“Too many people do not know what we do,” Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy Executive Director James Corley, CPA, told the executive directors’ meeting. “It is not enough for people to know the importance of CPAs to the capital markets. People don’t know what an audit is or what is done for banks.” Mr. Corley observed that more needs to be done to make the work of the CPA easily understood by average people. “How could you make an investment decision without a financial report? They want to know their retirement balance is safe and that their investments are being looked at. I want legislators to hear every instance in our code where ‘CPA’ is mentioned or an audit required. CPA firms are getting it right: They are producing reports that the public can rely on.”

“Right to Work” legislation has appeared in Arkansas and NASBA Director of Legislative and Governmental Affairs John Johnson has assisted Mr. Corley and the Board in educating legislators. The CPA Society also hired a lobbyist to assist in that effort. The Society became involved in a coalition with the Chamber of Commerce, and when the legislators saw those groups working together “that pretty much killed the bill in 2017,” Mr. Corley said.

Mr. Corley is a member of the Accountancy Stakeholders Work Group (ASWG) that also includes Nevada State Board of Accountancy Executive Director Viki Windfeldt, Virginia Society of CPAs Vice President of Advocacy Emily Walker, EY Director of State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Tammy Valazquez, AICPA Vice President Regulatory and Legislative Affairs Skip Braziel, Society of Louisiana CPAs Executive Director & CEO Ron Glitz and Mr. Johnson. NASBA Vice President Strategic Planning & Program Management Ed Barnicott explained that the members of the ASWG have taken on different assignments: NASBA and the State Boards are to take the lead in messaging; the AICPA is to focus on advocacy; and coalition building is to be led by the State CPA Societies. “We needed a work group to develop strategies and resources to help Boards deal with the anti-regulatory environment we are working against now,” Mr. Barnicott stated.

Mr. Braziel said the anti-regulatory movement began in 2015 and over time more and more bills have been introduced supporting this agenda. “They have very good story tellers, people trying to climb the economic ladder, and they use words like ‘justice,’ ‘equality’ and ‘liberty’ as themes. They want to keep the story going that government is bad, “ Mr. Braziel observed. “It is time to take a step forward and we need a broad messaging campaign of our own…Get our story in mass media outlets. We can’t be afraid to talk about the good of licensing and the value propositions created.”

In Louisiana, a coalition of the CPAs and the realtors was formed to oppose the “Right to Earn a Living Act,” and that grew to a coalition including 47 member groups, Mr. Glitz reported. Their work continues as the new session begins in April.

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