Politics Is Local
Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neil, former speaker
of the U.S. House of Representatives, often reminded
his colleagues in the federal legislature that “all
politics is local.”
As Congress has continued to address highway
funding, university grants and other projects of a regional
nature, O’Neil’s words appear as timely as
ever. More importantly, even when federal legislators grapple
with complex international and national policy issues,
they still listen most closely to the concerns of the people
who can vote for them. In a way, this is the essence of
a representative democracy.
In the United States, our system of government
reflects a balancing of local and national issues. The
enumerates specific duties for the federal government in
Washington, and reserves all other authority to the various
states. With this structure, state governments play a very
significant role in policy-making.
NATO, as your trade association, is designed to reflect
this balance of power. Your national association, now headquartered
in Washington, D.C., represents theatre operators before
the Congress, White House staff, and the various federal
agencies, commissions and departments. National NATO calls
on its members from time to time to bring grass roots influence
to important policy discussions that impact exhibition.
Our “Capitol Hill Day,” held earlier this year,
is an example of that work. Jonathan Yarowsky of Patton
Boggs describes the Hill Day efforts in his column this
At the same time, NATO’s various state and regional
units work with the various state legislatures and governors’ offices
to impact policy at the state level. Sometimes we confront
the same issues at both the federal and state level concurrently.
This year, for example, Congress and many states have considered
legislation simultaneously to outlaw the use of recording
devices in movie theatres; to provide civil immunity against
lawsuits from patrons who eat themselves into obesity or
health problems; and to raise the minimum wage.
At other times, important issues will arise
in Congress or in state legislatures at different times
Five years ago, Congress considered legislation to codify
the movie rating system and impose criminal and civil penalties
on theatre operators for ratings enforcement violations.
In the two years after those proposals were defeated, many
different states took up their own bills on the same issue.
Still other issues arise in Washington or
the states, but not both. For example, this year Congress
legislation to permit national trade associations like
NATO to create association health plans that would enable
members to buy employee health insurance at more affordable
rates. In the states, meanwhile, various proposals have
been made to impose taxes on movie admissions. The health
plan legislation is purely federal in nature, while admission
taxes have only been proposed in the states.
These examples, by no means exhaustive,
demonstrate the importance of active representation and
influence at both
the federal and state levels. In order to best protect
their interests, theatre companies need to join and become
active in both national NATO and the state and regional
NATO units in the territories where they operate. “Local” voices
are needed in both policy environments.
Exhibition’s representatives in the
national and regional NATO organizations work hard to coordinate
and to promote efficiencies through shared work. On the
various state camcorder bills, for example, the national
association has provided legal review and strategic guidance
while the regional units have conducted the lobbying. Meanwhile,
the state unit leaders have helped us with targeted grass
roots contacts to their representatives in Congress on
the federal legislation.
In the past few weeks I have traveled to
meet with theatre operators and managers at functions in
Central NATO), New York (NATO of New York), Boston (Theatre
Owners of New England) and Virginia (Mid-Atlantic NATO).
I have trips planned in the next few weeks to meet with
members in the South (at ShowSouth), the Upper Midwest
and Rocky Mountain States (at the Great States Convention),
and the South Central States (in Louisiana). (And if I
don’t make it to your region this year, I hope to
see you in 2005!)
At each of these meetings and conventions
we work to improve our coordination on important policy
issues, share information
and strategies and accomplish the goals set for each association.
In the end, NATO is successful because of
the support of its members – at both the federal and state levels.
Thank you for providing the “local” political
input that makes it all come together!!