By

Washington

More than 600 life insurance agents are visiting the halls of Congress this week in what is being called an unprecedented joint industry lobbying effort.

In conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association of Advanced Life Underwriting and the National Leadership Conference of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, the 2 associations plan to join forces to present a unified message to the nations lawmakers on issues vital to the life insurance industry.

“This is a historic event,” says NAIFA President Randy R. Kilgore. “It is the first time NAIFA and AALU have held a joint Capitol Hill lobbying day.”

AALU President Bob Plybon says the 2 agent groups, along with the American Council of Life Insurers, want to work more and more closely together on legislative affairs.

“We want to speak with one voice,” Plybon says. “It is essential that there be no distortion of our message.”

AALU President-Elect Gus Comiskey adds that joint Capitol Hill visits between hundreds of AALU members and leaders of state associations within NAIFA are an important part of industry efforts to speak with unity and cohesion on essential issues, particularly as they relate to the tax status of life insurance products.

“We have made significant progress this year in working cohesively with NAIFA and ACLI, as well as with other organizations through the AALU Issues Alliance,” Comiskey says.

“Increasing our combined clout on key issues will be one of my top priorities this year as AALU President,” he adds.

David Woods, executive vice president of NAIFA, says the joint lobbying reflects the recognition by the 3 organizationsNAIFA, AALU and ACLIthat they are much stronger when they work together than when they work independently.

While this doesnt mean the associations will always agree or work equally on all issues, Woods says, it does reflect an understanding by the leadership of the 3 organizations that they must band together in view of the challenges that confront the industry.

“As often as we possibly can, we need to go to Capitol Hill as the life insurance industry,” Woods says. “Not NAIFA or AALU or an individual company, but the life insurance industry.”

William R. Anderson, NAIFAs senior vice president of law and government relations, adds that the joint lobbying strengthens the ability of members of Congress to identify the 3 groups as the “life insurance industry,” as opposed to the rest of the insurance industry.

Plybon says that during this years Capitol Hill visits, one of the primary issues agents will discuss is the estate tax. Agents, he notes, will make the case for permanent reform as opposed to repeal.

Indeed, he says, in an era of budget deficits, many people on Capitol Hill who advocated repeal are now talking about reform.

The industry has already met with some senators, Plybon notes, who are asking for more information on the estate tax, including its historic background and some of the economic statistics.

In addition, Plybon says, the industry is concerned over Bush administration proposals on Lifetime Savings Accounts and Retirement Savings Accounts. Moreover, he says, corporate-owned life insurance is still in play.

Anderson says that another issue the industry will raise involves the fees paid to registered representatives for administration of mutual funds, known as 12b-1 fees.

Legislation pending on Capitol Hill, Anderson says, could eliminate these fees. He says that NAIFA favors more disclosure to consumers regarding 12b-1 fees, but registered representatives should continue to receive fees for work done.

Larry Raymond, who chairs AALUs Political Involvement Committee, says that AALU and NAIFA members can make a significant difference through their political involvement and the key contact relationships they have developed.

“We have worked hard to motivate and train more members to broaden our current and future influence,” Raymond says.

“We are very fortunate to have a committed core of volunteers and leaders in this process who are working in all regions and states to build our industrys strength and ability to protect our clients,” he says.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 23, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.