The value of traveling to the state Capitol for small business advocates

Each year the Small Business Advocacy Council travels to Springfield, advocates for legislation that supports the small business community and reminds politicians that small and local businesses drive our economy.

The trip always is carefully planned and packed with opportunities for small business owners and chamber leaders to connect with policymakers. This year’s visit to Springfield was impactful, engaging, and productive.

We started the day by meeting with leaders in the Illinois House of Representatives and proceeded to meet with folks from the governor’s office. During these meetings, we advocated for legislation that provides property tax relief to small businesses that own their spaces, policies that level the playing field for small businesses and a program that provides incentives to businesses that hire formerly incarcerated individuals. We also discussed legislation addressing health insurance because of the profound impact it has on the small business community.

One of our most promising meetings was with leadership at the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), a bipartisan legislative oversight committee that reviews administrative rules proposed by state agencies.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss full implementation of a law that will provide that legislators fully analyze the impact new rules will have on small businesses, make that analysis available, and provide time for small business owners and advocates to make their voices heard before new rules are adopted.

We look forward to working with JCAR, the secretary of state’s office and other policymakers to fully implement this law so that small business owners can get ahead of new rules that may hurt their businesses.

Our group spent time talking with policymakers in the hallways, often engaging in spontaneous discussions about our work and other issues impacting small businesses and the state.

Politicians encouraged their constituents to reach out to them often, express their opinions and offer ideas about how to make Illinois a better place to own and operate a small business. Legislators often were candid during meetings, certainly not reading from talking points but rather expressing their feelings about policies, the state of play in Springfield and what small business owners can do to advance their priorities.

Small business owners and supporters are extremely busy and when politicians see them in Springfield, it has an impact. Policymakers know that for each person who was able to get to our capitol for the day, there are many more watching to see how this session plays out. Hearing directly from small business owners and advocates can have a profound impact on how politicians feel about legislation.

Our Springfield trip also brings together folks from different areas and various industries. This is the epitome of cause-based connecting and the time spent walking the halls of Springfield or grabbing a quick bite in the cafeteria fosters relationships and brings business owners and advocates together.

Our trip was tremendously valuable because it showed how much small business owners and advocates care about advancing policies to support the small business community. The visit also connected us with policymakers for the purpose of drilling down on the impact of legislation and our initiatives.

The race is now on because the spring session is scheduled to conclude in May. We are at the table, pushing our agenda and will work tirelessly for small businesses throughout the spring.

• Elliot Richardson is president and co-founder of the Small Business Advocacy Council. He can be reached at or by calling (312) 548-8608.

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