Why EPA Swarmed States’ Meeting

April 8, 2014

By Mark Anderson, Esq., Senior Vice President and Sarah Hunt, Esq., Manager State Issues and Ethics Officer

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy pledged to ECOS last fall that she will “listen to the states” during her tenure at the agency’s helm. If actions speak louder than words, McCarthy underscored this message by sending 30 EPA regional and headquarters staffers to the Spring 2014 Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) meeting held March 31-April 2 at the Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito, California. McCarthy’s EPA, in an unprecedented move, also co-sponsored the meeting.

The current commitment of McCarthy’s EPA to ECOS surpasses anything we have witnessed since we began attending ECOS meetings in 1996. As recently as 2012, EPA was all but absent at ECOS meetings, leaving state environmental regulators feeling marginalized by the federal agency and its previous administrators. Despite McCarthy’s promise last fall, EPA’s suddenly stepped-up engagement with ECOS left some states speculating that EPA was only present to promote the federal position on two new and controversial rulemakings, both Obama Administration priorities.

The federal agency recently sent its Clean Air Act 111d rule on carbon pollution standards for existing power plants to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for pre-publication review. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers also just jointly promulgated a draft rule on the definition of the Waters of the United States, a Clean Water Act rulemaking necessitated by a string of US Supreme Court cases that started with Rappanos v. United States (2006).

These two rulemakings are poised to reshape not only American environmental policy, but perhaps energy and land development policy as well. Given their significance, it is unsurprising that a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including many states, have loudly criticized both of these rules. The EPA did not reveal much about the new Clean Air Act 111d rulemaking at ECOS, but a large number of states fear the rule may result in the shuttering of numerous existing coal-fired utilities, resulting in job losses and energy cost spikes. The Waters of the United States rule, as drafted, has the potential to assert EPA jurisdiction over waters previously thought to be outside of federal regulatory authority. This rulemaking has serious implications for state water programs and land development.

At the Spring ECOS meeting, EPA staff held closed-door meetings with state regulators to discuss both of these rulemakings. The only clear outcome from these meetings is that EPA is determined to move forward with controversial aspects of both rulemakings, despite questions and concerns from several states. During the closed-door Clean Air Act 111d meeting, the EPA told states they will not use a state implementation plan (SIP) process to implement the forthcoming existing source rule, leaving states to wonder what mechanism EPA will use to enforce the rules. Interestingly, while EPA staff did discuss some details of the new 111d rule at this meeting, they did not mention to the states that the rule was complete and about to be sent to OMB that afternoon.

The limited public discussion on these important rulemakings at the conference was as unusual as EPA’s ramped-up involvement. Frank discussion of federal rulemakings in public sessions is an ECOS tradition. This time, however, the Air committee skipped over a scheduled 111d item on its public meeting agenda. There was also only one significant mention of the important water rulemaking during public sessions. EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Persciape told a public session that the new Waters of the United States rule “won’t be a big change” in actual EPA policy.

EPA staff made clear their interest in reaching out to state officials at ECOS last week. The question is why.  Many states quietly expressed doubt that this new dialogue will actually shape EPA policy. States welcomed this EPA engagement, but it remains to be seen whether EPA is working toward true collaborative dialogue or merely using this opportunity to inform itself about the coming opposition from some states. States will therefore be watching closely to see if EPA continues its ECOS engagement when these significant Air and Water rulemakings conclude. States will also notice if EPA listened to their concerns when the agency rolls out 111d new source final rule and the 111d existing source proposed rule later this year. If EPA has listened, it will be obvious, and a new era of state and federal collaboration will start on solid ground.

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Mark Anderson, Esq. is Senior Vice President working at Stateside Associates managing the Regulatory Services Division. He advises clients on engagement strategy and directs educational and “grasstops” campaigns directed at governors and regulatory officials. Mr. Anderson also has created issue advocacy coalitions and facilitates work group meetings of state and federal stakeholders addressing environmental issues.

Sarah E. Hunt, Esq. is Manager, State Issues and Ethics Officer at Stateside Associates. She works with clients on a wide range of state and local government affairs issues. Sarah also helps Stateside and its clients navigate lobbying ethics, comply with campaign finance laws, and develop political giving strategies. She practiced campaign finance, election law, and non-profit management with a boutique political law firm for several years before her work at Stateside Associates.

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.

***

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

***

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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