Posts Tagged ‘steve arthur’

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.”

The Importance of State Trade Associations

October 25, 2012

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

I was surprised recently when, during a meeting with a state consumer protection chief, he remarked that his department receives fewer complaints about companies represented by strong state trade associations. He said he found that those industries with strong state level associations will work proactively with his department to resolve issues before they ever get to an enforcement effort.

The next day, in another meeting in a different state, an Attorney General also mentioned state trade associations without any prompting. In this meeting as well, the Attorney General talked generically about how much better industries seem to be that have state trade associations that work proactively with that Attorney General’s office to find out what issues are percolating and take steps to keep them from becoming a concern to the Consumer Protection unit of the office.

These two unsolicited comments on successive days in two different states highlighted a sometimes overlooked, but very important, component of a successful state government relations program: a network of strong state trade associations. A good state trade association is one of the most valuable allies any state government relations program can have in a state.

A solid state trade association can provide you and your company with support in a number of areas:

  • Solid in-state relationships. A good association will have developed good relationships with elected officials in their states.
  • Effective industry advocacy. They know the industry issues and elected officials will look to them to describe potential impacts of policy proposals.
  • Broad industry representation. By representing both large and small members of your industry, they can speak about the impacts a policy could have on the entire industry rather than allowing policy makers to attack a particular company (yours?) that may not be popular in their state.
  • Local connection. By representing both large national companies as well as smaller home grown companies, the association can put that local face on your industry to make it easier for elected officials to see your company as part of the community, rather than an out of state company.
  • Specific company assistance. With their relationships with tax or regulatory agencies and their intimate knowledge of your industry, they can help you clear up an issue or quickly get to the root of a disagreement between your company and an agency.  If it is the latter, they can help you get to those root issues, so you can then step in to represent your company and build on what they have accomplished.

These state associations often provide benefits that are very valuable to smaller members who may operate only in one state or even one location. These are important functions of trade associations, but I am focusing this discussion on the benefits to companies with a large national presence.

Some GR professionals may believe that Groups meetings can be a substitute for state association membership. I would completely disagree. The points above outline some of the key benefits of a state trade association, but the Groups meetings are just as important. Relationships developed at those meetings are necessary to help brand your individual company in the eyes of legislative leaders and executive branch officials from around the country and there is no more efficient way to do that than at Groups meetings—and the state association can even help you at those meetings.

When you meet an elected official at a Groups meeting, you can immediately create a local connection by mentioning your membership (and active participation) in your state association. The elected official may very well know the staff of the trade association and may recall an issue on which she/he was lobbied by that staff. This can help you pivot to an issue discussion where the official will continue to connect you to that in-state association.

Even with a strong state association and active Groups participation, there will still be times when you need to retain a lobbyist for your company. Either when an issue is big enough that your trade association needs some additional firepower, or when there may be conflicting views among association members that preclude them from taking an active role on one side or the other. That is the nature of a trade association and don’t forget that you will need them for other issues in the future.

If you have already joined your state associations, have you evaluated them recently? The list of services above is a good place to start, but here are a few things to ask about them:

  • What kind of relationships do they have with elected officials?
  • Do elected officials see the association as the “go to” place for information about your industry?
  • Can staff effectively explain your industry issues to those officials?
  • Does the association have a broad membership from your industry or does it rely on a few large members to keep it running?
  • Does it keep members updated about its activities on behalf of its members?
  • Does it reach out for advice on how to respond to particular issues?

Now ask yourself this question:

  • Are you and your industry peers providing the association with the resources necessary to accomplish those goals?

I ask because as social media and other forms of communication have made it much easier for advocacy organizations to raise money and mobilize their grassroots on issues that might harm your industry, many trade associations have seen their membership or dues decline. There are reasons for this, but they need to be addressed. Companies do merge and they don’t expect to continue paying both sets of dues. Our budgets get cut, and that may force dues reductions or even drops in association memberships.

While those cuts are sometimes unavoidable, they can’t go on forever. At some point, a state association is going to start becoming less effective because they simply don’t have the resources to maintain relationships, retain good staff and remain a well recognized force in their state. If that happens, it can take years and years and a lot of money to rebuild an industry’s reputation.

