Archive for the ‘Groups’ Category

Call to Duty: Why Groups Enlist Business to Help with Military Challenges

April 10, 2014

military-civilian-handshake

By Michael J. Behm, Senior Vice President

Paying attention to the military has become much more than a nod to patriotism for state and local officials Groups, but rather an urgent recognition that military-related challenges facing public officials, the Department of Defense (DoD) and business are converging like never before.

The drawdown from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, a flood of returning veterans, massive defense cuts and the threat of a future round of BRAC base closures have created something of a perfect storm of challenges for DoD and the states and local governments which host its installations.

Over the last several years, state and local officials – through their respective Groups – have raced to create leadership-level task forces, special working groups, committees and websites to raise awareness about the military presence in their states, draw attention to incompatible growth around military installations, and focus on wide range of veterans issues.

As an active participant in many of these committees, I am frequently asked the question: If I am not an elected official with a military base in my backyard, should I care about what these military-focused committees are doing?

Business definitely thinks so.

The National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Military and Veterans Task Force has been meeting since 2008, the National Association of Counties (NACo) has created a Veterans and Military Services Committee, the National League of Cities (NLC) has a Military Communities Council, the National Governors Association (NGA) has several ongoing projects addressing veteran employment and military base sustainability, the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) has featured presentations on veteran transition and the Council of State Governments (CSG) and US Conference of Mayors (USCM) have held meetings focused on military installation and veteran issues. The “Big Seven” now meets quarterly to discuss military and veteran issues critical to state and local government.

And private sector involvement with each of these Groups’ military-related programming is growing. Military-focused committee and task force meetings have featured presentations from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Hiring Our Heroes” program; Edison Electric Institute’s “Troops to Energy Jobs” Program; Walmart’s Welcome Home Commitment; and the Home Builders Institute’s training and certification of veterans for employment in the construction industry. The Groups are helping DoD and business to highlight the education, training, on-the-job experience and leadership skills that veterans bring to the civilian job market. Guiding state and local officials to interested employers, and focusing on the veteran employment challenges, have become a very high priority for the Groups over the last two years.

State and local officials Groups and businesses also recognize that finding employers is not the only challenge for recently-separated service members. Neither DoD nor state government has made it easy in the past to translate military education and training into recognized (and required) state professional certifications and licenses. With the prodding of NCSL, NGA, NACo, NLGA, and the support of organizations such as the American Trucking Associations and health professional groups, states have been enacting laws to make it easier for veterans with documented training, work experience and necessary skills to obtain professional licenses such as a CDL, EMT, LPN and PA – licensure for high demand, civilian trucking and health care jobs. In 2013 alone, legislators on NCSL’s Military and Veterans Task Force introduced bills in 16 states – that were then enacted – that ease the professional licensing requirements for skilled veterans.

The Groups are also highlighting the threats posed by uncoordinated and incompatible development and urban sprawl to the nation’s military installations and testing/training ranges and local economies. In many states, the military is among the largest industries and employers and is directly responsible for the economic health of neighboring communities by generating a steady stream of revenue and jobs. When an installation can no longer perform its intended mission – whether that’s sailing ships, flying aircraft, firing artillery, training infantry or testing new technologies – it impacts the ability to realistically train soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. It also puts that “mission” at risk of being relocated or subject to a future round of BRAC.

DoD’s REPI (Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration) Program has used these Groups forums to highlight its cost-sharing partnerships with organizations as diverse as The Nature Conservancy, agri-businesses, foresters, private landowners, conservationists and state and local governments to help avoid or relieve land use conflicts near military installations. These partnerships protect the local economy, critical habitats and at the same time sustain the military presence.

Raising awareness about these problems within the Groups forums, and the benefits the military provides its neighboring communities and businesses, is paying off: Dozens of bills have been enacted since the Groups began addressing everything from compatible land use policies, property buffering, coordination with local military installations about land use changes, limiting lighting that can interfere with military training to creating open space areas around military bases – many of these land use solutions having been born out of discussions at Groups meetings. A number of states – Hawaii being a good example – have also enacted legislation or implemented executive orders intended to protect the military mission by more closely coordinating with state chambers of commerce and other statewide business entities.

