Posts Tagged ‘bill tracking’

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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From Apples to Exports: State Agriculture Officials Convene To Address Industry Opportunities and Challenges

September 27, 2012

By Stateside Associates

The heads of more than 40 state agriculture departments convened in Des Moines, Iowa last week to discuss the state of the industry at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Annual Meeting. The meeting provided a venue for discussion on recent achievements and challenges in state farm policy as well as the adoption of new policy priorities for the upcoming year.

It has been a year of highs- high costs and temperature that is- for the Agriculture sector. In particular, strong export demand and the Midwest drought have fueled price increases for commodities like corn and soybeans. While good news for some, these prices are also driving up costs on a range of products—from biofuels to consumer food items- and are impacting the bottom line of many farmers. Depending on the crop or product in question, this could be a year of boom or bust.

Adding to this divide is a lack of certainty around future federal Agricultural policy. With a new Farm Bill in the works but far from completion, state officials are faced with another stopgap continuing resolution and an uncertain future for many federal farm programs. The need for a new Farm Bill was stressed throughout the meeting and culminated in the NASDA membership adopting an action item urging the passage of a 5-year Farm Bill as soon as possible. Of particular concern to meeting attendees was the sentiment that Agriculture programs are a likely target for large federal spending reductions.

Beyond federal policy, this year’s meeting covered the other major issues facing the Agriculture sector including drought, water quality, and biofuel production. All three topics highlighted a common theme—America’s farmers are being relied upon to produce more food, fiber and fuel with less government support and increased regulatory requirements. With regards to regulation, finding the right balance between state and federal oversight was another theme heard throughout the meeting.

Some of these concerns made their way into NASDA policy at the meeting. Adopted by the NASDA membership, the following issues will be part of the NASDA organization’s priorities as it communicates with Congress over the coming year:

  • Border Security and Labor Workforce Reform
  • State Management of Invasive Species
  • Water Quality Permitting
  • School Lunch Programs
  • The Dairy Security Act

In addition to official policy positions, the NASDA membership also spent time discussing a number of other issues impacting the states including:

  • The role of corn in ethanol and food production
  • The increasing importance of agricultural exports
  • Increasing public interest in GMO labeling and Biotechnology
  • Advances in agricultural practices to address nutrient runoff

NASDA leadership also changed at the 2012 meeting with outgoing president Bill Northey, Secretary of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship handing the gavel to Commissioner Steve Troxler of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Commissioner Troxler will host the 2013 NASDA Annual Meeting next September in Asheville, North Carolina. During his term, the Commissioner will guide NASDA efforts to ensure the issues addressed at the Annual Meeting are raised to policy makers in Washington, D.C. As a next step in this process, NASDA will reconvene in February in the Washington, D.C. area for its Winter Policy Conference.

Say Goodbye to Your Lobbyist – The Right Way

August 20, 2012

By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

If you decide to part ways with your contract lobbyist, there are some things you should do to make the change most positive for all concerned.

My focus here is not on replacing lobbyists who are “not working out,” but on the decision not to continue to have a lobbyist in a state. The reasons you make that decision are myriad. For example, if your lobbyist was focused on supporting your manufacturing facility in a state and you sold that facility–well, then–the lobbyist goes too. If you passed the bill you hired the lobbyist to pass–two years ago–you may decide it is OK to go unrepresented in that state. Another possibility is that your budget was slashed to the bone and you had to make painful decisions. As I said, there are plenty of possibilities.

So, you made the decision to end the relationship. I expect you know how to make that phone call and say good things, but have you thought about a thorough exit interview? Candidly, I had not, but Ron Barnes, Vice President of State Government Relations for the Direct Marketing Association and a Stateside client, told me recently that he does exit interviews with lobbyists and I thought that was a fantastic idea and wanted to share. Hence this blog.

Here are my recommended questions for an exit interview. What do you have to add to this list? Leave a comment in the field below or email your suggestions to

  • What do you know now that you wished you had known when we started working together?
  • Did I give you the tools you needed (Information, Messages, Grassroots/Grasstops)?
  • How well did we (client) handle administrative responsibilities, i.e. payments, lobbyist registration?
  • Was our level of campaign involvement high enough, too low or just right?
  • If situations change, would you be willing to work for us again?
  • Do you foresee any land mines out there for my company/association in the coming year?
  • In what areas do you think you could improve?
  • What would you recommend I do to improve as a client?