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State Board Report

March 2013

My grandfather, H.S. (Sid) Wilson, was among the last of his kind. His vocation was blacksmithing. He was born in rural Missouri in 1896, received an 8th grade education and apprenticed to a career that served him well, as the village blacksmith. There was always plenty of work: wheels righted, horses to be shod, farm implements to be repaired or sharpened. And often the method of payment was bartering with eggs, soap or services. Once, when I was a small boy, he showed me a large ledger of accounts neatly maintained and well organized. He pointed out the names of some of the wealthier folks in town who still owed him money from years before and who had never offered to pay. As he moved his finger down the names, I asked him if it made him mad. He said, “It stirs me up a bit.” Then he simply smiled and quietly said, “But maybe they needed it more than I did.”

I will always remember that moment. Here stood a man, bigger than life with his huge arms and a bigger smile, who could not bring himself to say anything stronger than, “It stirs me up.” To the day he died many years later, I never heard this man say a mean-spirited word. As I have grown older, I find myself very grateful for the lessons I learned from Grandpa Wilson. I have been led to believe that misplaced anger or frustration and mean-spirited talk rarely satisfy issues or resolve conflicts. However, sometimes I run across situations that “stir me up a bit.”

I recently was called to testify before a legislative committee in support of a bill that would give one of our Boards of Accountancy the ability to better fulfill their role and responsibility to protect the public. This particular Board has had so much of its funding stripped away that it is struggling to provide even minimal administrative and enforcement activities. During the hearing, Board members and State Society leadership gave compelling and passionate testimony as to their desperate situation. Following their testimony, a state official boasted of the efficiency of the department because they “spent the least amount per licensee for regulation of any state.” The official’s complete lack of understanding of the responsibility of the State Board is perplexing and “it stirs me up a bit.”

In mid-February I was meeting with staff members preparing for the Executive Directors’ (ED) Conference. At the staff meeting, I learned that a large state had withdrawn their ED’s permission to attend the conference. It was not the first time states had done this. As a proud former ED, I know firsthand the importance of this conference. I learned so much from my tenured peers at past NASBA conferences and developed relationships that I could call on for support and guidance during my term. The decision to disallow the ED’s attendance was not a resource decision, as NASBA would have gladly provided a scholarship, but a part of a blanket no travel policy. Our failure to convince states of the critical importance of participation by staff and volunteers in NASBA meetings and conferences is unacceptable, and “it stirs me up a bit.”

We recognize these are tight state budget times. Legislatures are seeking ways to bring in more funds and to hold the line with revenue neutral legislation. Staff cuts and benefit adjustments in state government are common. However, the value of meeting with peers from across the country to discuss mutual problems and successes is incalculable.

As we attempt in our effort to promote uniformity and consistency among all the States and Territories, we are down to only a few that have not passed important elements of the Uniform Accountancy Act including: mobility, peer review and firm ownership. This is not a profession vs. State Board issue. Typically the State Board and State Society are supportive of the legislative effort to pass these important measures, but are curtailed by special interests, a single key legislator or the inability to accept outside resources. In some cases, State Board members are not allowed to speak to, or lobby for, needed legislation. The delays and barriers to legislative success are a problem, and “it stirs me up a bit.”

NASBA is not resting on its laurels. Increasing our focus on State Board relations, legislative support and proactive research into how we can find relief from unfounded prohibitions are just part of our efforts to enhance the effectiveness of State Boards. It is critical that our approach is measured, politically expedient and not over-zealous. Attendee input at our conferences helps to hone that approach. We cannot get angry or frustrated….but, in truth, “it stirs me up a bit!”

Semper ad meliora. (Always toward better things.)

— Ken L. Bishop
President and CEO

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