NARFE LEGcon19 Summary – Alexandria Virginia – 10 to 13 March 2019

NARFE LEGcon19 Summary – Alexandria Virginia – 10 to 13 March 2019

 

Prepared by: Robert Ruskamp                                                                                          Date: 23 March 2019

President, Nevada Federation

 

The following is a summary of the NARFE Legislative Conference (LEGcon19) held in Alexandria, VA from Sunday, 10 March 2019, through Wednesday, 13 March 2019. I was the only attendee to the conference from the state of Nevada.

The general event consisted of morning and afternoon plenary sessions in which NARFE officials and public political (Congressional) figures addressed the participating NARFE membership. There were a total of four breakout sessions, which addressed the following topics: Advocacy, NARFE-PAC, Mock Congressional Meetings, and Making the Most of Hill Day. Conference attendees were divided into groups that were rotated through each of the breakout sessions.

Entries in the summary preceded by “Q/A” are points that were raised during question and answer part of the respective sessions.

 

Sunday, 10 March – Afternoon General Plenary: The NARFE National President, Mr. Ken Thomas, made introductory remarks and introduced the NARFE HQ staff. He then commented on working with Congress and the need to work across the aisle. There have been a total of 21 government shutdowns, which are counterproductive. There is a continuing challenge to federal benefits. Members need to contact their legislators to voice their disapproval. The Civil Service needs to be modernized. CSRS anuants are relatively fortunate. The Federal Long Term Care Program needs reform. All politics start at the local level. Congressional staff provides the key to legislators. NARFE represents the interests of about five million employees and retirees.

The NARFE Vice President for Advocacy, Ms. Jessica Klement, gave a review of the 115th Congress. Threats remain and about $192 billion has been taken from federal benefits. There is discussion of such measures as eliminating FERS COLAs, going from high three to high five years to compute annuity, eliminating the FERS annuity supplement, and reducing the yield of the TSP G-Fund (the only “safe” option in the TSP). The NARFE message is resonating on the Hill. The proposed Postal Reform bill could have a huge ripple effect since it implies change in (health) benefits during retirement. The Pay Freeze has been overridden. There is a need to keep harmful measures out of legislation and NARFE needs to strengthen its opposition. Budget threats remain (e.g. Postal Service Task Force). The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reform is not likely to pass. We need to improve COLAs. FERS retirees will not receive the full amount. The current consumer price index formula (CPI-W) is tailored to urban wage earners who are age 62 or less. When visiting legislators, talk about what NARFE does, capitalize on what you did in your career, emphasize its meaning, and give a dollar value if you can. Try to give the shutdown a personal face. NARFE sponsored a Shutdown Central information page on its website and strengthened its image as a benefits information (expert) source. A bill to end uncertainty was passed to guarantee feds back pay. In grassroots, about 200K NARFE members represent over 5 million feds. Advocacy should keep it simple and make it personal, but avoid politics. NARFE PAC helps strong supporters, builds relationships, maintains relevancy, and puts NARFE “at the table”. NARFE goal was to take in $1.5M, but received almost $1.9M. This supports advocacy (for example: sending NARFE members to local fundraisers). The PAC still needs more sustainers, as these form the backbone of the

 

PAC effort. Q/A: How to identify specific legislative issues. Need to address the President’s Budget and budget cuts. There is a recruitment and retention problem (6% are under 30 years old and less than 1% are under 25 years old). Shutdowns lead to demoralization. Mr. Ken Thomas (NARFE National President) discussed the air traffic control shutdown exemption and pointed out that shutdowns also affect state and local governments. Should maintain choice for feds (e.g. Postal Reform and Medicare).  Helen Zajak (RVP, Region VIII) suggested offering membership applications to staffers during the meetings. Molly Checksfield and Jessica Klement then gave remarks on orientation and logistics for “Hill Day”. Monday, 11 March – Morning Plenary: The director of the Federal Managers Association (FMA) introduced herself and gave introductory remarks. FMA was a cosponsor of the conference.

 

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD): Feds work for quality of life and the country acknowledges this service however, President Trump sees Feds as easy targets. There is a need to push for higher COLAs. Funding fights stand before us. Government shutdowns are not acceptable. Retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees is now a fact. There is too much outsourcing of government work. It is most important to avoid government shutdowns. The Overseas Contingency fund is not a viable solution. In addition, we need non-DoD funding since this also has national security implications. There are currently about 40,000 vacancies in the Veterans Administration. We need more investment and support for unions. He discussed the Democrat platform to improve accountability and voting rights. Q/A: An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) retiree made comments and pointed out problems, such as lost data, that resulted from the shutdown. We need a better public relations (PR) program for government employees.

 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD): We need to fight for federal benefits and defend the federal service as noble calling. The government is an instrument of public policy. We need to return to constitutional principles, such as separation of church and state and the emoluments clause. Q/A: Congress needs to make more progress. Possible consideration of line item veto for legislation. The senator pointed out that it is tough even to get a budget passed. The issue of political rights for DC residents (possible statehood) was mentioned as well as legislation for automatic continuing resolutions (CR). President Trump is attempting to “work around” Congress. We need more Congressional control and a return to onstitutional basics.

