Posts Tagged ‘state government affairs’

Insider Dealing – A Government Relations Necessity?

August 12, 2014

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

blog-buildinginternalrelationshipsI recently participated in a client’s government relations off-site retreat, and part of that meeting was devoted to developing the key issues on which the government relations team should be working. But unlike many companies where a team might kick issues around and decide what was most important, this team was working on an outreach plan to meet individually with many of the company’s senior management to discuss what was important to each business unit.

This is an excellent approach to corporate government relations for two reasons. As Stateside President Connie Campanella proffered in her blog post on the subject, “No Client, No Issue,” if you do not have an internal business unit that cares about an issue, you have no business working on that issue. That doesn’t mean you should wait for them to ask you to work on an issue. Quite the contrary: It is YOUR job to understand their business well enough to identify emerging issues and take them to your internal customers for evaluation and development of a business case for political engagement.

Second, simply building internal relationships is a critical component to the long-term success of your government relations program. If you do not want to be perceived as simply a “cost center” for your company, you need to invest time in internal relationship building. Just as you spend time building relationships with state and local officials at Groups meetings and statehouse visits, you need to do so internally to be seen as a partner and someone who can be trusted to support the business. If you are not, your program will always be at risk.

The meetings our “retreat” client is scheduling with senior corporate executives will afford the government relations team an opportunity to brief about current government relations activities while learning more about the business unit issues. The discussion could include explaining the assets that government relations brings to the table, such as how Groups are used to extend the reach of the program and spotlight emerging issues.

As we all know, corporate leadership has a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders, so you need to make sure they see that the government relations team understands and appreciates that obligation. While it is not always possible for every policy, if you can assign a dollar value to any issue you work on, you can demonstrate that you speak their language. It also has the benefit of giving you an additional data point when you are prioritizing the issues. Again, the key is aligning your work to the goals of the business.

Finally, now is the time that most of our corporate and association clients begin working on next year’s budget in earnest. While it might be nice to decompress after a summer of Groups meetings, this is the time to talk to those with profit and loss responsibility in your company and make sure you are working on the issues important to them. As they see the value you bring, it becomes easier to get budget increases when you can clearly demonstrate the P/L impact of your work.

So make sure you have an internal plan to reach out to your internal customers. You’re spending the summer (and the rest of year) attending Groups meetings to build and maintain relationships with elected officials across the country to advance your company’s agenda. Make sure you actually know what that agenda needs to be.

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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.

Despite New Options for Engagement with Regulatory Groups, Old Rules Still Apply

July 15, 2014

By Mark Anderson, Esq., Senior Vice President

Engaging Regulatory Groups

I have worked with State Regulatory Groups throughout my career. While they can be challenging to navigate, I have found that the meetings can be effective forums to develop key relationships and advance state and federal issues. But unlike most Groups of elected officials, Regulatory Groups typically have no formal avenue for private sector participation. In the past this has been an obstacle to effectively engaging with these Groups, but recent changes at some of the smaller policy-focused Regulatory Groups are creating new opportunities.

Large Groups, such as the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), have substantial funding streams from publications and conferences. The smaller Groups are often more reliant upon federal funding. As these funding streams have dried up in recent years, these Groups are becoming more creative about financing their operations.

Sponsorships are one way these Groups are augmenting their budgets. The Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO), a Group I work with closely, recently instituted a sponsorship policy for the first time since the organization was founded in 1974. The policy acknowledges that sponsors may obtain a benefit from being able to provide information to its members, but it also provides strict anti-conflict guidelines.

As another example, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) has instituted a one-day State Environmental Protection (STEP) meeting. The STEP meeting allows attendees to focus on a topic that benefits from a more in-depth and inclusive discussion than is possible at regular ECOS meetings. Unlike other ECOS conferences, private sector organizations are allowed to sponsor the meetings and participate in discussion. Last year, the STEP meeting considered the issue of hydraulic fracturing. This year, the STEP meeting is addressing the Clean Air Act 111(d) rule proposal, released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency on June 1. This meeting will help the states to prepare comments on this rule and begin planning compliance plans.

Whether these two developments are anomalies or mark the beginning of a trend remains to be seen. Now is still a good time to assess what Groups representing regulatory officials are doing in your issue areas of concern. If you are not presently engaged, look into getting to know these Groups and their leaders. Consider taking advantage of the new programs for private sector participation.

1. Regulatory Groups are not always open to the public. I have frequently heard complaints from the private sector that these meetings should not be closed due to state sunshine laws. The reality, however, is that these meetings are not used to develop state policies. They are used instead to share information and take positions on federal issues. State sunshine laws, therefore, do not apply. If you want to attend, you must be invited by the organization.

