Posts Tagged ‘state government’

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.

An Early Look at the 2012 Legislative Session

October 28, 2011

By Stateside Associates

Over the course of the past month Stateside Associates professionals interviewed contacts in all 50 states to get a sense of the top issues that will face lawmakers in the coming year.

With state budget debates looming and a busy election cycle serving as the backdrop for the 2012 legislative session, we provide you this list as a preview of some of the issues expected to dominate agendas and headlines in 2012.

Please note that next year is the second year of the biennium for most state legislatures—only New Jersey and Virginia start their biennium in even years. Twenty-seven states and Puerto Rico allow for at least some legislation to carry over from the 2011 session into 2012. Four states (Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas) will not hold regularly scheduled sessions.

While the issues described herein will dominate the dockets of state legislatures next year, this list is far from exhaustive. The wrangling for early primaries and the focus on the presidential election will likely lead to electoral reforms cropping up in statehouses. Issues surrounding labor and public employee unions, such as pension reform and collective bargaining, will certainly be discussed in the wake of the vocal debates in Wisconsin, Ohio and New Jersey. Public safety and the environment issues are always prevalent, and technological advances spur new legislative initiatives every few months.

Legislative Elections

In the 50 states 86 of the 99 total legislative chambers will be holding elections, in which 81% of all state legislative seats will be considered. The partisan splits in chambers in more than half of states, ten or fewer seats separate the majority from the minority. Even though party control is not expected to change in the majority of states, a presidential election and redrawn legislative districts provide little reassurance when it comes to the balance of power within and across states. When it comes to campaign issues, expect legislators to focus pull out issues popular with both Democratic and Republican constituencies meant to excite each party’s base.

Budgets

After several years of deep cuts, state budget situations are showing signs of recovery, but remain significant effects from the recession remain. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), FY 2012 marks the fourth consecutive period that states have faced significant mismatches between revenues and spending. After lengthy budget debates in the 2011 session only New Hampshire and Washington project deficits at the end of FY 2012.

But state budget experts are still very worried about the situation. The budget projections used by states are based on tax collection rates that continue to lag behind expected tax revenues. Stimulus money is gone. Clever accounting can only push off costs for so many years. More than 20 states are anticipating a budget gap for FY 2013 and FY 2014 and all projections show this number growing in the coming years. Therefore, the 2012 legislative sessions will be marked by sharp budgetary battles in which legislators will be forced to reform state government, continue cost cutting and/or increase revenue.

Economic Development and Job Growth

Numerous states have seen jobless rates continue to climb, including states that have traditionally outperformed the rest of the country in the South and the West. Legislators in at least 15 states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Utah have indicated that job growth and economic development will be the centerpiece of the next session. Legislators are expected to advocate several priority proposals in this regard including manufacturing facility development and modernization incentives, small business financing programs and financial incentives for job creation. Tax credits and incentives for hiring unemployed residents were approved in states like Alabama, Florida and Maryland in the 2011 session and many of the states mentioned above will consider similar legislation in 2012.

Education

Education funding and reform is a priority for lawmakers every year. One trend on the education front is the effort by states to pull away from federal education mandates. Eight states have indicated an intention to pursue waivers from the federal “No Child Left Behind” law. The new policy announced by the President last month is that in order to receive these waivers states will need to develop and implement certain standards for math and reading, create systems to measure school performance and develop teacher and principal evaluation programs. All this will take place during the 2012 session—lawmakers will approach public education with even less funding while trying to perform at a higher level.

Energy

The hot energy issues next year will be the plans that propose increased development of energy resources while aiming to develop future energy transmission corridors and other infrastructure. In the 2011 session three in every five states considered energy transmission language. The number of states tackling energy will likely increase in next year’s session—legislators in more than 25 states have noted energy issues as a major priority for 2012.

No energy proposal will be one-size fits all. The focus of any energy legislation will depend on the specific energy issues at play in each state. Transmission line deployment is a big issue in Western states like Wyoming and Montana. Pipeline development and hydro-fracking regulations will dominate the oil and natural gas discussions in states throughout the Marcellus Shale region and in Southern and Western States. Alternative and renewable energy sources will be discussed in states throughout the country, including in Maryland where Governor O’Malley (D) is in favor of an off-shore wind energy project.

Immigration Reform

Although state legislatures considered more than 240 immigration-related measures in 2011, only 10 states enacted legislation. Despite the plethora of bills considered, lawmakers have been hesitant to expend political capital on immigration reform until federal challenges to state immigration reform attempts are finalized. Until that happens the discord between the federal government and states on immigration policy will continue to set the tone for immigration efforts throughout the 2012 session.

While a federally-driven comprehensive immigration reform package is possible, it’s more likely we’ll see one or more bills narrowly targeting employment and the electronic verification of workers.

One development that will make states more willing to tackle immigration measures was a recent ruling from U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn to allow much of Alabama’s H.B. 56 to take effect. This ruling, along with previous rulings in Arizona and Georgia, may start to provide a roadmap for other states to follow.

Medicaid

Health care reform and funding for state Medicaid programs are always a priority issue in the states. Add to that the fact that revenue growth is not expected to keep pace with anticipated increases in Medicaid costs mandated by federal health care changes. To defray these costs, states will look to increase utilization of Medicaid managed care in place of traditional fee for service plans. At least 19 states decided to expand Medicaid managed care in 2011 and nearly all states will continue to consider additional proposals as they prepare for the projected addition of 16 million adults to the Medicaid rolls by 2014.

Redistricting

Only the four states with elections this calendar year (Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia) were required to have redistricting completed this year. All four were approved in time for elections to take place on-time, but not without legal challenges. The deadlines for the other 46 states to finalize their maps are before state primary and general elections are held next year. While a number of other states have already redrawn districts, the threat of legal challenge have been ubiquitous in almost every case. Several legislatures have scheduled special sessions through the remainder o the year to tackle redistricting, but expect the debate to carry-over well into next year. The closer to a regularly scheduled election a given state redistricting battle gets, the more noteworthy an issue redistricting will become.

Tax Expansion and “Reform”

Legislators are wary of tax increases in good times—broadening revenues by raising taxes during an economic slump becomes a very hot-button issue. According to NCSL, 2011 marked the first year in the last ten that states reported lowering taxes more than they increased them. While the numbers may have been skewed by some large cuts or by the expiration of few temporary tax hikes, it demonstrates the pressure legislators feel when it comes to raising taxes.

Corporate tax rates have been cut in 20 states since the year began and 12 states lowered general sales tax rates. To make up for lost revenue from these and future tax cuts, states will get creative in identifying revenue streams by reforming business taxes, reducing or eliminating certain credits and exemptions and expanding the sales tax base.

One of the visible efforts taking hold is the move by many states to collect sales taxes from online retailers. Internet sales taxes have been a target for states for a number of years and its lean economic times that increase pressure to pursue it as a possible new revenue stream. Lawmakers in 15 states considered “Amazon Tax” style language this year. Numerous other states examined different approaches to capture this revenue. The legislation that passed in California, coupled with the recent agreement between the state and Amazon to begin collecting online sales taxes in 2013, may serve as a striking model for action elsewhere.

Despite only passing in five states, bills to the increase the taxes levied on alcohol and tobacco products were considered in 43 states this year. In addition, policymakers in nearly half of all states attempted to tax foods and beverages that are deemed to lack nutritional value. Ostensibly designed to promote health, the taxes are earmarked to fund the healthy lifestyle and obesity prevention programs that have become a priority across the country.


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