 

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA): Government employees are most important since democracy works only if government works. He spoke on what he called the “seven points” of optimism. He praised NARFE activity on the Hill. In terms of policy he favors: a paid family leave bill, paid bereavement leave, and a commitment to the CPI-E and reject the chained CPI. The Social Security Fairness Act repeals the Windfall Elimination Provision (government pension offset). There should be an option to opt out of Medicare Part B. He stated that a government shutdown is a “stupid tactic”. The President’s Budget is only a wish list. Q/A: We have massive national debt. The senator considers himself to be a deficit hawk, but socially progressive. The current budget is half for the Department of Defense (DoD) and half for “other”. The Iraq invasion of 2003 was a mistake and Congress needs to take back its powers regarding war making. Personnel problems in the White House were bad under President Obama, but are worse under Trump. The accounting for the refunding of Social Security is “a bit vague”. Breakout 1 – Advocacy (M. Checksfield): Advocacy is a year-round effort, which requires preparation of goals, focus, starting dialog, and communication. NARFE maintains a Legislative Action Center (LAC) on the website. Communications is the key. Have others join in advocacy and view webinars. NARFE leaders are looked to for their experience. There is a NARFE toll-free phone (800) number. Attendees need to take their skills home and find persons to help take follow on steps. The Advocacy Department helps to make this easier. Some issues need immediate action for which personal email is best. Attendees should keep legislator and staffer business cards for reference. The Congressional recess period is the best time to schedule meetings in the home district. NARFE maintains an online calendar. The budget process operates year round. The President’s budget is only a blueprint and the full budget for 2020 is expected to be available during the coming week. The preliminary came today. All proposals are “pay-fors” for other legislation and threats will remain when budget complete. August is generally the best time to schedule home district meetings. One can also arrange meetings in June or July, but there might be more competing groups. Community events are also a possibility (check public calendars). Can invite legislators to summer social (chapter/federation) events, which can be used to present concerns (election campaigns, newsletters, etc.) and to build relationships. NARFE quick action on time sensitive issues is important. Information can go to everyone and members can update their email addresses online.  Q/A: There were several suggestions and discussion of problems regarding email addresses. One problem is how to appeal to millennials. There is a newsletter size reduction issue and a need for information sharing. It is effective to emphasize state and district impact. Have a relevant story, and present reasons to support, or oppose, legislation. Work with congressional district leaders (CDLs) and senate leaders (SLs) to build relationships. Remind legislators and staffers of your NARFE membership. Find common ground, say thanks, be relevant, cut out jargon, and tell a compelling story. Remember that it is okay to say “I don’t know”. Stay informed, stay involved, and use the NARFE event feedback form (available online).

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA): The senator addressed the shutdown and acknowledged NARFE support. He stated that it is an honor to promote government work. The shutdown will have ripple consequences. He named as examples the problem of providing child care, the “lockout” problem (workers bared from office access), coverage of withdrawals from TSP, and the back pay guarantee. He formally objected to Congress adjournment during the shutdown and discussed voting on the back pay bill. The President’s budget proposal is bad! The overseas contingency provision amounts to a “slush fund”. NARFE support is needed to shape budget. The President’s proposed boarder wall is a non-military “emergency”, which will affect the Military Construction (MilCon) budget. NARFE support helped get us out of the shutdown with fixes. There is a danger of tyranny if there are no civil service protections. He closed by thanking NARFE for its support.

 

Breakout 2 – NARFE PAC (Ross Apter): Mr. Apter addressed the basics of NARFE PAC, which is the political arm of NARFE. NARFE now has a new PAC pin for contributors. The PAC is non-partisan and is not for presidential election (i.e. Congress only). The PAC fund is separate from notepad, calendars, and other income. No membership dues money is given to candidates. The PAC has relevancy on national scale. It helps to promote strong legislative supporters, builds relationships, supports attendance at fundraisers, etc., and shows engagement and advocacy. The PAC continues to grow in relevancy. Mr. Apter presented the 2018 spending chart. NARFE may spend up to $5,000 per legislator for primaries, and up to $5,000 for national ($10,000 total). The PAC is becoming more effective with 213 of the supported candidates winning and only 17 loosing. One example is the victory of Rep. A. Spanberger (D- VA), who has much government experience. NARFE needs “facetime” with legislators, and not just contribution checks. NARFE members attended almost 400 events during the last cycle. The Leadership PAC is separate. Locals attend district events and some members have good relations with legislators. PAC goals for last year were largely met, except for new sustainers. We expect the 2020 election campaign to be very competitive. The NARFE consultative process is generally as follows: Candidates solicit for NARFE support. Federation presidents and CDLs/SLs consult with locals for input. NARFE then weighs consideration factors, such as candidate appearances at NARFE local events and responses to the NARFE candidate questionnaire. Q/A: PAC leaders can set up one-on-one fundraisers with legislators (e.g. informal coffees). Leadership PACs were mentioned. A Political Report is available to provide information on the status of Congressional races. There is an ongoing cycle of PAC contributions with different possible levels of awards for candidates and legislators. The minimum is typically $1,000. Don’t mention NARFE PAC on the Hill or local district offices!

 

Afternoon Plenary – Staff Panel: There was an introduction and backgrounds of panel members. Congressional district offices are the primary venue. The legislative assistant, rather than the legislator, is the policy expert. It is easier to schedule meetings at district offices during recess. Advocates should be passionate about issues, even if there are only one or two. The panel members gave tips on how to conduct the meetings. Arrive a maximum of five minutes early for the appointment. Remember that Congress works for you. Don’t discuss politics, since the political world is separate from the government (i.e. official) world. Note that failing to make the right impression could result in a “misdirected constituent request”.

 

Optional Breakout Session – NARFE PAC Leader Training (Ross Apter): Mr. Apter reviewed the objectives and goals of the PAC and emphasized the importance of sustainers. The leader’s role is to educate members. PAC is a separate fund from other income. Leaders need to explain why the PAC is important, how it works, and how it affects the NARFE mission (most important). Need to be proactive in soliciting contributions (i.e. ask for these). Collect and mail fund contributions and issue the newly designed PAC pins as appropriate. Recommendations for contributions are a big factor. The Recommendation process gives members a say in the use of PAC funds. Solicitation factors are: support for NARFE, relationships, the federation recommendation, influence of the legislator, competitiveness of the race, and the overall PAC budget. New candidates have no voting record, so the NARFE candidate questionnaire is required. Local fundraisers are important. What to do at the event: research member, pick issues, elevator speech, pick moment, don’t forget staffers; Share information: contribution/distribution, answer questions, report on fundraiser; new PAC logo; PAC FAQ sheet; collection form, contribution form. Contribution checks are to be made payable to NARFE PAC, and can be accepted from members only. Wear your PAC pin. It is okay to mention NARFE PAC at fundraising event (only). There is to be no quid pro quo for official actions! There are only a couple of state PACs, which have no national management. There is a two-week benchmark for solicitation turnaround.

