PICPA: On the Front Line for You
By William R. Lazor, CPA, PFS, CFF
State lawmakers review and consider hundreds of legislative proposals during a two-year legislative session. In the current 2011-2012 session, the PICPA Government Relations Team is tracking more than 250 separate pieces of legislation and dozens of regulations that could directly affect CPAs, the clients we serve, and the companies we work for.
Protection of the CPA profession is a core duty of the PICPA: it is something you expect when you pay your annual dues. It’s a service all members receive, regardless of whether they are in public accounting, industry, government, or education. Likewise, advocacy is a service provided to all members, whether or not they are engaged in our advocacy efforts, because the decisions made by our state government affect us all. Do not, however, confuse legislative advocacy with political advocacy.
Legislative advocacy, or lobbying, is accomplished by the PICPA’s Government Relations Team and a network of volunteer members – Key Contacts – who serve as the profession’s front line in the public policy arena. These Key Contacts provide technical expertise to state and federal lawmakers, regulators, and the public. Whether commenting on proposed changes to the Pennsylvania inheritance tax in front of the House Finance Committee, educating state legislative leaders on changes to IRS regulations, providing input to the Department of Revenue concerning Marcellus Shale, or submitting a comment letter to GASB, the PICPA helps shape public policy on behalf of its members. The CPA profession’s unique problem-solving skills, keen intellect, financial acumen, and credibility are attributes that few groups possess, and the connection between the PICPA and policy-makers is the cornerstone of a successful advocacy program.
The PICPA’s advocacy efforts paid dividends in 2011 with the passage of the Fair Share Act, which restores fairness and balance to Pennsylvania’s legal system. Under the Fair Share law, no longer will one individual or business, with marginal responsibility but deep pockets, be responsible for 100 percent of a liability award. Now, for example, if a CPA firm is responsible for 10 percent of the fault, that firm would be accountable for only 10 percent of the total award. The PICPA also received wide acclaim for its Fiscal Responsibility Task Force report and its policy options for returning the Commonwealth to sound financial footing. Additionally, the PICPA has a seat on Gov. Corbett’s Advisory Council on Privatization and Innovation. The advisory council will explore all aspects of state government to determine whether any functions now performed might be better and more cost-effectively performed by the private sector.
Political advocacy is equally important, as it complements our lobbying efforts. The PICPA’s political advocacy agenda is supported by CPA-PAC, PICPA’s political action committee. The goal of CPA-PAC is to support CPA legislators and pro-business candidates in their efforts to win seats in the state legislature. A separate entity from the PICPA, CPA-PAC is supported solely by voluntary member contributions. In adherence with the law, no dues dollars are used to fund CPA-PAC and its activities.
Through CPA-PAC, PICPA members have a strong, unified voice in the political arena. As chair of the CPA-PAC Board of Trustees and a principal in a regional CPA firm, I have seen the benefit of having a voice in the discussion when key issues arise in the Pennsylvania legislature.
Our system of government does not work in a vacuum. There are many competing voices vying to have their positions heard by lawmakers and others. It is important, therefore, whom CPAs support, and CPA-PAC’s return on investment is clear. In the 2010 election cycle, CPA-PAC-supported candidates won in more than 95 percent of their primary and general elections. Unfortunately, fewer than 5 percent of PICPA’s more than 20,000 members invest in CPA-PAC. To those “5 percenters,” we say thank you! Still, imagine how we could build more alliances and increase our successes if more members invested in CPA-PAC.
We are in an important election year at both the national and state levels. All 203 seats in the Pennsylvania House and half of the 50 seats of the state Senate are up for election. The issues facing the Pennsylvania legislature in 2012 and beyond pose enormous challenges and unique opportunities for the PICPA and its members. Budget matters will again be a priority for the Corbett administration and the legislature, while other key priorities remain undone. Whether it is finding legislative compromise on school choice, privatization of state liquor stores, or funding for our aging infrastructure systems, the issues are monumental. This legislative session will potentially address changes to the CPA Statute as well.
The CPA profession must have a strong voice in determining the outcome of these issues as it also promotes its legislative agenda of business privilege tax clarification legislation, tax simplification proposals, and streamlining the tax appeals process.
Thomas Jefferson said, “A democratic society depends upon an informed and educated citizenry.” I challenge each one of our more than 20,000 members to take Jefferson’s advice to heart and become an informed and educated advocate of the PICPA in 2012.
William R. Lazor, CPA, PFS, CFF, is a partner with Kronick Kalada Berdy & Company PC in Kingston and chair of CPA-PAC. He can be reached at email@example.com.
LAST UPDATED 2/29/2012