The ALTA® Annual Convention in New York City in October was an eye-opener for many attendees. The big city sights alone would have been enough, but what really held my attention were the reports we heard regarding the industry and RESPA/TILA reform. After hearing these reports, I concluded that at least in one area, the Abstracter-Agent’s Section had a tremendous responsibility that we as individual members had perhaps not fully recognized. We need to be much more involved in providing grassroots support for the overall lobbying effort ALTA® undertakes on our behalf. Without the grassroots foundation of the "voices from home," our message will not cut through the legislative noise.
At every state convention I attended this summer, my time was spent bringing folks up to date on the bank powers legislation and the packaging concept in RESPA/TILA reform. I also spent quite a bit of time urging folks to make legislative contacts. My message to all at those state conventions was to get involved at some level in grassroots lobbying, whether you are an ALTA® member or not. And that is my message to you here.
ALTA® needs your involvement in grassroots activities. To spearhead these efforts, ALTA® has hired Michelle Covel, Director of Grassroots Advocacy, to assist Ann Vom Eigen, ALTA®’s Legislative Counsel. Michelle is our connection. If you don’t understand the issue well enough to discuss it comfortably, then call Michelle and ask her to clarify it. If you know someone who can make the specific contact needed, call Michelle, and she will help make the connection. If you have helpful suggestions on grassroots efforts -- call Michelle!
I have a feeling, though, that if you are reading this message, I may be "preaching to the choir." But honestly, I don’t think so. If that were the case, when those red hot urgent faxes go out from Ann and Michelle for grassroots support, then there would be an overwhelming response from ALTA® members. But that is not how it goes ? at least as far as Ann and her staff know. You see, you may be making those contacts, but Ann and Michelle don’t know it. Because we aren’t telling them. We aren’t copying them with our letters and faxes. We aren’t telling them we made those calls and who we talked to. Consequently, Ann is empty-handed when it comes to proof of grassroots support from our members on any issue.
For those of you who are already politically astute, keep making those phone calls, writing those letters, and sending those faxes. But copy, fax, and tell Ann and Michelle what you are doing! Those of you who have not done much politically in the past, remember that ALTA® has staff and information at your disposal. They have put together a great grassroots lobbying kit for the packaging issue on RESPA/TILA reform that will be coming up this next legislative session. Bank powers will be re-introduced in January, and we must be ready. Each of you must find your comfort level in lobbying. Do you have your Congressman’s or Senator’s ear? Or, will you write a letter? Send a fax? Make a call? Are you directly involved in campaigning through contributions, fund raising, canvassing, or signs? Let Ann and Michelle know the extent of your contacts and political activity. We need a contact person in every title office across the country.
Past President Malcolm Morris challenged each of us to get every Representative and Senator into a title office for a visit by January. That is a reachable goal! I also urge you to contact your Representative and Senator, while they are at home, even if by letter, to let them know that you are paying attention to the issues before them regarding bank powers and RESPA/TILA reform. Our Congressmen and Senators need to know that we have a position and that we hold them accountable to us for the decisions they make. If they do not hear from us, can we blame them when they follow the recommendations of big business or other special interests?
I hope that you will all feel strongly about the legislative issues coming up and will get involved. Inform your staff, family members, and friends about the issues concerning the title industry. Make contact with your key Representatives and Senators. Be sure that Ann Vom Eigen and Michelle Covel are aware of your work. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Step up. Be responsible. Your representatives on the Section Executive Committee have accepted this challenge as the leadership of the Section. You must, too. Get involved for the sake of your future!
Cara L. Detring