 

Tuesday, 12 March – Morning Plenary: The chairwoman of the FMA introduced herself and made general remarks. Jessica Klement then made remarks regarding common issues and concerns.

 

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA): Expressed support for NARFE and acknowledged NARFE support for benefits. He asked: “why is Trump mad at you?” He acknowledged the need for business capital investment. In the present administration, feds are denigrated. He acknowledged feds for showing up to work without pay during the shutdown. Feds need parity with military pay. The President budget targets feds most of all, but it is “dead-on-arrival”. The president clearly has distain for feds, but we are better than this. Contractors are also affected and President Trump has a reputation of “stiffing” contractors. The so-called “Stop Stupidity Act” would withhold pay for Congress and White House members and their staffs during a shutdown. There is currently too much emphasis on short-term returns. We have the monetary capital, but not enough trained people. Tax laws should favor people (i.e. training) as well as production of goods and we must invest at least as much in “human capital” as for goods. He expressed his thanks and urged feds to keep watching the news (“don’t turn the TV off”). Q/A: Need to keep government work attractive and need to improve transition from military to civilian life. Contractors tend to “wait

out” transients. There has been a 20% decline in human capital over the last 10 years. There needs to be benefits for anyone who works. Feds need recognition by leadership and keep promises to workers.

 

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK): The senator gave a short prerecorded address by video. He is a member of the Committee for Federal Workforce. He thanked feds for staying in to work without pay during the shutdown. He favors legislation to hold feds harmless during a possible shutdown. This legislation is in the works and is bipartisan. Government should keep its benefits promises to feds, accelerate hiring, expedite security clearances, and streamline retirement.

 

Panel Question and Answer Session: There needs to be more advertising for NARFE. This presents a challenge for the chapters. We are now marketing the NARFE brand with a changed look for the 21st Century. The focus is to be on new (younger) membership. The Advocacy Department is now working with government executive agencies. The President’s new budget proposal includes: postal reform, COLAs, and WEP reform. The panel raised the possibility of holding a LEGcon each year (i.e. annually). This could mean much change from the present format.  Attendees must be focused and prepared. They should consider local district office follow-up. The President’s budget contains many of the same proposals as last year, of which the COLA issue is probably the biggest. Personal stories help considerably to sell the NARFE narrative.

 

Breakout 3 – Mock Meetings: Three NARFE staff members did several mock (staged) interviews to illustrate the best ways to approach Congressional legislators and their staffs during the “Hill Day” on Wednesday. They recommended that members discuss overall policies, and not particular cases. Discuss NARFE top two issues (i.e. benefits and COLAs and Postal Reform), give legislators and staffers information in advance, and know what (if anything) the legislator has done for NARFE.

 

Breakout 4 – Making the Most of Hill Day (J. Klement): Tailor your message and “know before you go” (see NARFE checklist). The Oversight Committee is big for NARFE. The Appropriations Committee handles federal pay raises. The Ways and Means Committee addresses Medicare (Parts A and B). Tailor your meeting to the committee (if applicable). There is now much political ideology, polarization, and gerrymandering (which accounts for so few purple districts). There are several types of Caucuses: Progressive, New Dems, Main Street (and the Tuesday Group), and the Freedom Caucus. You’re your legislator committee assignments and voting record. Know your “state sheet”, and avoid politics. One can perhaps bring up a fundraiser conversation, but don’t mention fundraiser itself.  Do “homework” on the legislator. What bills did they cosponsor? Have they attended a NARFE function? Check legislator biographies to see if they have done federal service. It is good to make points with the legislator, or staffer, and try not to leave without an “ask”. There is now some sympathy in the country for feds due to the shutdown. “Storytelling” should include a personal touch and focus on NARFE issues. “Read” your audience. A “don’t know” implies getting back with an answer and establishes rapport with staff. Ask for a picture photo only if meeting directly with Congress members. Q/A: What to ask for a sympathetic legislator? Emphasize fed contributions to debt reduction. There is currently consideration to roll the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) over into the General Services Administration (GSA). There is a Problem Solver Caucus which is bipartisan. There are also now 63 pieces of legislation on shutdown, which so far are not going anywhere.

 

Afternoon Plenary: Kathy Hensley (NARFE Secretary/Treasurer) introduced Mr. David Lusk (NARFE Grassroots and Advocacy). He stated that interests-based advocacy is the key to success. The average time to pass legislation is now about seven years. There are now over 89 freshman legislators (the House of Representatives expanded to 435 in 1913). The effectiveness of email has been lessened by the increase in volume. There has been no congressional staff increase since 1970 and there is now an average of about 125 meetings per week. Especially with “change” elections there is a knowledge gap due to staff turnover. The best success goes to organizations that maintain contact and help to educate politicians. Advocacy organizations do have an impact. Voice-over-time means tracking what is going on in the home districts. The relationship should be that the legislator comes to citizen. Research shows that the citizen carries about five times more weight than a lobbyist. The Advocacy program uses diverse tactics to get Congress to listen, but this takes time. To get even one legislator to support the NARFE position on an issue is significant. Face-to-face is 34 times more effective than email. Use fact sheets, as well as memorable experiences, to support your story. There are two types of constituents: those who give their opinions and those who show interest. The latter is most important. Framing of interest leads to success and increases the chance of persuasion. Emphasize “quality over quantity” and interest-based advocacy. Know who you are talking to. Q/A: none asked

Ms. Hensley made closing remarks for the conference and discussed the logistics for Hill Day. Wednesday, 13 March – Congressional Capitol Hill Day: This event consisted primarily of visits to legislator offices on both the House and Senate sides. The visits were preceded by a constituent coffee, cosponsored by Nevada senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen (both Democrats), to which I had been formally invited. There were over one hundred participants and both senators spoke of the coming challenges to the state of Nevada and their optimism for the future.

