Posts Tagged ‘Attorneys General’

NCSL Legislative Summit Report

August 22, 2013

By Michael Behm, Steve Arthur and Heather Williams

Lightning Storm ClearingAtlanta…In August. Yes, the National Conference of State Legislatures held its 39th annual Legislative Summit in Atlanta, Georgia in the heat of summer, bringing nearly 6,000 legislators, staff, private sector, non- profit, union members and others together with over 100 issue forums, plenary sessions and meetings of NCSL’s eight (8) standing policy committees. And importantly, new officers were elected, Oregon Senator Bruce Starr (R) became the NCSL president, Nevada Senator Debbie Smith (D) president-elect and Utah Senator Curt Bramble (R) will serve as vice president.

The meeting started out with a bang. During the Welcome Reception on Monday evening, a thunderstorm rolled through the area, drenching many attendees as they tried to leave for their evening activities, but a lightning strike also hit the Omni Hotel next door, sending parts of the building crashing to the ground and breaking windows. Was it an omen for the tone of the meeting?

Thankfully, the answer was no. For the first time in a number of years this year’s meeting was not dominated by somber budget deficit discussions and dire revenue collection predictions. Instead, brighter fiscal forecasts and increased revenue projections created a different tenor, affording legislators the ability to talk (and enjoy talking) about the range of state issues, including the investment in infrastructure, economic recovery, state innovations, common core standards and even mobile payments.

This was Stateside’s 25th year at the NCSL Legislative Summit and while it seems we worked 25 hours a day the conference is so rich with opportunities to learn, network, advocate and educate—the time really does fly by.

Indeed, just as the weather became increasingly tolerable as the week progressed, NCSL reported at its budget update session that state fiscal conditions improved in 2013 and that general fund revenue growth was strong and outpaced projections in most states (there are a few exceptions, of course). The general state budget outlook from staff, who annually survey state fiscal officers, was upbeat: strong fiscal conditions resulting in continuing budget surplus projections. Most states reported midyear budget shortfalls and fewer states are projecting budget gaps for FY 2014. Contrast this picture with that of just three short years ago. States closed over $500 billion in budget gaps over the last five years.

According to NCSL’s Executive Director Bill Pound, “state legislators have once again made tough decisions that are required to balance their budgets in a slowly recovering economy.” Bill adds, “new budgets enacted for the new fiscal year reflect the cautious path that states are taking as they make their way through this economic transition.”

While state fiscal conditions continued to improve and stabilize in 2013, revenues are now expected to “decelerate” as states begin their new budget years, according to NCSL’s State Budget & Tax Actions report released at the Legislative Summit. State revenues grew at one of the fastest paces since before the Great Recession, growing at a 5.3 percent rate in FY 2013 and state officials remain cautiously optimistic heading into FY 2014.

This cautious optimism seemed to permeate the meeting and the ancillary events as well. After long days of policy discussions and issue forums, the mood during the evening seemed to improve as well. Whether it was at the state night dinners, late night events or other social gatherings, the mood of legislators and attendees just seemed a bit better than in recent years when the policy discussions during the day would even depress the most optimistic person you know.

Moving into 2014, the fiscal discussion in many states is expected to be dominated by tax reform conversations and the uncertainties that remain with the federal fiscal situation, sequestration impacts and debt ceiling negotiations.

Said one Texas legislator at the Summit, “we [state legislators] are doing our part – it’s high time our colleagues on the Hill and in the White House do theirs.”

Despite the fiscal uncertainty projected to face states in the coming year, public officials did not shy from shifting the discussion to other governing issues. In fact, we saw NCSL Policy Committee members open and excited to find room in the conversation to talk beyond the big policy themes that have dominated the meetings in recent years—state budget challenges and pension liabilities, Affordable Care Act implementation, and frustration with federal mandates. While not necessarily new, emerging issues such as immigration, common core standards and STEM, and 21st century transportation issues are rising to the top and receiving more attention.

While it is clear the state budget malaise is not entirely over, it is apparent that public officials see opportunities to take on policy issues outside of the fiscal arena. We expect this mindset to carry over into individual state policy approaches. What that means for the 2014 legislative session will have to been seen.

But we will make one bold prediction for 2014. The weather at the Legislative Summit in Minnesota will be more pleasant than what we experienced the first two days in Atlanta.

***

Michael 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.

Steve Arthur is Vice President and brings more than 20 years of public policy experience in both the public and private sector to his work at Stateside Associates. Mr. Arthur provides clients with hands on state government relations support from strategic planning and issue management to lobbyist management and direct lobbying. He is one of the leaders of Stateside’s Attorneys General practice, guiding clients through the process of working with, and lobbying, state Attorneys General.

Heather Williams works at Stateside Associates to help clients manage state and local government issues. As Vice President at the company 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.

State Government Relationships

August 8, 2013

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

state government relations and relationshipsAs my colleague Michael Behm pointed out in a recent blog post, there are a large number of elected and appointed official Groups meetings being held over the summer. Michael’s blog clearly outlined a variety of reasons for attending these meetings and ensuring that we as state government relations professionals derive value from them. One of the reasons he cited was relationship building.

