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Biggs Heads Back to the Capitol: an interview with our COO

At Biggs, we love to bring you stories of our team members’ involvement in community and advocacy projects great and small. Our employee Zoe sat down with Rich to get the inside scoop on his April trip to D.C. for the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) annual Federal Legislative Summit (FLS).

Z: For starters, can you describe your role in the PIA?

R: I represent 9 Western States as their National Director on the National PIA Board of Directors. Part of my role as a national director has me sitting on the services committee, where we talk about what kinds of products and services the national Association can offer the local agency members (one of which is Biggs) – we assist them with market access, allowing them to write more business; we offer cyber coverage for agencies’ own needs directly; and we provide a health care plan through the association that members can buy for themselves. And I’m also on the finance and budget committee – which is obviously tasked with reviewing the finances of the association and approving and discussing annual budgets.

Both those committees meet twice a year, once in D.C. and then once somewhere else in the country; the outgoing president gets to choose the location for that second meeting, so our next gathering will be in Portland, ME, where our immediate past president is from. These two conferences give us a chance to hold committee meetings, catch up on issues around insurance and regulations, so on and so forth – there’s about three days of meetings total, and in the case of the FLS, one of those days is focused on meeting with Congress and the Senate up on the Hill.

Z: So what sort of issues were up for discussion this year?

R: The four main items that we talked about this year were flood insurance, protection of state based insurance regulations, role and value of the agent in health care reform, and crop insurance. You can learn more about our stance on those issues here.

Z: Tell me more about the FLS and what happens there.

R: The FLS is a time where insurance professionals and fellow members of the PIA converge on Capitol Hill and meet with their congressmen and senators. We advocate for some specific insurance-related ideas and policies, like those I mentioned. I met with one congressman in particular – Denny Heck from the 10th district – who works with the flood policy committee. He was supportive of our issues and was confident that the flood insurance program would get an extension, I believe through end of September. He’s always very good about making time for us in his schedule. We were a little hamstrung this year because the President of France was in D.C. and a joint session of Congress was called, meaning the House and the Senate all come together to attend his address – and so on the morning of our scheduled meetings, they all had to go see President Macron speak. Traditionally we’d have all day to kind of pick and choose. Despite that, Denny was gracious enough to find time for us to get together.

Nolan, Congressman Heck, and Rich

So we had a good meeting; I took my son, Nolan, who just graduated from WSU. This was his third trip back joining me up on the Hill – it’s a great opportunity for him to see how the whole process of lobbying works, and to talk to our congressmen and women.

Z: Generally, in these meetings with policymakers, do you feel like there was a true back-and-forth? You felt listened to?

R: I think any advocacy is important and provides our elected leaders with grassroots information on what’s going on not only in their districts but also on a national level. When you have people from the same industry coming together and discussing the same vital issues, I think it lends a lot of weight to your position. Certainly at first it was a little scary to meet with members of Congress or Senators and make your case, but at the end of the day that’s really what they’re there for. They hold town hall meetings and encourage people to come and let them know what’s going on; this is just our chance to go from a local town hall meeting to their backyard and meet with them one-on-one and let them know where our needs are.

Z: Overall favorite moment from the trip?

R: Oh boy… aside from dinner at Ruth Chris? No, the highlight of the trip every year is, for one, the changing of the guards. I’ve done it I believe eleven years in a row, and it’s something that’s on the to-do every trip. Another favorite tradition is the monument walk at night – we’ll hit the Washington, the World War II, the Lincoln, the Korean, the Vietnam, the Martin Luther King Jr., the Roosevelt, and then finish up at Jefferson. It’s a long, long walk, but there’s nothing like seeing the monuments after dark. Also, on one of my trips, I did get a VIP tour of the White House, which was probably the biggest highlight of all and the visit that was the most memorable. We walked through the rose garden and the Oval Office and other spots that you don’t see on the public tour.