Many other issues are being discussed that have a state and local government-military-business nexus, such as renewable energy siting coordination, translating military training and experience into higher-education academic credit, military-energy utility partnerships, National Guard deployments, transportation and infrastructure and Tricare changes to name just a few.

Should your business be involved in those discussions?

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Michael J. Behm is Senior Vice President and a Principal of Stateside Associates. During his 20 years working at Stateside Associates, Mr. Behm’s advocacy work and leadership roles in the state officials Groups have brought him to many state capitols and local governments yielding an extensive network of relationships with legislative leaders and other public officials across the 50 states.

12 Local Officials Groups You Should Not Go Without

April 1, 2014

By Heather Williams, Vice President

local government monitoring

America is well organized. Almost 90,000 county, city, township and special district governments establish policies and procedures for everything from plastic bags at the grocery store to fracking and beyond. And, the interplay between state and local governments on hot topics like data security, fair share, e-cigarettes, minimum wage, procurement changes, health care reform, chemical regulation and pharmaceutical waste makes it increasingly impossible to focus efforts only at the state capitol.

Many state government relations professionals never face (or hope they never face) local government issues. And, that is an understandable sentiment. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to look past what is happening at the local level because the issues are, in many ways, state issues. And, they are influencing what we do in state capitols.

So, what can you do?

When faced with the opportunity or need to create a multi-state or national local officials relationship strategy, there are a number of paths that can be taken. One could take the “go it alone” strategy and travel to each of the jurisdictions of interest to create a relationship with the local official of interest, although this would be a monumental task and an ineffective way to reach this goal. Another route would be to use the relationships of state and local lobbyists by working through them to their rolodex of local officials. But if you are looking for a more coordinated and practical effort, I recommend engaging the relevant local officials Groups.

Let’s start with the three Groups with which we are all most familiar: National Association of Counties (NACo), National League of Cities (NLC) and U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM). These Groups are big and their membership is increasing. This is especially true of NACo and NLC, where recent senior level staff changes have refocused the Groups’ efforts on many things including growing their membership. These policy Groups use member driven policy directives to advocate the federal government on behalf of their membership. In addition they address current issues, monitor trends and serve as an incubator for policy ideas.

If relationships with local officials are what you are looking for, I challenge you to look beyond these three and into additional local Groups engagement opportunities. Looking beyond the three local policy Groups will increase the number of access points you have to local officials. The local officials involved in these Groups, especially within leadership, tend to be the more active, influential and vocal local officials.

Local Partisan Groups

These are the 527 Groups of local officials. Each political party has had a local officials Group since McCain Feingold campaign finance reform split the 527 Groups from the national party organizations.  And, in parallel with the movement of state issues onto local agendas, these Groups are experiencing a political renaissance. Community Leaders of America (CLA) represents Republican mayors and other local elected executives. Democratic Municipal Officials (DMO) is the national association of Democratic mayors, council members, and other municipal leaders. Each Group has state chapters, providing a vast network of relationships to tap into.

State Leagues and Associations

There are 49 state municipal leagues – Hawaii does not have a state municipal league as Honolulu is the only city and it is governed by a consolidated city/county government – and 53 state associations of counties – 47 states have at least one state association and Arizona, Illinois, Washington and West Virginia have multiple. Each state league or association operates independently of the national Groups (NLC or NACo). Membership within the state leagues or associations are handled on an individual basis. If your objectives require a deeper dive into an individual state or a handful of states, consider joining the league or association within a particular state.

Constituency Groups and Affiliated Associations

Local officials also join constituency groups and affiliated organizations. These operate independently of but work collaboratively with NACo and NLC. Six Constituency Groups are associated with NACo and five are associated with NLC. Examples include the National Association of Black County Officials (NABCO), National Association of Hispanic County Officials (NAHCO) and their city counterparts National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) and Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO). Examples of the 25 affiliated associations that work with NACo include National Association for County Community & Economic Development (NACCED), National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and National Association of County Collectors, Treasurers & Finance Officers (NACCTFO). Membership in these Groups covers all 50 states.