 

I was able to arrange appointments to visit the offices of both senators and three of the four House delegates: Dina Titus (District 1), Mark Amodei (District 2), and Susie Lee (District 3). A brief summary of the visits to each follows. In each case, I spoke with a Congressional legislative assistant (the names are given in parentheses after the legislator name below).

 

Rosen (Ms. Bryn McDonough): In this meeting, I had the good fortune to be accompanied and supported by NARFE HQ advocates Mr. Alan Lopatin (Legislative Counsel) and Mr. John Hatton (Director of Legislation and Policy). We were able to discuss a number of issues concerning federal employees and retirees, including such issues as the proposed spending freeze for 2020, the GAO audit, and potential hiring problems for new federal employees due to decreasing incentives for federal workers. The new Postal Reform Bill, which would make Medicare Part B mandatory for Postal employees and retirees, has not yet been introduced. Ms. McDonough expressed interest in obtaining more Nevada-specific data on federal employees and retirees, if available.

 

Cortez Masto (Mr. J. T. Creedon): I introduced myself as a federal retiree with over 35 years of service, all with the Department of Defense (DoD). I expressed our concerns about the recently published Presidential Budget for 2020 and its possible effects on federal employee and retiree benefits. In particular, I expressed concern that our share of coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHB) could be reduced. Mr. Creedon expressed his interest in obtaining specific statistics on increases in FEHB costs over time, which the senator could use to support the NARFE case. I also explained the difference in the Consumer Price Index for Wage Earners (CPI-W) method to compute COLAs, as now used for active employees, as opposed to the proposed Elderly (CPI-E) method that better reflects the needs of retirees. I also expressed our concern about the precedent of mandating Medicare Part B for Postal employees and retirees and the dangerous precedent that this would set. Mr. Creedon seemed to be quite curious about NARFE, and ready to provide assistance. He also expressed his appreciation for the work that the NARFE Headquarters staff does in the area of advocacy.

 

Titus (Ms. Christine Godinez): Due to schedule constraints, I had to hold a hallway meeting with the legislative assistant. I did a quick summary of my federal employment background to emphasize its importance and explained our concerns about the new president-proposed budget. I also briefly discussed the proposed Postal Reform Bill and its provision for mandatory Medicare enrollment and our opposition to this. During our meeting, I was able to briefly meet Congresswoman Titus who introduced herself. She expressed her support for the federal community and offered to take part in any local community functions that NARFE might sponsor in or around her home district.

 

Amodei (Mr. Ken Brooke): I introduced myself and gave a brief summary of my federal work experience, and expressed my concerns about possible reductions in federal benefits due to the new proposed presidential budget. Mr. Brooke pointed out that funding for federals usually turns out to be significantly above the presidential request as there is usually a Senate plus up of federal benefits. I explained the difference in the CPI-W method to compute COLAs, as now used for active employees, as opposed to the proposed CPI-E method that better reflects the needs of retirees. I explained that the recent government shutdown could have a negative effect on future federal hiring. I also expressed our opposition to privatization of the Postal Service, and our main concern about the precedent of mandating Medicare Part B for Postal employees and retirees.

 

Lee (Mr. Nabeel Alam): Due to scheduling, we had a brief meeting during which I was able to express NARFE concerns about the President’s budget. I reviewed my federal career, in brief, and emphasized the concerns that federal employees and retirees about the potential reduction in federal retirement benefits, particularly with the proposed Postal Reform bill. I also emphasized the need to maintain the value of federal pension benefits through increased COLAs.

 

Also, the NARFE Advocacy Department prepared a four-page state information package, which was well received by all of the legislative assistants. In most cases, they said that these presented new information with which they were not familiar. In general, this shows that the effort to “show the flag of NARFE” on Capitol Hill remains important, even in turbulent times.

The Congressional Hill visits were followed by a reception in the foyer of the Rayburn Building (House side), which featured remarks by House members of Congress.

NARFE FEDCon18 August 2018

NARFE FEDcon18 Summary Jacksonville Florida
 August 25 – 29  2018

Prepared by: Robert Ruskamp Date: 20 September 2018
President, Nevada Federation

The following summary is based on notes that I took during my attendance at the NARFE FEDcon18 National Conference, with associated meetings, held at the Regency Hyatt Hotel in Jacksonville Florida on 27 and 28 August 2018. As Nevada Federation President, I also attended the Joint NEB/Federation Presidents Meeting, the Federation Presidents-Only Meeting, and the National Annual Business Meeting that followed the Conference.

A general outline of the events follows:
Saturday, 25 August: Joint NEB and Federation Presidents Meeting (morning and afternoon)

Sunday, 26 August: Federation Presidents-Only Meeting (morning only)
Monday and Tuesday, 27 & 28 August: Two Main Conference days, which consisted of a general plenary opening session featuring a distinguished guest speaker, followed by a morning and afternoon training session chosen from about 18 alternatives. There was also a closing general session on each day, which also featured a distinguished guest speaker.

