Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | July 3, 2012

Sacramento Storm

Sacramento Storm
by Marilyn A. Monahan, Esq.
VP of Legislative Affairs

PIHRA’s voice was heard in Sacramento last month.  CalSHRM, in conjunction with SHRM, sponsored a well attended and highly successful California Legislative Conference in Sacramento on May 17th and 18th.  Human resource professionals from throughout the state attended and shared with legislators their views on the impact of pending legislation on the profession, employees, and employers.  PIHRA members participated in the event and spread the word about CalSHRM, PIHRA, and issues of concern to the HR community.

Conference attendees included members of PIHRA’s Legislative Affairs Committee; Richard Propster, President of PIHRA; Rafael Rivera, Executive Director; and many other PIHRA members.

Approximately 65 conference attendees participated in pre-scheduled meetings in legislative offices.  Most participants visited two legislative offices, which increased the impact of our presence in the Capitol.  Participants met with their local representatives; the legislators were selected based on the home or office zip code of the conference attendees.  According to SHRM, the “group of 65 was the largest contingent yet for a SHRM state capitol visit.”

The first day of the conference started with a “Visits to the State Capitol Boot Camp,” conducted by David Lusk and Robert Carragher of SHRM, and Michael Kalt, Governmental Affairs Director of CalSHRM.  The program provided participants with guidance on what to expect during the legislative visits, and tips on the best way to introduce ourselves and CalSHRM to staff members.  The Boot Camp included some role playing, so that participants were prepared for the types of questions that might be asked.

CalSHRM identified two bills to discuss with legislative offices:  AB 2039 and AB 1450.  CalSHRM opposes both bills.  AB 2039 will expand the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to be taken to care for an adult independent child, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law with a serious health condition.  AB 1450 will prohibit employers from refusing to consider or offer a job to individuals who are unemployed; CalSHRM is concerned that the bill may prevent employers from making legitimate inquiries about an applicant’s work history.  Talking points were prepared (and were left with the individuals we met) so that participants could succinctly provide CalSHRM’s perspective on the bills.

The staff members we met with were generous with their time and were very interested in what we had to say.  They wanted to hear our view of the bills and discuss what we thought the bills’ impact would be.  In those offices where the legislator was inclined to favor the bills, we found that staff members wanted to discuss ways to craft amendments that would address the concerns of the HR community while still addressing the issues of concern to the legislator.

Perhaps the most valuable part of the day was that we had the opportunity to introduce CalSHRM and PIHRA to the legislative offices we visited.  We were able to explain why HR professionals provide a critical viewpoint on bills affecting employers and employees.  The legislative staffers now know who we are, and that they have a person and an organization to contact when they need to hear the perspective of the HR community.  We have started a dialogue, and we are known as an accessible and valuable resource.

A 2011 study by the Congressional Management Foundation shows that personal contact with legislative offices is the best way to have a positive influence on legislators who have not yet reached a decision on an issue.  This data, along with the positive experience the conference attendees had during their legislative visits, underlines the need for PIHRA members to continue to be involved in advocacy efforts.  On her own or through an annual day at the Capitol, a PIHRA member’s contact with a legislative representative will be a meaningful experience for the member and will benefit the entire professional community.

CalSHRM also put together an outstanding slate of speakers and programs—providing the attendees with an excellent opportunity to learn and earn recertification credits.  Speakers included Mike Aitkin, David Lusk, and Pamela Green from SHRM; Michael Kalt, Debbie Horne, and Mike Letizia from CalSHRM; Phyllis Cheng, the Director of Department of Fair Employment and Housing; Christine Baker, Director of the California Department of Industrial Relations; Mark Janatpour, Senior Deputy Labor Commissioner; and Dan Walters, a political reporter with the Sacramento Bee.

Roger Sommer, Legislative Affairs Chair for District 6, said about the conference, “this was a good beginning.  It was well planned and supported by SHRM and CalSHRM, and we had impressive speakers . . . .”  But our advocacy efforts do not end with the 2012 California Legislative Conference.  We need to continue to build on what we started and reinforce our message that HR professionals are engaged in the legislative process and have a voice.  By repeating our visits to Sacramento each year, and encouraging PIHRA members to increase their involvement in advocacy, we will ensure that our voice continues to be heard in Sacramento.

For more information on the California Legislative Conference—including how you can get involved in next year’s event—please contact the Legislative Affairs Chair for your District or the Vice President of Legislative Affairs at vplegislativeaffairs@pihra.org.

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