So, as you are putting together your budgets for 2013, make sure you become an advocate for your trade associations when it comes to your budget because they can be one of your most effective advocates in the states. I would urge you to take a look at the dues you have paid to your trade associations over the past five years and whether you have increased your presence in their respective states. If so, it may be time to start looking for ways to increase those dues. The NGOs opposing your industry have almost certainly increased their membership and made their presence in the state capitals known.

Of course, in some cases trade associations might not be strong and you may not believe they can offer you much help. Rather than simply defunding them, I would suggest that you work with your industry colleagues to develop a plan to strengthen that association. Doing so can be time consuming, but it is well worth the effort to ensure you have an effective trade association representing your interests 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 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.

Attorneys General Meeting Disaster

February 1, 2012

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

Attorneys General and their staff from many southern states gathered in Tampa, Florida January 26 and 27 to learn about all aspects of disaster preparedness. From enforcing price gouging statutes to managing their offices more effectively in a disaster, the conference provided an opportunity to share best practices and provide guidance to the private sector.

While there were some excellent presentations about what Attorneys General offices can do to better prepare for disasters and how best to respond, I want to focus on the messages most relevant to the private sector.

Price Gouging

Of particular interest to the private sector were the discussions about consumer protection. In a panel addressing price gouging, there was agreement among the Attorneys General that enforcing price gouging statutes can be problematic. For example, Hurricane Ike (2008) did significant damage to refineries in Texas, but did not cause any damage in Tennessee. But the Texas damage did cause gas shortages which resulted in price spikes for gasoline. Since gas stations usually price their gas based on what they expect to pay for the next tanker, how does an Attorney General determine what price rise is excessive under a state’s statute?

The panel also addressed how best to draft a price gouging statute. Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) of North Carolina outlined two generic options. The first, a more prescriptive statute, sets out formulas for how much a price needs to rise before it would be considered gouging and outlines specific types of products covered. The second is drafted more vaguely and uses words like “excessive” and “unconscionable” price increases. It was described as more along the lines of pornography laws: you know it when you see it. This version understandably makes retailers nervous, but it was argued that this gives Attorneys General more flexibility to enforce against only those retailers engaging in the worst of price gouging, making it less likely that retailers who must pass along price increases will have to defend themselves.

In the end, there seemed to be agreement among the Attorneys General that the most effective deterrent to price gouging was high profile enforcement. By taking on one or two egregious offenders, others would be discouraged from trying to price gouge. They talked about enforcement actions against both the big guys and the little guys to make sure the message gets out. The lesson they were trying to convey: it’s okay to pass along legitimate cost increases, but don’t try to make excessive profits off other people’s misery.

On the plus side, some retailers were praised for their disaster response efforts. Wal-Mart, Lowes and The Home Depot were singled out on several occasions during the conference as model companies for their responses. Each of the companies were cited for their ability to quickly get their stores re-opened and re-supplied, as well as being proactive in freezing prices during and after disasters.

Public Private Partnerships

Also of note for the private sector was the support given to public-private partnerships to better prepare for disasters. General Bob Cooper (D) of Tennessee opened the discussion on this topic by noting that one of the best partnerships between business and government is simply for businesses to execute their disaster response plans and for government to remove barriers to those plans. That is the quickest way to begin getting things back to normal.

More proactively, some states are starting to create business emergency operations centers, which are designed to share resources and build trust between government agencies and the private sector. These centers are used to quickly connect businesses to those officials who might be needed to approve permits for things like overweight/oversized trucks or access to restricted areas to allow stores to quickly re-supply and be ready to re-open when residents are allowed back in.

There was also agreement that the more government and the private sector prepare in advance for disasters, the smoother the recovery will be. For example, multiple presenters mentioned that states should make sure that there is a credentialing system in place prior to an emergency to allow for quicker access to closed areas in order for business to quickly re-establish supply chains.

Establish Relationships Now

One of the most important messages that came through for the private sector was the importance of developing relationships with key state officials in advance of any disaster. Because of the focus on price gouging, this conference of Attorneys General highlighted the importance of having a relationship with those offices to quickly clear up any misunderstandings that might pop up in the aftermath of a disaster. This is especially important in those states where the price gouging statute is written broadly.


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