Wednesday, 29 August: The NARFE Annual Business Meeting (morning), which featured statements by the outgoing National President, Mr. Richard Thissen, and the Secretary/Treasurer, Mr. Jon Dowie. Other speakers included receivers of awards for recruitment, Alzheimer’s (three speakers), and installation of the new regional vice presidents (RVPs).
The conference also included exhibits featuring a variety of vendors of services of interest to the NARFE Community as well as information booths for such subjects as NARFE-PAC, Advocacy, and Grassroots support.
A more detailed description of the above general schedule follows. Note that, for the morning and afternoon training sessions, I could only give summaries of the sessions that I personally attended, since the number of sessions offered was almost twenty in total.
Joint NEB and Federation Presidents Meeting – Saturday, 25 August 2018
NARFE National President Richard Thissen welcomed everyone to the meeting and made introductory remarks. He expressed his view that the Association is viable and the new Executive Director, Ms. Barb Sido, is providing professional management. The vote on the Bylaws was successful and these are being updated. NARFE is losing fewer members per year as a percentage and migration from chapter to national has slowed and is expected to stabilize. Fed retirees have not taken losses since 1992, though active employees have suffered some hits. There are still rough times ahead and a need to support advocacy. Since OPM will no longer provide contact information list to NARFE, NARFE will resort to advertising techniques (e.g. webinars) to obtain contact information. Although organizations such as FEEA are now operating on a fee for service basis, it is still profitable to continue cooperation with them.
The National Secretary/Treasurer, Mr. Jon Dowie, pointed out the need to compensate for size differences in NARFE federations. The National Executive Board (NEB) Planning Committee will provide new insights and the Financial Planning Committee provides for fiduciary responsibility. The present regional structure is perhaps not the optimal national organization. Lack of leadership to provide adequate staffing remains the biggest problem at federation and chapter levels. About 250 chapters have closed during his tenure and only about 1000 currently remain active nationwide. Completely revised national bylaws are now being worked and the completed revision might be available by January 2019. Multi-signatory authority is needed on bank accounts and the chapter audit format should be revised to include bank statements.
The NARFE Executive Director, Ms. Barb Sido, introduced the briefers for the NARFE standing committees who gave the following summaries (abbreviated here):
Advocacy: The committee structure is being revised with emphasis on congressional district liaisons (CDLs) and their qualifications. Developing structure and guidance for engagement with legislative staff, which covers what a CDL is and what he or she should do. There is a website link to three guidance documents and the NARFE Legislative Action Center (LAC) provides regular status updates and should be checked frequently (e.g. once per month). Potential CDLs must be identified and then convinced to serve. Federations should also consider publishing a “profile booklet” for distribution to legislators to highlight individual federal employee career contributions. Recommend that federation presidents attend the upcoming Legislative Training Conference in March 2019.
Strategic Planning Committee: A plan is in development to determine procedures and timelines for presentation at the FEDcon20. The process is to be data-driven and involves organizational assessment and analysis of finances and the environment. Feedback from National HQ and the field, particularly from federation presidents, is important. A new dues model for the Association is needed. Expect to launch the new plan by the centennial year 2021.
Bylaws and Resolutions (B&R) Committee: The B&R Committee evaluated 29 proposed amendments and 18 resolutions. The impact of one-member-one-vote (OMOV) and optional chapter membership (OCM) on federations must still be determined. There are six standing committees and an ad hoc balloting committee. There is a need to relook the actual purpose of federations and the dues structure. RVP term limitations will take effect on 1 November 2018. For the National Bylaws, also do a possible re-look of the recommendations that were either rejected or not-in-order. The preferential voting bylaw change is coming and there is a need to codify OMOV and OCM. This will present a major educational challenge. Bylaws are essential to operate the Association.
Ballot Oversite Committee: Voter turnout was low (only 6.77%) with 70% online and 30% by mail. However, there was more online voting and more national voter participation than expected. Need to improve (i.e. reduce) the size of the resolutions change recommendation report and continue the adopt-all/reject-all voting option.
Preferential Voting (Parliamentarian): There was no majority on the first ballot for national president (NP). Preferential voting must be included in the Bylaws. A plurality-only vote implies the most votes but does not provide a consensus. Possibilities of multiple votes were considered in view of Robert’s Rules.
Business Model (Barb Sido): The model will deliver value to members through new business methods and will involve interviews, focus groups, and be data-driven. Advocacy is critical, but it does not generate revenue. On business side, we need a different approach since NARFE is currently dues-dependent. Infrastructure support (no revenue) vs. programs. The Association must determine how to better provide support to chapters and customized guidance to members. Need less emphasis on administration and more on programs. It is critical to align organization needs to membership needs.
Branding (Bridget Boel): A strong, relevant, and established resource is needed to provide expertise in federal benefits. There must be a uniform, consistent, and evolving message that tells why NARFE is unique. A request for proposal (RFP) was sent to six firms and TGD Creative Strategies and Solutions (Alexandria VA) was selected. There is a six member HQ branding team. The stockholder view of NARFE was determined through phone interviews and online surveys. Results indicate that NARFE is ready for brand update due to outdated messaging, and confusion in advocacy as well as by the NARFE name. Also, a new NARFE logo is to be developed by the end of 2019.