Governor Rick Perry’s recent announcement that he will not seek a 4th full term in 2014 was a recent reminder that relationships are important in our business. The sharp reminder is that no one stays in office forever. That plain and simple truth means that the relationships we build with elected officials and their staffs are not permanent—we constantly need to maintain and update those relationships if we are going to be effective state government relations professionals.

While many things can happen between now and November 2014, Attorney General Greg Abbott is the current frontrunner to replace Perry. Two other Attorneys General, Maryland’s Doug Gansler and New Mexico’s Gary King have stated they are also running for Governor of their states in 2014. For those who need to maintain relationships with Governors’ offices, the relationship building process begins with Generals Abbott, Gansler, King and the numerous other potential candidates. Currently, there are eight Governors that had previously served as Attorney General. The process needs to begin with making sure they understand our clients’ interests and concerns.

That is, of course, unless you or your colleagues have also been attending meetings of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) or the Republican and Democratic Attorneys General Associations (RAGA / DAGA). In that case, strong relationships with the Attorneys General have already been established and your company or trade association is ahead of many others.

This year’s Virginia gubernatorial race is another example. Current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is the GOP candidate for Governor and is locked in a tight race. Those who have attended the Attorneys General groups meetings already know General Cuccinelli, and some might have had a relationship with him even before he took that position. Not only is he the current Attorney General, he is also a former state legislator. It should be no surprise that he is not the only one. In the only other gubernatorial race this year New Jersey Senator Barbara Buono is challenging Chris Christie for the state’s highest office.

General Cuccinelli and Senator Buono are far from the only state legislators who aspire to be Governor. Twenty current Governors previously served in their state’s House or Senate, six served on a city or county council and three served as a mayor. With the NCSL Legislative Summit beginning August 12, this is a timely reminder that there will be several future Governors walking the hallways of the Georgia World Congress Center.

And when we talk about relationships, we should not overlook staff, especially in the world of Attorneys General. Utah’s and Indiana’s current Attorney Generals, John Swallow and Greg Zoeller, respectively, each served as Chief Deputy Attorney General before being elected in his own right. In the 2014 election cycle, Cynthia Coffman, the current Chief Deputy Attorney General in Colorado is running to replace her boss, John Suthers.

And we should not forget local elected officials. As my colleague Heather Williams has pointed out in a recent blog, there are many opportunities to do business, and build relationships at the local level. If you have worked with a mayor or county official in that capacity, they are very likely to remember you when they are in higher office.

As anyone who has attended a National Governors Association meeting or the Republican or Democratic association meetings can attest, there are a wide variety of companies, trade associations, unions and others vying for Governors’ time and attention. If you have an established relationship from when they were in a previous office, it makes it much easier to catch their attention at these higher profile meetings and events.

So as you evaluate which Groups you should join or support, ask yourself what the value would be to have developed a relationship with Governors well before they were elected to their current office. Would it be valuable to your state government relations program to get to know a future Governor and his or her spouse at dinners or other social events where they have time to talk about issues beyond that one issue you just have to discuss at the next meeting?

Of course, one never knows who will actually be elected to higher office, but relationships you can build with elected officials in their early days can be replicated when those officials start traveling with a large entourage and a calendar scheduled down to every five minutes of his or her time. Keep that in mind if you are trying to decide whether to participate in any particular Group and balance the short term needs versus your long term goals for government relations in the states.

***

Steve Arthur is Vice President and brings more than 20 years of public policy experience in both the public and private sector to his work at Stateside Associates. Mr. Arthur provides clients with hands on state government relations support from strategic planning and issue management to lobbyist management and direct lobbying. He is one of the leaders of Stateside’s Attorneys General practice, guiding clients through the process of working with, and lobbying, state Attorneys General.

STATE ELECTIONS: Trend Setters or Busters?

November 5, 2012

By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

Tomorrow’s election will touch every American as citizens elect a President, US Senators, Members of Congress, Governors, Attorneys General and more than 6,000 state legislators. The state ballots will also include more than 150 questions–initiatives and referenda–addressing a vast array of public policy issues.

Stateside Associates will be reporting about all state election results beginning Election Night. Our Top News memo will highlight the major races and outcomes. Maps and Charts will bring the new line-ups into focus and the State Election Guides will present results for all the races on a state-by-state basis.

You can access all of these resources by clicking www.stateside.com/state-information/elections-2012 or just visit www.stateside.com and the Election Results pop-up box will direct you to the information you seek. All resources will be updated continuously until the last vote is counted.

Clients of our firm are welcome to contact us for additional information and updates. And, we are still taking reservations for post-election presentations.

DOWN BALLOT TRENDS

Today, we thought we would highlight down ballot races that are important to state government relations professionals. Trends are poised to be sustained or arrested in contests for legislative majorities, Governor and Attorney General, while ballot questions put many of America’s thorniest issues in the hands of the voters.

STATE LEGISLATIVE MAJORITIES

In 2010, 22 state legislative chambers changed majority control–a high water mark. All were lost by Democrats whose majorities succumbed on Election Day and afterwards with party switches.

