Posts Tagged ‘Legislative Monitoring’

There is No App for This

February 14, 2013

By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

“If you put one foot in a bucket of boiling water and the other in a bucket of ice water – on average you would be quite comfortable.”  – Charlie Cook

Well, so much for averages.

Averages, percentages, odds–those are all worthy  tools in many settings–like Las Vegas!

However, in State Government Relations we avoid such artifices because we know that a world comprised of humans, issues, processes and politics cannot be managed “by the numbers.”

Nonetheless, people do try.

Have you ever been asked to provide percentages or odds on something happening or not happening with a bill?

I have.

Often, it is because someone needs to attach a neat little label to a bill–typically while deciding if they should hire a lobbyist. I understand that. Lobbying dollars are precious and you do not want to waste them. Parenthetically, one reason Stateside does not take any commissions when we refer lobbyists is that we never want our financial interest interfering with our advice to clients. All our lobbyist referrals are free to clients.

Local Government Monitoring ad wide version

We know also that while people ASK for a numerical percentage or odds, they EXPECT that the assessment they receive will be the product of serious review by experienced professionals. They do not expect that you will–for example–divide a legislator’s enacted bills by the number of his sponsored bills last year and present that as a meaningful number to guide your treatment of the bill in question.

Cases in point.

A certain Democratic lawmaker in Colorado has been for much of his tenure a “backbencher.” He was ineffective and a bit unusual. No one’s choice to carry an important bill. But, thanks to the 2012 elections, this lawmaker now chairs a very important committee and is carrying–thus far successfully–one of the Governor’s key initiatives. If you look at his history, statistics would say he has a very low likelihood to pass his bills. But the reality is that he has been very successful so far this year.

Or, consider the New York State Senate which moved from Republican control to a coalition after the 2012 elections. What effectiveness rating would you put on Senate Democrats who are technically “in the majority” but not part of the ruling coalition?

We have just experienced the highest degree of legislative turnover in 50 years.

Over 50% of state legislators today have 2 or fewer years experience.

These facts and the intense partisanship that now defines most legislative bodies makes year over year predictions not only misleading but dangerous.

Those numbers mean also that we have to be well–informed about issues, states and politics and carry that knowledge to government and to our internal audiences. Experience, judgment, research, perspective, knowledge, political acuity, intelligent monitoring, smarts and sometimes courage are what successful SGR professionals are made of.

And, in a profession in which we labor constantly to demonstrate value, we have to make sure that we are thinking and communicating in 3D and HD. Dumbing Down (2D) of legislative assessments is insulting to SGR professionals and deserves to be rejected.

***

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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Stateside Associates’ List of the Best Local Politics Blogs That Are Worth Reading

January 5, 2012

Dear Clients and Other Friends of Stateside Associates,

We recently published the latest in our series of FactPadTM inserts, the Best Local Politics Blogs. Our staff compiled a list of the best municipal and/or regional issue politics blogs in the country. You can view the press release here.

This list comes on the heels of our nationally recognized Best State Politics Blogs list and mirrors the rapid expansion of our firm’s local government monitoring service. We know you will find this list and many of our other reference materials useful.

You can download this most recent FactPad insert in PDF format here or you can visit our site to see the list in HTML format here. If you need additional FactPad mouse pads free of cost, please reply to this email.

With the new year comes new legislative sessions and increased political activity. Blogs have become an invaluable part of our work to stay ahead of the curve because they provide information in real-time and they help identify trends. Other reference materials to keep you ahead of the curve include the 2012 Bill Introduction Deadlines or a list of the Partisan Splits. These reference materials and much more can be found at www.stateside.com/FactPad.

As with all Stateside Associates materials, feel free to provide this information to your friends, colleagues and clients. We simply ask you recognize the hard work Stateside Associates staff has put into compiling these lists.

Have a prosperous and fulfilling new year.

Sincerely,

Constance Campanella
President and CEO
Stateside Associates, Inc.
2300 Clarendon Boulevard, 4th Floor
Arlington, Virginia 22201
703-525-7466 ext 228 (w)
703-623-2408 (cell)
twitter.com/ccampanella

The View From Inside: A Legislative Staffer’s Perspective on Lobbying

December 1, 2011

By Stateside Associates

The 2012 legislative session is gearing up to be a busy one, particularly when it comes to fiscal issues. Federal stimulus dollars are drying up, revenue is down, and most states are increasingly strapped for cash. In an election year when these factors are sure to be politically polarizing, having access to the right lawmakers and staff can mean a world of difference and provide a key competitive advantage. During my time in the Florida State House I witnessed certain practices that are determinative of the success or failure of an advocate’s legislative agenda.