Influencer Analysis (Jessica Klement): There is a common negative image of Feds and a general distrust of government. Detractors are motivated by ideology and monetary concerns and they all have same anti-Fed narrative. This network of distractors, which includes donors, think tanks, “adversary” organizations, and media outlets, is dense and interconnected. The NARFE-allied organizations have the same objectives, but their approaches are different and they are not so interconnected. There are five distractor narratives: no Fed value for the expense; lack of transparency; hindrance to deregulation; privatization can solve any and all issues; and Feds have an “agenda” (this is a growing concern). Need to coordinate messaging with allied organizations and promote their actions. Need to counter the hostile narrative through “storytelling”, which emphasizes what Feds do and to promote greater recognition.
Themes and Recommendations (Barb Sido): There is a need to determine clarity through external evaluation of NARFE. Membership is not the only issue, and NARFE needs a different focus. The core mission of NARFE should be to serve as the first “go-to” for Feds and must be a voice for ideas. A strong federal community implies a strong NARFE and more members means more non-dues (i.e. advertising) revenue. Operational ratios are a benchmark with the objective being more programs with less administration. We want a fully integrated website with better search direction. Need a strategic view of partnerships with regard to their value for NARFE. A “branding bible” is in production.
Chapter Development (Bridget Boel): The Marketing Committee is developing a manual, which will cover logistics, communications, advertising, and leadership development. Optional chapter membership (OCM) raises questions as to whether chapters are relevant and is it worth paying the dues for membership. The purpose of a local chapter should include grassroots, education, and recruitment. Chapter meetings must be relevant, inclusive, and enjoyable. Communication includes newsletters, email, websites, social media, and advertising.
Communication with National Members (Helen Zajak, CA): Reviewed the history of the NARFE eChapter from its formation in 2011 to its disbanding at the National Convention in Reno NV in 2016. At that time, the eChapter had about 32,000 members and an over representation of about 600 delegate votes. Chapter membership is shrinking, potential new members are not joining, and volunteers to serve as congressional district liaisons (CDLs) are hard to find. The NARFE Email System is limited (e.g. district Vice presidents cannot send emails through it). The OAM replacement (AMS) should be available by January 2019. NARFE still remains the “best kept government secret”.
Association Management System (AMS) (Mr. Johan deCastro): He described the present Online Access Management (OAM) system as fragmented and antiquated with a lack of database integrity. The analysis staff and Configuration Administrative Board (CAB) issued a request for proposal (RFP) and the firm ProTech Associates was selected. Their AMS aims to improve staff efficiency, provide interactive and improved reporting and analysis, as well as ease of use. The cost will be about $375K for the first year, with about $85K per year to maintain thereafter. A “soft launch” is planned for January 2019.
Best Practices Panel (NC Delegation, 3 persons): The panel reviewed the progress in adopting the revised bylaws to accommodate OMOV and OCM in the state of North Carolina. They consider the paper ballot process (5,500 mailed) to be a success despite only a 15% rate of vote return. They work with federation membership on such issues as dues, incentives, training, health fairs, and the Blue Cross/Blue Shield program. There is a three year Strategic and Operational Plan that includes a “laundry list” of measurable action items that emphasize core functions. The federation stresses use of the Go-to-Meeting option, which can record meetings and use bulk mailing and pickup points for paper ballots.
Federation Presidents-Only Meeting – Sunday, 26 August
The Florida Federation President, Mr. Terry Zitek, facilitated the meeting, which only lasted from 9:00 a.m. until about noon (three hours), which included a breakout session. Although few, if any, decisions were made during the meeting, the following points were discussed:
– Write up proposal to address database manipulation, NES Access, and open the new message system to more officers.
– Chapter closure procedure is currently a federation president chore. Present guidance needs to be revised and streamlined. Consider forming a regional team for each region to manage chapter closures and provide more direction on documentation for closing chapters.
– Chapter bank accounts should be kept in the name of chapters, not individuals.
– Consider a rewrite of the Membership Renewal letter. Mr. Lea Zajak (CA) has a new proposed draft.
– Need a defined policy to remove a federation officer, if necessary (or review any already existing procedure).
– Consider a possible chapter-less structure for federations.
– Need frequent engagement with legislators (e.g. in CA, NARFE reps visit legislator offices once per month).
– Account for different interests of CSRS vice FERS employees and retirees.
– There is a problem with communication with members who do not have email or internet access (e.g. in Nevada, about 40% of all members do not have electronic access).
– Advertisement is important for recruitment (e.g. military post newspapers, letters to the editor of local newspapers, etc.). Need more article templates for local news media.
– Public library archiving is a possible option. However, financial material may not be archived.
– Suggest possible decision to vote out the OMOV policy in view of low level of participation. If not, at least make federations and chapters exempt (i.e. national only).
– The “adopt-all” and “reject-all” options for bylaws and resolutions voting should be reconsidered.
– Ideas for recruitment which list advantages of NARFE membership for FERS employees.
– Differences in running of health fairs due to state differences (need national level help on this).
– Consider use of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for mutual support to provide needed number of officers between federations (e.g. NH and VT federations currently have such an MOU).
– Possible use of Skype for conference speakers and make quarterly meetings electronic.

