents feel about state issues and what is going on in their lives. Building relationships with my constituents is very important to me."
Sen. Roger Roth | Senate District 19 (R-Appleton)
- "Be open and honest about the issue you want to discuss, and make sure you tell me why it is important to you! Realize that we may not always agree, but I that I am always willing to listen and see how we can work together."
- "Constituent contact is critical to know what individuals in my district are thinking on a topic. Often these conversations raise viewpoints or policy concerns that my colleagues and I do not hear in the halls of the Capitol. This allows us to alter legislation that would lead to unintended consequences or present new policy solutions for the challenges facing our community."
- "Interacting with different constituents is my favorite part of serving as a State Senator! Everyone has a different life experience and those views help me form a holistic view of the challenges facing Wisconsin. Hearing the individual stories of those in my district inspires me to ensure that government is helping, not hindering them."