Failed Upon Adjournment

By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

canstockphoto6453644Are there three more beautiful words to a state government relations professional? Maybe there are, but for business reasons, this triplet means the danger has passed.

Or, has it?

Legislative ideas–especially the new, innovative, and crazy–do not find their footing immediately. Ideas take time to break in and to become comfortable or at least acceptable. Rough versions of proposals become polished over time as stakeholders and advocates weigh in. Think about some ‘crazy’ notions that are now law–like bans on incandescent light bulbs, living wages, calorie disclosures at restaurants and state regulation of the Internet.

Consider that the campaigns for ideas have become more sophisticated and more integrated. Advocates open the bidding with a study. A legislator tweets approval and promises action. Fellow legislators join in. Advocates note the “trending” issue as proof the idea is gaining acceptance. The bill is introduced. More tweets and posts herald the initiative and the traditional media provides the column inches necessary to create buzz around the Capitol.

Fortunately for most businesses, the legislative process is still deliberative and new, radical ideas do not immediately find their majority and do fail upon adjournment.

Is that a red light signaling that you can stop and relax? It should not be.

Forward thinking SGR professionals would be well advised to look for these new ideas on the scrap pile and evaluate their potential for future success.

Here is the 5-point test to determine if today’s wacky idea is tomorrow’s public policy:

  1. Consider the source. Is the advocate a well-established NGO with a history of legislative success? If so, plus one point.
  2. Is the legislative sponsor a serious, committed, successful lawmaker? If so, plus one point.
  3. Has the legislature experienced a significant turnover in membership or leadership that now tilts it more towards the philosophy of the proposal? If so, plus one point.
  4. Is social media at-large or among legislators (check that out via TellTale) buzzing about the topic? If so, plus one point.
  5. Has the real media picked up the topic and supported the underpinnings of the proposal? If so, plus one point.

If your evaluation of this failed bill or idea yields four or more points, the chances are very likely that you will see this bill again and you will see this idea again elsewhere.

So, when you get the report that a bill failed upon adjournment, don’t read that as a red light. Read it as a yellow light and go faster to get ahead of the trend.

***

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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