There is no question that expanding to incorporate local government Groups into a government relations program requires significant resource commitment. Being more aware of the array of organizations with which you can work may make decisions easier. But, the fact remains – state issues are now local issues and that is not likely to change.

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Heather Williams is Vice President at Stateside Associates. She works to help clients manage state and local government issues. She also manages client relationships with key Groups, including her “alma mater,” the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), where she served as National Finance Director.

No Check? No Problem

March 20, 2014

By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

There are two kind of political candidates.

1. Those who have lots of money or who raise it from their family and friends and,

2. Those who lose.

I “borrowed” that line from a former state legislator (who lost his re-elect, btw) and have used it unabashedly for decades.

Another state legislator recently told Stateside Principal Mike Behm that he tells his local audiences the following: “I have to think about reelection every morning when I wake up and every evening before I go to bed, because I cannot help you with anything unless I get re-elected.”

They are both right, of course. Money is necessary for campaigns. And, as government relations professionals, we are expected to either provide some of it ourselves or to help candidates find it from clients, members and other professional acquaintances.

This year, thousands of state and local offices will be on the primary and general election ballots. If we wanted to, we could spend the remaining 7+ months hosting fundraisers for our favorite candidates across the 50 states. Naturally, we cannot do that much, but we appreciate how events give us the opportunity to get to know candidates better. And, that translates into service down the road for our clients. Yes, there is a connection between politics and policy.

Unfortunately, culture, infrastructure and other reasons leave some organizations out in the cold when it comes to direct political giving.

For example, many associations do not have PACs or political giving budgets.

Some of our corporate clients simply eschew political giving as part of their cultural mores.

Still others cannot engage comfortably in political giving due to “pay to play” or other restrictions.

This blog is for those who want to take advantage of the political season to get to know candidates and develop relationships, but who cannot make political contributions.

At Stateside, we make direct political contributions, but we also like to help candidates and our clients by bringing them together in non-fundraising events or “Meet and Greets.” Ultimately, the candidate hopes to make acquaintances that will become donors, but—unlike fundraisers—the Meet and Greet itself has no ticket price and no “host committee.”

So far this year, we have hosted two state Attorney General candidates, one gubernatorial candidate and two House Speakers interested in maintaining their respective legislative majorities. We will host another dozen or so events before the end of the election season.

To be clear, candidates would much prefer real fundraisers to “Meet and Greets.” We get that. But, sometimes it is the best or only option. For example, some states do not allow actual fundraising during legislative sessions, but “Meet and Greets” are OK. Primaries are often avoided by corporate and association givers, but a “Meet and Greet” can help increase a candidate’s visibility in a competitive field. And, in some states, the partisan demographic is so skewed that the primary IS the election.

If you cannot make direct contributions, consider the “Meet and Greet” as a way to maximize the value of the 2014 election season for your company or association.

Here are some tips:

  1. Always check with your legal counsel first to make sure that no planning or promotion for the event is considered fundraising or reportable as an in-kind contribution that could trigger “Pay to Play” rules.
  2. If you are a corporation, consider a “Meet and Greet” for senior corporate executives.
  3. If you are an association, bring your members together with candidates to help build awareness of your industry and key issues.
  4. Be sensitive to the candidate’s time and need to raise money. Consider scheduling “Meet and Greet” events adjacent to fundraisers so the candidate can do multiple events without additional travel.
  5. Host “Meet and Greet” events at Groups meetings. The candidates and the guests are already there. You bring them together.
  6. Keep “Meet and Greet” events smaller than fundraisers to maximize opportunity for guests and the candidates to talk.
  7. Be bipartisan. Even if you usually prefer candidates of one party, take this opportunity to get to know other contenders–especially in competitive races.
  8. If a “Meet and Greet” is not an option, consider other alternative such as inviting electeds and/or candidates to your corporate facility for a tour or to address employees.

In nearly all cases, “Meet and Greets” produce connections that ultimately result in the candidate receiving financial support. Even though you did not write a check, you earn status as someone who was helpful.

Win – Win

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Constance Campanella is the Founder, President and CEO of Stateside Associates. A veteran of 30 years of state and federal issue management experience, Ms. Campanella managed Stateside’s growth from a one-person firm to what one trade publication has called, “a behemoth in state lobbying.”


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