Association Best Practices: My Day at the Capitol

By: Michael Cohen, Board President, Northshores Owners Association, Cambridge Crossing Community Association, The Residence at Canyon Gate Homeowners Association

As a very active HOA board president of three communities, I was provided an opportunity by FirstService Residential to participate in the first board member legislative event occurring at our state capitol in Carson City in March of last year. Our state legislature was in session at the time, as it formally meets every two years between January and June to conduct State of Nevada business. This one day event was centered on observing our legislative process and having our collective voices heard by targeting our respective Senators and Assembly Representatives for brief one-on-one meetings. These individual meetings were established as an opportunity for us board members to present and support a number of HOA positions vital to our homeowners and for the HOA communities as a whole throughout Nevada. The organizers and participants of this event recognized the collective impact that homeowners- attorneys, political action committee members, lobbyists, management companies, and other parties, would have by directly participating in the legislative process.
Prior to our travel day, FirstService Residential organized several meetings with the participants.  These meetings were designed to provide vital information about several key aspects of our Day at the Capitol.  The information included updates on pending bills, deciding on our group’s talking points for each legislator, detailed information on how to identify and contact our state representatives, how to schedule and confirm meeting appointments and how to make the meetings with each legislator most productive. These meetings served as a key element to ensuring maximum effectiveness for the individual meetings and left each participant well-prepared.
On March 3, 2015, our day began with a rather early morning departure from McCarran International Airport, allowing us to arrive in Carson City just before 9:00 a.m., providing us a full day at the Capitol. Upon arrival, we were given a brief tour of the Capitol buildings that included senate and assembly meeting locations, as well as our reserved lunch and group meeting area. Shortly after, we were free to attend meetings occurring in the chambers, view live hearings being conducted, meet with our respective senators and house representatives, or just explore.
The experience was very enlightening!  I offer that the legislative process may be likened to making sausage- it may not be a very pretty thing to witness, but we always seem to enjoy the results! At times the legislative process seemed unorganized, inefficient, confusing and challenging -- business moved quickly, with an enormous amount of walking and talking.  I must have walked the entire building and several floors four or five times during that day! It was organized chaos with meetings created at the last minute, rescheduled or even cancelled with voting and locations affected in the same manner. The end product, like sausage, is a marbled culmination of an immense and unexpected amount of effort.
Despite the challenge of attempting to coordinate the scheduled meetings, hearings, and senate or assembly voting, along with all of the other opportunities we intended to take advantage of, it was an outstanding experience and success.  Most interesting to me were the one-on-one meetings with my senators and assembly representatives, as well as being in the gallery during hearings that would impact specific bills and initiatives. So many things to do, so little time!
In summary, I believe the experience was highly valuable.  I would encourage those interested in supporting our associations and having your voice heard at the highest levels to participate in this experience.  Some takeaways for me were the fun and excitement of the involvement in the legislative process, supporting our homeowners and communities, witnessing firsthand our government at work, making new friends and enjoying the fellowship with other HOA board members.
Following our trip and as a testament to the experience, I was motivated to continue my direct participation in the process by providing testimony at several local hearings related to HOA bills conducted at the Grant Sawyer Building in downtown Las Vegas.
Participate in your experience, and experience your participation! To make a difference, get involved!