Attendees at the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) OneShow in Chicago's McCormick Place heard a lot about legislative issues affecting vending at all levels of government. With new regulations on the way, the NAMA staff got down to business on Wednesday morning with presentations on how state vending councils can best meet these issues effectively during the NAMA government affairs symposium.
The meeting was moderated by Ned Monroe, NAMA senior vice president of government affairs.
Monroe noted early in the meeting that the most important issue facing the vending industry is the economy. Because of this, he noted that certain regulatory issues such as the new calorie disclosure rule are especially important because they will affect a vending operator's bottom line. Other important legislative issues he noted include sustainability, equipment, technology, nutrition, labor and the work place.
In addressing state council officers, Monroe said it is important for the officers to be knowledgeable about all the issues and direct their associations on how to take action.
Monroe then introduced Sandra Larson, NAMA senior director and counsel for government affairs for the western region, who spoke on grass roots advocacy.
"It's important to communicate with your legislators," Larson said. She said it helps for state council members to network with other constituents in lobbying state lawmakers.
Larson said state councils should invite lawmakers to industry events, arrange formal meetings, communicate via letters and emails, and always follow up with phone calls.
Larson said the Texas state council held a legislative day this year, during which association members held several meetings with legislators.
When setting up a legislative meeting, Larson said it's important to have a written agenda, and to limit the meeting to three issues.
One purpose of these meetings is to position yourself as an information resource, Larson said. "You need to let them know that you are an expert," she said.
Another goal is to establish an ongoing relationship with the lawmaker.
She said it helps to attend legislators' fund raisers. "You need to support both sides of the aisle if you have a key issue that's coming up," she noted. "You're legislators welcome you to come in and educate them on key issues that are important to you."
Larson then turned the meeting over to Elaine Arena, a lobbyist for the Arizona Automatic Merchandising Association, who noted that effective lobbying does not take a lot of people, just dedicated people who can build relationships with lawmakers.
When issues come up, legislators immediately think of which people they know who will be affected by the issue, Arena said. If there is no face behind the issue, the legislator is likely to vote on the issue in ways that could be adverse to certain constituents.
Arena noted that a legislative day by the Arizona association proved helpful. "Every one of those legislators have come away impressed with the knowledge base of our industry," she said.
"They (the lawmakers attending the vending day) see healthy stuff," Arena said. "They see today's vending and they know who is in the trade. It's important that your members participate."
Arena said a restrictive nutrition bill did not make it out of committee, thanks in part to the association's lobbying efforts.
To win support, Arena said it was necessary for the association to overcome some lawmakers' outdated ideas about the vending industry.