For three years, I served as a legislative aide to a Florida State Representative. There were many days that, despite all planning and preparation, I observed the familiar and controlled chaos of the legislative session. Some lobbyists came and executed with laser-like precision. They excelled at what they did, and were known throughout the capitol for their ability to get things done. On the other hand, I also saw lobbyists and advocates that were ill-prepared or who had misjudged the local political environment. More often than not their lack of preparation committed them and their issues to legislative failure. On a daily basis, our office would be bombarded with government relations professionals that advocated on behalf of numerous and varied issues. I learned first-hand that in order to pursue a successful legislative agenda, there are four things most worth remembering:  time, relationships, local voice and coalition mobilization.

Time

One of the first realizations I had in the State House was that there are hundreds of issues that each have their own nuances. This gives little time for an elected official to consider a given amendment or bill. From day one to day sixty of the respective session, our office was inundated with requests for meetings. My advice for lobbyists and issue managers is to remember that your cause is one of many. Get in, make the case for your issues and get out. Many lobbyists operated like car salespeople; it was clear they believed that the longer they talked, the more likely they were to make the sale. The opposite held true more often than not. The Representative I worked for always appreciated when a lobbyist could convey his point in less than 10 minutes and kept talking points and handouts to no more than one page. Keep it brief and to the point.

Relationships

The way to keep your bill high on someone’s priority list without consuming valuable time on his or her agenda is to follow up with frequent reminders and updates. In many instances, members have one staffer to handle an entire legislative office. Checking in with that staff member can help more than many realize. Spend your time getting to know the staff before you meet with the lawmaker.

It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating – make sure you and your bill sponsor are on the same page and working together. Committee chairmen take notice when lobbyists advocate for issues under their committee’s jurisdiction, however it is just as important that the chairmen see the bill sponsor doing his/her part too.

While party leaders and rank and file members are important, in each state legislature there is also a group of people that both aides and lobbyists tend to forget—the lifelong staffers. These staffers often eclipse their bosses in issue knowledge and tenure in the state house. Professional committee and caucus staffs also learn the complex and often archaic rules of a chamber. It is easy for newly elected members to misinterpret or misunderstand these rules and be ineffective. Knowledge of how to stall a vote, add a last minute amendment, tally votes, or how to pass legislation is not only priceless but can be the difference between watching the Governor sign a bill into a law and watching a bill hit the round-file.

Local Face and Voice

If possible, give your cause a face and a voice. Whether it is the Speaker of the House, or a newly elected freshman, each member has a constituency that he or she represents. Successful lobbyists know how to utilize the constituents of the members they target and they often bring them in for issue advocacy days with their lawmakers. During the 2009 legislative session, one of our constituents came to us with a very emotional and important issue. Their daughter had been killed in a tragic accident because she was not wearing a helmet while at a horseback riding lesson. Despite having a very equestrian-friendly district and having the U.S. Polo Grounds in our boundaries, we were able to pass a bill with unanimous support to mandate any individual 13 years of age and younger wear a helmet while riding. Throughout the process the family proved to be valuable allies in testifying at hearings and ultimately convincing the Governor to sign the bill. Personalizing a cause and rallying constituent support will always help improve your chances at being successful.

Coalition Mobilization

If you can’t get a local constituent to push an issue, as we did, find strength in the numbers behind a coalition. During the 2011 Florida legislative session, I witnessed a bill that was top priority for the Governor pass the House but get voted down in the Senate because by the time it reached the second chamber there was a groundswell of opposition to the bill. This was primarily thanks to one of the lobbyists that took the time to bring in hundreds of students and teachers to testify against it. The lobbyist went above and beyond in coordinating with committee staff to make sure that each person had one minute of speaking time and was even able to include testimony from constituents throughout the state, making the testimony relevant for every member of the Senate.

While every state has a unique legislative process, most successful advocacy techniques are transferable. In the face of the demanding 2012 legislative sessions, lobbyists everywhere will need to maintain a competitive edge. I recommend maximizing your time, working those relationships and mobilizing a coalition in support of your issues in order to come out ahead in your next lobbying effort.


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