Archive for September, 2009

MINING FOR LOBBYISTS

September 28, 2009

Hello? Yes…this is Connie, what can I do for you?

Oh, I’m sorry to hear that….but, you are not alone. Quite a few state government relations managers discover that they have “secret lobbyists” in their company.

Secret Lobbyists ? What’s that about?

Well to begin, they are not completely secret.

Somebody hired them and presumably someone is paying for them to lobby or consult. The problem is that the person IN CHARGE of interactions with state and local government did not know about them until well after the fact.

How is that possible?

Easy.

Many companies are comprised of divisions or units. Often, there is also a marketing unit that supports the entire company. In many companies, lobbyists hired to support public sector sales are not defined or compensated as such. They are called consultants or advisors and not registered as lobbyists. And, their activities are not coordinated with the state government relations (SGR) department – despite the fact that these individuals are often communicating with state legislators, governors, executive branch officials and other officials.

One newly hired executive recently discovered that while an inherited lobbyist was not a secret, the fee for the consultant who brokered the arrangement with the lobbyist was buried in another area of the budget. In some states, that fee would also be reportable as a lobbying expense.

I could list a dozen reasons why such lack of communication and coordination is bad for business, but I’ll confine this blog post to just one aspect: legal liability.

With more states requiring “consolidated” reporting of lobbying expenses, not being aware of expenditures that have to be reported is dangerous. And, while the forms typically include the phrase, “To the best of my knowledge” above the signature line, no SGR manager wants to answer for their company’s inability to track lobbyists.

If you are worried about “secret lobbyists” here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Look up your own company on state lobbyist registration rosters. All are available online and a complete list with web addresses is available from Stateside Associates. That will not help you with unregistered consultants, but it is a start.
  2. If you are responsible for lobbyist reporting, make the case to your General Counsel (or higher) that anyone hired to represent your company before state and local government has to be cleared by your department or at least reported to you. Edicts like this need to come from high up.

 

Connie Campanella cc@stateside.com

Federal Health Care Reform isn’t the only thing going on … This Week in Health Care

September 25, 2009

While most eyes are on Congress, health care reform is proceeding apace at the state level.  Our eyes are focused squarely on the states.  In the insurance arena, states are looking at a number of reforms, including the development their own public options. States are also continuing to grapple with shortfalls in revenue and budget gaps that are frequently attributable to Medicaid spending.  For those states out of session, interim committees and regulatory agencies are currently looking at a variety of cost containment and procurement options as they consider the grim revenue projections for next year.

Every Wednesday, Stateside Associates is providing a round-up of state health care related actions and events occurring during the following week.  This Week in Health Care features legislative, regulatory agency and national policy group activities covering a wide scope of policy areas including pharmacy, medical assistance, health plan and provider specific developments.

The current issue of This Week in Health Care is available online at http://www.stateside.com/this-week-in-health-care.php, and is also available via email by contacting Robert Holden at rah@stateside.com.

EPA and the States: Is The Honeymoon Already Over?

September 24, 2009

The nation’s state environmental agency commissioners gathered this week for the 15th Annual meeting of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS).  Coming into the meeting that was held in Whitefish, Montana (just outside of Glacier National Park) you would think that the states were optimistic for the renewed partnership between the states and EPA.   

Lisa Jackson was appointed EPA Administrator last March and within weeks of her appointment, she addressed the ECOS members during their Spring Meeting with talk of partnership between the states and EPA.  As a former ECOS member, Jackson assured ECOS members that things were going to be different.  After all, she was appointed to the position from her post as Commissioner of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.  She was one of them, and she respected state’s rights and was optimistic about the ability of EPA and the states to work together to make smart environmental policy.

Jackson caught up with all of her former colleagues at that Spring Meeting, and it was quite clear to everyone that this new EPA Administrator was a friend of the states.  Texas and Florida rejoined ECOS after having their membership lapse for a number of years.  Coming out of that Spring Meeting, it was a good time to be a state environmental commissioner.

But that sense of partnership coming out of the Spring Meeting appears to have vanished here in Whitefish.  Several weeks ago EPA’s Office of Environmental Compliance Assurance (OECA) sent letters to the states outlining their priorities.  While not uncommon for EPA to indicate enforcement priorities to states generally, this time OECA outlined specific priorities for each state…sort of like “marching orders” for the states to manage the enforcement of their environmental laws.  This correspondence was not well received.

While the ECOS members chose not to publicly air their grievances and general disinterest in having EPA tell them how to run their own programs, this was discussed in a closed session.  To make matters worse, Administrator Jackson cancelled her appearance at the meeting.  And contrary to normal etiquette at ECOS, the new EPA Administrator failed to provide an alternative lunch speaker, who would have profusely apologized for the Administrator’s absence and assure the ECOS members that this EPA was committed to this relationship.

What is clear coming out of this meeting is that this EPA under Lisa Jackson is an aggressive one.  It is an EPA with a big agenda with little time for partnership building to get in the way of moving forward with bold changes in environmental regulation.  It certainly appears that the honeymoon is over, and states with dwindling budgets could be in for a very long–and expensive–Administration.

Mark Anderson


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