By Rose Oswald Poels
One of the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s (WBA) top priorities is to advocate on behalf of its members before legislators, regulators, and the courts. However, the industry is not successful in its legislative and regulatory advocacy efforts without the direct involvement of all of you and your staff. Your direct grassroots involvement in meeting with elected officials, sending emails, and casually talking with them when you see them in your district helps develop key relationships that ultimately help your bank and the industry as a whole.
Last week, WBA organized an in-district meeting with newly elected Congressman Derrick Van Orden and a small group of bankers in La Crosse. The purpose of our meeting was to share some insights about our banks and markets, as well as to talk about issues. We met for a full hour, and Congressman Van Orden was very engaged throughout, asking questions and offering ideas. The primary topics we discussed were credit union competition, the SAFE Banking Act, ACRE (formerly known as ECORA), SBA direct lending, and regulatory overreach. The meeting was very productive to introduce him to issues of importance to the banking industry, and it was clear he had done his research in advance of the meeting. Throughout his comments, it was clear that he understands the important role the banking industry plays in Wisconsin and is willing to help support the industry out in Washington, D.C.
I want to thank the following bankers for actively participating in the meeting with me: Shane Ilstrup and Mike Gargaro, Citizens First Bank; Lindsay Spitzer and Scott Kopp, Bluff View Bank; Doug Farmer and James Cherf, Park Bank, Holmen; Brian Spreuer, River Bank; Joe Zoellner, State Bank Financial; and Chad Hill, Citizens State Bank.
WBA will be organizing other in-district meetings later this summer when Congress is in recess. If you are interested in joining me at one for your member of Congress, please let me know. In addition, you are welcome to join WBA on two trips this spring to Washington, D.C. to advocate for our industry on Capitol Hill. WBA’s first Washington trip is in conjunction with the American Bankers Association, March 20–22, 2023, and our second trip is in conjunction with the Independent Community Bankers of America, May 15–17, 2023. Ideally, I would like 20–25 bankers to join us on each trip, so please consider attending this year.
At the state level, WBA is always encouraging bankers to host elected officials at your bank for a Take Your Legislator to Work Day. WBA’s government relations team will help schedule these meetings, provide a template agenda for the meeting at your bank, and can attend the meeting with you and your staff. Watch for WBA’s Advocacy Toolkit to arrive in your mailbox around mid-March for more information on this and other advocacy initiatives.
Finally, our state Capitol Day is set for Wednesday, April 26, 2023, and we have a stretch goal of wanting at least 200 bankers in attendance. In January, the Wisconsin Credit Union League held their day at the Capitol with over 200 people in attendance. We have many issues to discuss with our state officials this year, including a new initiative WBA is working on related to leveling the playing field with credit unions. However, if we can’t get at least as many bankers to show up as the credit unions had, it will affect the industry’s image. As I stated at the beginning, WBA is not successful in our advocacy efforts without your direct grassroots involvement. Please take time to join me at Capitol Day, join me this year (or a future one) in Washington D.C., and start to develop those relationships with your elected officials.