Opening General Session – Monday, 27 August

Political Update (Ms. Mara Liasson): Gave a broad discussion of the national political landscape as it relates to federal issues. The political environment is extremely polarized. However the Mueller investigation has had no substantial effect yet on poll numbers, largely because President Trump has delivered to his supporters in such areas as appointing conservative judges, the economy, and de-regulation. Politics is supposed to be based on checks and balances, which are not automatic, as well as
the art of compromise. However, both national parties have been chipping away at constitutional protections. There is now disproportionate representation in Congress where the Republicans tend to win the “real estate”, whereas the Democrats win “the people”. American politics have become an uncivil and profane “reality show”. Although polarization is not new, it can lead to exploitation by foreign powers. The system is not working for most people, despite economic gains. The social safety net, as enjoyed by federal employees and retirees, is the exception.
Office of Personnel Management (OPM) (Dr. Jeff Pon): Stated that he is proud to serve in Washington DC. He mentioned his letter to House Speaker Ryan in which he recommends reductions in federal benefits, but noted that the letter is “going nowhere”. He mentioned that changes are needed to accommodate a new generation. Whereas the military is held in high regard, the civil service is not regarded so much although their contributions are also important.

Morning Training Session – Monday, 27 August

Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) and Medicare (Tammy Flanagan): Medicare is health insurance that consists of four options: Part A is hospitalization (in-patient), Part B is medical (doctor, outpatient, etc.), Part C is Advantage, and Part D covers prescription drugs. Most persons do not need parts C and D, and Part C limits choice of providers. Part A also covers home health care. Medicare is the primary payer, but has no catastrophic or long term care (LTC) coverage. Applicants may choose fee for service (FFS) or health maintenance organization (HMO). New Medicare Identity cards without Social Security numbers (SSNs) are being issued. The new cards should still be guarded. Note that FEHB coverage may be temporarily suspended, however members should not cancel FEHB, as this would be a permanent loss of coverage. Part B premiums are paid monthly (now $134) and there is a 10% permanent penalty for every 12 month period for opting out of Part B. Penalty, longevity, and location therefore, are factors to consider in choosing Part B. FEHB has multi-carrier options and Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BC/BS) is the predominant provider for Feds. Part B also offers Standard or Basic (network-only) options. The 2018 Open Season is 12 November to 10 December with effective date of change 1 January 2019.
Afternoon Training Session – Monday, 27 August
Advocacy (Molly Checksfield): Legislative Chairs ensure uniform NARFE message, strategize with congressional district liaison (CDL) officers, make federations aware of legislative happenings, and build relationships with congressional members. The Legislative Hotline is published weekly when Congress is in session. CDLs should be: passionate, responsive, knowledgeable, connected, reliable, non-partisan, and polite. Roles and responsibilities include: connect with congress, collaborate with other leaders, attend events, and promote NARFE. The Advocacy tab at then Legislative Action Center (LAC) is a one-stop-shop. The Feedback form provides a comeback copy and issue briefs, fact sheets, advocacy webinars, and a thank you form letter are available. Email is generally the best means to communicate with legislative staffers. State-summary fact sheets (one page) are available under “Grassroots”. There are also Legislative priorities (issue briefs) and town hall meeting instructions. NARFE will hold a Legislative Training Conference in Washington DC in March 2019.

Closing General Session – Monday, 27 August

Excellence in Civil Service (Mike Massimino): A former NASA astronaut who performed maintenance work on the Hubble spacecraft gave a talk on the importance of the role of the Civil Service. He emphasized the importance of teamwork and the continuing role of government in space exploration. There will be a technical migration to the private sector and a commercial launch program is coming.

Opening General Session – Tuesday, 28 August

Rethinking Retirement (Tammy Flanagan): Longevity makes it possible to be productive after retirement and deciding when to retire in an aging world makes financial planning important. The Pendleton Act founded the Civil Service as an outgrowth of military pensions. The federal retirement system was introduced in 1920 with the New Deal, Social Security, and the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA). This was to counteract the spoils system of the “Gilded Age”. In 1978, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) introduced the Merit Promotion System. FERS benefit results have been generally comparable to CSRS and government employees are among the best savers. Long term care (LTC) is expensive and 70% of all over 65 need LTC. There will be an ongoing need for retirement specialists.
Morning Training Session – Tuesday, 28 August
Legislative Update and 116th Congress Preview (Jessica Klement): Gave the Congressional recap as follows: No COLA for FERS; reduce COLA by 0.5% for CSRS; increase FERS contributions by 6% (i.e. 1% per year for 6 years, with No added benefit), eliminate the annual FERS supplement (i.e. no bridging the gap between retirement and Social Security), reduce return rate on G Fund (2.4% average for last ten years) and use G Fund to pay for the “highway bill”, and reduce federal leave (i.e. combine annual and sick leave). The percent of government coverage of FEHB premium is to be assessed based on 19 measures with premiums in retirement based on years of service. House and Senate bill budget cuts, tax reform, and sequestration have so far resulted in no Fed benefits cuts, which means that the NARFE message continues to resonate. NARFE has been on defense for the last eight years. The Postal Reform Act requires postal retirees to take Medicare Parts A, B, and D, or lose FEHB coverage. Opposing this measure is a priority, because it sets a bad precedent by changing benefits after retirement. The bills are unlikely to move (unless they are included in a year-end bill). The Trump budget proposed a Federal employee pay freeze for 2019 and the Senate approved 1.9% average raise, but the House bill did not. This amounts to an attack on Feds in a time of prosperity. Recommend feds contact legislators if he or she is serving on the Appropriations Committee. A proposed Government Reorganization would merge the departments of Education and Labor, dismember OPM, and privatize air traffic control and postal services. However, Congressional approval is required for reforms and NARFE expects continued success. As to the 116th Congress: the agenda, budget threats, postal reform, modernization, drug prices, and a federal pay raise, all remain open options. Lobbying, grassroots advocacy, and NARFE-PAC are the three main components in legislative matters. NARFE-PAC is the political arm of NARFE and supports Fed-friendly candidates. Its goals are to raise $1.5M, disburse $1M, attend 100 fundraisers, and obtain 50% more sustainers to allow better planning.
Afternoon Training Session – Tuesday, 28 August
Leadership Development: Chapters comprise an “army” to complete the NARFE mission and there is strength in numbers. A board of “martyrs” (those who do all the work) presents a risk to the chapter through over-reliance. There are three “hot buttons” that one must use to recruit members for jobs: willingness to learn, wanting to help somehow, and the desire to meet people. A healthy board requires at least four candidates for each position. To attract volunteers, try breaking jobs down into smaller tasks and emphasize appreciation of effort. Applause raises energy and the feeling at the end of a meeting is really the feeling about the entire meeting.

Afternoon General Session – Tuesday, 28 August

Mr. Henry Winkler, a professional actor and entertainer, talked about his personal career journey. He expressed his appreciation to “those behind the scenes” (i.e. government employees). He advised all to never finish a negative thought, but rather always move on to something happier.

