Now that the election is over, the Legislature is back for that time-honored tradition known as the lame duck voting session—that period between Election Day and the swearing in of the newly elected representatives, which this year will be on Jan. 14. So now is the perfect time to talk about advocacy.

My previous ChamberLink columns focused on networking and learning opportunities that NJBIA and our ChamberLink partners share. Indeed, a fundamental benefit of ChamberLink is offering reduced member-pricing to each other’s events. But another purpose is to pool our resources to lobby state government on the biggest business issues. We believe our voices can be louder and more influential if we work together in areas where we have common ground.

I don’t have to tell you how challenging New Jersey’s business climate is. In the last two years, however, scores of legislative mandates and tax increases have made it even tougher for small businesses. So it’s no surprise that advocacy is a big part of what NJBIA does. At present, our Government Affairs team is following 3,500 pieces of legislation pending in both the Senate and the Assembly, any of which can be brought up for a vote at any time. Local chambers of commerce have a crucial role to play in advocacy, and they play their role well.

What we all need is more participation from individual businesses. It’s a lot to ask, I know: Business owners and operators don’t have enough hours in the day as it is. But nothing we do in favor of or against a particular piece of legislation can have the same impact as business owners speaking directly to the legislators who represent them.

At NJBIA, we try to make it easy for businesses to get involved. If you are interested in what NJBIA’s Government Affairs team is working on and perhaps in a position lend your experience to inform our policy positions, please contact them, or let me know and I will see to it that they receive your message. NJBIA has the largest business lobbying team in Trenton.  Please take a moment to learn how they are working on your behalf.

Another way to get involved is through our Employer Legislative Committees. The ELCs, as we call them, are NJBIA affiliates that operate independently and represent all 21 counties. ELCs meet regularly for breakfast or lunch with legislators, cabinet members or local officials. We rely on local volunteers to chair the individual ELCs and determine who the speakers are, and when and where meetings will be held. Click the above link for more information.

Whether you’re a member of the local chamber of commerce or NJBIA, your contribution to New Jersey is invaluable. Our private sector businesses create jobs and keep our economy going through good times and bad. Making sure your voice is heard is a responsibility that NJBIA and our local chambers of commerce take very seriously.

We now return to our regularly scheduled networking!