Contributing to the historic nature of 2010, 1,765 new legislators took office–the most ever for any election prior to decennial re-districting. With 2012 being the post-redistricting election year, that record number could be matched or topped, yielding the least experienced cohort of state lawmakers in US history. Some have projected that almost half of all state lawmakers may have two or fewer years of experience as the 2013 sessions convene. Opportunity? Threat? You decide.

Thirteen (13) Chambers Close Enough to Switch in 2012

There are thirteen state legislative chambers in play in 2012 in which the majority is five seats or fewer. For those chambers a switch of three seats would change the balance of power. There are also several other chambers with slightly larger spreads in which each political party thinks they have a chance to take control.

In the South, Republicans are making a strong push to take control of the Arkansas House and Senate. Arkansas is the last state in the region still to have Democratic control of either chamber. Republicans are looking for a southern sweep while Democrats hope Arkansas will prove that they can still compete in the South.

In Wisconsin, Democrats took back control of the state Senate over the summer as a result of several recall elections. However, the control was on paper only as the Legislature had adjourned until 2013 before the last round of recall elections that caused the change. Odds are in favor of Republicans regaining control of that chamber tomorrow.

The Alaska Senate and the Oregon House are tied currently, so both parties are looking for that decisive last seat in order to gain control. Republicans have a one seat majority in the Colorado House and Democrats have single seat majorities in the Nevada Senate and Iowa Senate.

While New York State is dominated by Democrats with a 2:1 party registration advantage, Republicans have controlled the State Senate for most of the last four decades. And, while many had predicted that Republicans will hang on again this year, will Hurricane Sandy–which devastated New York City and Long Island–affect the outcome?

Other states where a change in party control is possible include: Minnesota (both chambers), Maine (both chambers), New Mexico (House), Washington (Senate) and Colorado (Senate).

ATTORNEYS GENERAL

From a low point of just 14 a decade ago, Republicans have made capturing these offices a major priority and it has paid off. Excluding the non-partisan AG’s, Republicans and Democrats each hold 24 Attorney General offices. Watch the open seats in Washington, Pennsylvania and Montana to learn if the Republican march to the majority will be sustained or stalled.

Coincidentally, two nail-biter Governor races feature state Attorneys General. Montana’s Steve Bullock (D) and Washington’s Rob McKenna (R) are in open seat races that are too close to call. And, while very popular as AG’s–both are poised to be succeeded by candidates of the opposite party in races also too close to call.

GOVERNORS

There are 29 Republican Governors and 20 Democratic Governors. Rhode Island Governor Chafee is an Independent. Eleven races dot the map in 2012 with three of those too close to call.

In addition to the aforementioned Washington and Montana races, the third nail biter is in New Hampshire, where Presidential candidate ground-games may pull a gubernatorial candidate to victory.

BALLOT QUESTIONS: TAXES

New Hampshire CACR 13, Michigan Proposal 5 and Washington Initiative 1185 (links to full text below) are ballot questions designed to limit the legislature’s ability to raise taxes. New Hampshire’s prohibits the General Court from enacting any tax on a person’s income. New Hampshire does not have an income tax right now and there are no plans to implement one. Washington’s would require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue, which includes repealing tax exemptions and any tax increase. Michigan’s ballot proposal requires a two-thirds vote for any bill imposing additional taxes or increasing the taxation base and also allows statewide initiatives to approve tax increases (similar to California).

www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Full_Text_-_MI_Alliance_for_Prosperity_399443_7.pdf

www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/CACR0013.html

https://wei.sos.wa.gov/agency/osos/en/press_and_research/ PreviousElections/2012/General-Election/Documents/I-1185_complete_text.pdf

While we cannot call this next proposal a potential trend-setter (after all, NO state looks to California for fiscal guidance), California Proposition 30 is Governor Jerry Brown’s (D) plan to raise revenue and stem the fiscal hemorrhage that has defined California for more than a decade. The plan calls for raising the top rate income tax from the current 9.3% to a maximum of 13.2%. The measure also imposes a “temporary” state sales tax increase of 3.45% for four years. And, there are many other tax-raising provisions with the funds dedicated to education and local public safety services.

vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2012/general/pdf/30-title-summ-analysis.pdf

BALLOT QUESTIONS: UNIONS

California Proposition 32 prohibits both labor unions and corporations from donating to candidates and candidate-controlled committees. It also prohibits using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes.

vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2012/general/pdf/32-title-summ-analysis.pdf

Two Michigan questions are drawing national interest as both would represent boosts for labor unions.

Michigan Home Health Care Amendment: Would give home health care providers limited collective bargaining rights.

http://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Full_Text_-_Citizens_for_Affordable_Quality_Home_Care_399442_7.pdf

Michigan “Protect Our Jobs” Amendment: Would make collective bargaining a right for public and private workers.

www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Full_Text_-_Protect_Our_Jobs_399440_7.pdf

For a free, complete list and links to state ballot questions, please email stateside@stateside.com.

Hope you enjoy Election Day 2012. With some help from Starbucks, pizza and aspirin, we’ll see you on the other side.

***

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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