2. Most Regulatory Groups do not have corporate membership or programs. When you attend one of these meetings, you are attending as a guest. The Regulatory Groups that I have dealt with are wary of being seen as influenced by the business community. Members may have differing degrees of sensitivity to this that may be dependent upon political issues in-state, or the industry you represent. You should be respectful of their delicate position. Do not be surprised if your offer to take a member to dinner, buy a drink or even a cup of coffee is denied for this reason.

3. Respectfully mind the relationship between regulators and the regulated community when engaging on issues at Regulatory Groups meetings. Many of the individual state members of these organizations will agree with you that education from stakeholders is critical to good policymaking. While lobbying occurs at these meetings, and I would argue that it should occur, discretion is critical. When state regulators are perceived to be influenced by lobbying from stakeholders, they lose credibility among their peers. In the long run, that only hurts you and the regulator.

4. Regulators appreciate your understanding of their area of expertise. For regulators, one of the satisfying aspects of these national organizations is the opportunity to interact with people that deal in the same, sometimes very narrow, arena. I have found that the best way to develop good relationships with regulators is to begin by being proficient in discussing their areas of expertise.

5. Be prepared to discuss your issues. Small Regulatory Groups are often sparsely attended by the private sector. This creates great opportunity for substantial interaction with members of the Group. However, if you attend one of these meetings, you and your organization will be noticed. Be prepared to explain why you are at the meeting and which particular issues interest you.

If you have a policy issue to address, there is almost assuredly a Regulatory Group appropriate to address the issue. New avenues for participation are making this easier than before and bringing new stakeholders to the table. If you follow the foregoing best practices for respectful participation, working with Regulatory Groups will be an effective way to engage your issues.

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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.

NAAG MEETING: NIGHTMARE TO DREAM TRIP

June 12, 2014

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

parachute_hit_target_400_clr_14044My recent trip to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Summer Meeting reminded me that state government relations professionals deal not only with weighty public policy issues, but also with the choices we make about whether to attend a conference and how we get there.

We sometimes do take for granted the nice places we enjoy while attending Groups meetings. However, for anyone who has ever attended a meeting on Mackinac Island, Michigan you know that getting there can be a challenge even when everything goes well. And last week, everything did not go well getting to the NAAG Summer Meeting.

My day began with a 3:00 AM wake-up call to be on the road from Santa Fe to Albuquerque at 4:00 for the 6:00 AM flight to Minneapolis to catch the flight to Detroit to catch the flight to Pellston, Michigan to catch the bus to the dock to catch the ferry to island to get on the horse drawn taxi to the hotel. Just in time for a 7:30 dinner. At least that was the plan.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas. Due to severe weather, the Detroit to Pellston flight was cancelled, and some on the flight were told the first available seat would be two days later. In fact some meeting attendees seriously considered asking the airline to simply fly them back home. To their credit, NAAG staff quickly arranged a charter bus to make sure the Attorneys General, staff and the rest of us could arrive in time for the next day’s opening session.

So a 45 minute flight became a 360 minute bus ride after a two hour delay in leaving Detroit. That 7:30 dinner became an order of chicken fingers at the airport and a refreshment stop at a grocery store in Flint. Of course, the bus can only take you so far when your final destination is an ISLAND. Again, NAAG staff came through with a chartered ferry 5 hours later than the last regularly scheduled ferry.

Once the meeting started the next day, a couple of things became clear. First, while the number of Attorneys General and staff were down from previous meetings, over 30 states were still represented. The big change was the number of private sector attendees, which was well below normal. This made it much easier for those of us who were there to talk with everyone we needed to for business, and also allowed more casual discussions at the social events.

Second, the bus trip became the talk of the conference. While it was definitely not the best of travel days, it was a bit of a bonding experience for those on the bus, and it will likely be mentioned at future NAAG meetings for years to come. And this brings me to my point about how travel can impact our jobs. We all know that building relationships is an important aspect of our profession and when you spend six hours with people on an unscheduled bus ride, that can definitely be a long term relationship builder. We might even start a Facebook page.

The second, and just as important, lesson from this trip is to always attend the meetings that may be difficult to get to because your competitors might not be there. You persevered – they did not – you win. Imagine how you would feel if your competitor followed this advice and you did not?

State government relations is comprised of so many elements from Legislative Monitoring to Strategic Planning, Groups issue management and Lobbying. Until this meeting, I did not fully appreciate the value of the shared travel nightmare for building relationships.

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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.


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