Annual Business Meeting – Wednesday, 29 August

The closing meeting on Wednesday morning was open to all members and covered a number of issues. Secretary/Treasurer Jon Dowie’s remarks included thanks to all members for their support during his tenure and noted that finances are in generally better condition. Membership decline has led to a dues revenue decline, but non-dues revenue has improved. The goal of governance is to professionalize operations with more rigor. The federation bylaws approval process has been tedious and additional changes may be needed at the federation level. There remains a leadership challenge at all levels.
National President Richard Thissen remarked that the financial position of non-profit organizations generally is precarious. Optional chapter membership (OCM) has had a positive impact on retention and membership losses are decreasing overall and about 40% of all members are now non-chapter. However, there is a need to emphasize the value of chapter membership. The NARFE Magazine remains outstanding and NARFE webinars remain an important source for recruitment and revenue. NARFE has done well in protecting the benefits of federal retirees. There is a need to upgrade the OAM with attention to membership databases and access. He expressed his opposition to a proposed OPM reorganization as “nonsense” and a return to a spoils system. PAC has met its goal of $1.5M. He also discussed the FEEA fee-for-service and the NARFE Alzheimer’s partnership with $13 for research. He thanked all members for their support and stated that NARFE is receiving good support on Capitol Hill.
There also were three Alzheimer’s speakers, one who had mild cognizant impairment (MCI) at age 53, the chairman of the Alzheimer’s Association, and the NARFE National Alzheimer’s Chair. Their remarks were followed by the annual Alzheimer’s regional award presentations.
The three candidates for National President (NP), misters Steve Lenkart, Ken Thomas, and Ted van Hintum, each gave a short speech supporting their candidacy. There was then a memorial service for deceased retirees of the last two years, membership recruitment awards, and the Alzheimer’s and FEEA raffle results. The site for the FEDcon22, St. Louis MO, was announced, and the new National Secretary/ Treasurer, Ms. Kathryn Hensley, and the new regional vice presidents (RVPs) were installed. Mr. Thissen thanked NARFE members for their support and called for support of new national officers and NEB.

NARFE Nevada Federation Officers April 2018

Presidents

Robert Ruskamp............  Federation (NV)
Kathryn Vitalie.............Reno #0142
Jane-Meisel Vaughn......... Las Vegas #0423
Jerry Craig Reed........... Hawthorne #1854
Sharon Brunson..............Henderson #2031
Donald Babb.................Min-Gard  #2167
Pamala Reneri...............Pahrump #2276

Vice President (1st)

Susan Bower ................Reno #0142
Jane-Meisel Vaughn......... Las Vegas #0423
Frank Barcellos............ Hawthorne #1854
Verena Brunson..............Henderson #2031
John Palen..................Min-Gard  #2167
Philiip Reneri...............Pahrump #2276

Vice President (2nd )

Rosemary Damron ............Reno #0142
Jane-Meisel Vaughn......... Las Vegas #0423
Judie Johnson...............Pahrump #2276

Secretary

Beverly Bower...............Reno #0142
Jane-Meisel Vaughn......... Federation NV
Paula Perez.................Las Vegas #0423
Leatha Barcellos............Hawthorne #1854
Victoria Renneckar..........Henderson #2031
Deborah Reneau.............Pahrump #2276

Treasurer

Donna Neese.................Reno #0142
Donna Neese................ Federation NV
Alice Berly,................Las Vegas #0423
Jeanette Cunningham ........Hawthorne #1854
Janet Smith.................Henderson #2031
Nellie Erskine..............Min-Gard #2167
Ralph Johnson...............Pahrump #2276

Legislative Chair

Eileen Way..................Reno #0142
Frank Barcellos.............Hawthorne #1854
Eugene Abat .................Min-Gard #2167
Ralph Johnson...............Pahrump #2276

Service Officer

Louis Amandio Mendes........Reno #0142
Paula Perez................ Federation NV
Paul Perez..................Las Vegas #0423
Leatha Barcellos... ........Hawthorne #1854
Janet Smith.................Henderson #2031
Homer Boomer................Min-Gard #2167
Pamala Reneri...............Pahrump #2276

Membership Chair Retention

Minnie MacLean..............Henderson #2031

Membership Chair

Susan Bower.................Reno #0142
Verena Briley Hudson....... Federation NV
Jane Meisel-Vaughn..........Las Vegas #0423
George Gazaway..... ........Hawthorne #1854
Harriet Huber...............Henderson #2031
John Plan...................Min-Gard #2167
Pamala Reneri...............Pahrump #2276

Public Relations Officer

Eileen Way................Reno #0142
Leatha Barcellos. ........Hawthorne #1854
Harriet Huber.............Henderson #2031
John Plan.................Min-Gard #2167
Michael Reneau............Pahrump #2276

Editor

Susan Bower.................Reno #0142
Leatha Barcellos... ........Hawthorne #1854
Harriet Huber...............Henderson #2031
Brenda Ball ................Min-Gard #2167

Alzheimer Chair

Larry Ferguson..............Reno #0142
Sharon Brunson............. Federation NV
Jane Meisel-Vaughn..........Las Vegas #0423
Jeannette Cunningham .......Hawthorne #1854
Victoria Renneckar..........Henderson #2031
Lenore Abat.................Min-Gard #2167
Barbara Carter..............Pahrump #2276

PAC Chair

Charles Johnson.............Reno #0142
Janet Smith ................Henderson #2031
John Palen..................Min-Gard #2167

Social Media/WEB Master

Ronaldo Dizon..............Federation (NV)

Network Coordinator

Susan Bower.................Reno #0142
Verena Briley Hudson........Henderson #2031
John Palen..................Min-Gard #2167

Other

Beverly Bower................Reno #0142
Mary Lou Drummond............Federation NV
Leatha Barcellos.............Federation NV