Last week, approximately 150 ICSC members from 30 states met with 165 Congressional offices to discuss legislation impacting the retail real estate industry during ICSC’s Strategic Leadership Summit (SLS). The issues included tax reform, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, the EPA’s proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act and Marketplace Fairness. During SLS, more than 50 SLS participants also engaged in a Twitter campaign specifically focused on asking Congress to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act.
Chances are you missed this event, thinking it wasn’t for you because it’s not a traditional ICSC deal making event. While you’re correct that SLS is non-traditional, you’re incorrect if you thought it doesn’t directly benefit your business. The people who attended this meeting weren’t political professionals. They were members of the retail real estate industry, like you, who are responsible for getting deals done. They are worried that if Congress takes away 1031 like-kind exchanges when reforming our tax codes, development opportunities for our industry will be threatened. They know that if our retail tenants can’t compete fairly against online retailers because of a government-imposed tax burden, it means vacancies in our centers. They see that the only ones looking out for our industry are the people who work in it.
It’s critical to note that your voice matters with elected officials. According to a recent poll conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation, Congressional staff said overwhelmingly that personal contact from a constituent through a meeting (97%), letter (90%), email (88%) or phone call (86%) is more influential than a lobbyist (82%) or news editor (75%). Unfortunately, they did not ask about engagement over social media, but more than 95% of members of Congress have Twitter handles now and have dedicated staff to managing the interaction with constituents on social media platforms, so this is another effective way for constituents to engage with their elected officials.
The good news is that it’s never too late to get involved. One of the most active issues in Congress impacting our industry right now is the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would level the playing field for our brick-and-mortar tenants as it relates to sales tax collection. If you aren’t familiar with the issue, you can learn more at www.efairness.org (which is powered by ICSC). Again, your voice matters, and members of Congress need to hear from our industry on this issue. You can help by simply taking a moment to email your House Representative.
Stay on the lookout for more Average Joe Advocate posts to learn about policies that impact retail real estate and tips on what you can do protect your business.
ICSC members tweet pics asking Congress to support #efairness legislation