Posts Tagged ‘regulation alert’

Partisan Debate Roils NGA Winter Meeting

February 27, 2014

By Mark Anderson, Esq., Senior Vice President

Dueling partisan messages became a surprising theme at the National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting, held February 21-24 in Washington D.C. Governors traditionally use the politically-neutral NGA events to produce press opportunities and swap governance tips with their counterparts from around the nation. The partisan tack become noticeable shortly after NGA Chair, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R), unveiled her initiative, America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs. Republicans seized on the subject matter opportunity to steer the discussion toward traditional GOP concerns about the economic effects of over-regulation. Federal government “meddling” in issues like healthcare, transportation, and education was a popular Republican refrain.

The Economic Development and Commerce Committee’s meeting was lively, but still featured a productive dialogue between committee members and invited guests including former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Peters, former Under Secretary of Policy for the U.S. Department of Transportation Roy Kienitz and Jim Tymon, Director of Program Finance and Management for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

stateside associates - state government affairs

The panel disputed a number of issues, but members agreed that Congress would likely extend MAP-21 funding, a major federal transportation initiative, only beyond the mid-term elections. Panel members encouraged Governors to push Congress for a long term transportation funding plan to ease state uncertainties about investing in infrastructure. Mr. Kienitz suggested that a standalone transportation bill with a funding mechanism is not likely to pass, but that a larger bill with tax reform and funding might make it to President Obama’s desk.

Governors discussed innovation in early childhood education at the Education and Workforce Committee meeting. The speakers included Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Maryland Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery and Alabama Commissioner of the Department of Children’s Affairs Jeana Ross. The two educators gave presentations on two different approaches, arguably driven by ideology, to early childhood education. Partisan tensions heightened the education dialogue when Vice Chair Nevada Governor Sandoval (R) and Secretary Duncan sparred over the administration’s method of distributing early education funding.

Partisan divides and even the occasional heated argument are not unusual at NGA meetings. The subtle jabs at the Administration and boasting about individual state accomplishments, however, took on an unusually confrontational flavor when likely Presidential contender, Louisiana Governor Jindal (R) took the microphone outside the West Wing. Governor Jindal criticized President Obama’s stance on the minimum wage issue during a press conference immediately following a bi-partisan meeting between the Governors and the President. Connecticut Governor Malloy (D) quickly criticized Governor Jindal’s opportunistic use of the situation stating, “Here’s a guy [Jindal] who didn’t come to any of the meetings except this one today, and has the nerve to pull that stuff on everyone, ten feet from the West Wing.”

The NGA, as always, is tackling substantive issues critical to the success of state governments. That overarching political pressures brought out the partisanship at its Winter Meeting this year is good reminder that the organization is, at times, beholden to the politics – and ambitions – of its membership.

###

Mark Anderson 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.

Coalitions and Partnerships: Going Beyond Reliance on Trade Associations

November 7, 2013

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

A year ago, I wrote about the importance of trade associations for a successful state government relations strategy. As that blog made clear, I am a big proponent of supporting state trade associations to promote a given industry and to fend off destructive legislation or adverse administrative actions.

But what happens if an industry doesn’t have a state trade association, or doesn’t have the resources to have a presence in every state? The bills won’t stop being introduced just because a trade association doesn’t exist. In fact, they are all the more likely to proliferate because without a trade association there is no strong network of connections to convey an industry’s perspective as legislation is being crafted.

One option is to join a broad-based trade association that may be an umbrella group for businesses, such as a Chamber of Commerce, and rely on them to watch out for and vocalize a given set of issue-based interests. State and local Chambers provide an important service in advocating for broad-based business issues, but they may not be appropriate when your issue is narrow and may conflict with other industry (or even just your competitors’) business interests.

In other cases, an issue may be broader than a given industry or other business membership group is ready to engage on. What that leaves is a false sense of security, because there will be more “boots on the ground” working members of a Legislature for an issue that may not necessarily be much of a benefit if the interested parties are not closely coordinating their actions.

You may be thinking the answer is simple in both cases: just create a coalition. And you would be right. A coalition of like-minded interests can be the best vehicle for legislative success on a particular issue, even if the partners in the coalition don’t agree on or have conflicting views on other issues. Therefore, how that coalition is created and how it is run can be the difference between success and failure. Creating a partnership or coalition can be far more complicated than gathering individual companies (for the narrow issue) or trade associations (for the broader issues) and dividing up lists of legislators and determining who will lobby each one. While this might work on occasion, it can lead to a disjointed effort and conflicting messages being shared with legislators, which could make your argument much less compelling to the legislature overall.

Coalitions can also be used for proactive purposes as well. For new and emerging industries without a developed association network, educating elected officials about that industry can be the only necessary outcome for a coalition. In this case, the coalition can be made up of those few (or one) companies in the new industry, plus their suppliers or customers that have an interest in industry growth. In this case, the messaging among the coalition may be simpler, but it is no less important that everyone stay on the same message. If legislators are hearing about a new industry for the first time, it is probably even more important that they are hearing a consistent message.

How to Create a Successful Coalition

To give your coalition the greatest chance for success, there are several rules that should be followed that will improve your odds:

1. Broaden the Coalition

Make your coalition broad enough for legislators to see the issue as a public policy issue, not a special interest issue. Having 50 widget makers is important, but can you bring widget users on board? Could the issue be supported by the union that represents your employers? Are there environmental benefits that may bring an environmental group on board? The number of coalition members is less important than the interests that your coalition members represent. If all the coalition members only have relationships with the same five legislators, that is not going to help get a message out very effectively. Review existing relationships of the coalition before moving forward.

2. Define Your Message – And Stick To It

While coalition members may have a common goal, they may have different reasons for getting to that goal. Hash out those common messages within the coalition first, so all members are making the same arguments. When legislators talk to each other about your issue, they need to be repeating the same message, not separate messages from the various coalition members. This doesn’t mean each coalition member can’t make their own arguments beyond the shared messages, they just need to be sure they are consistent with the overall message. When the coalition goal is education, it is even more critical that the messaging is consistent and simple. While discussions can get into the weeds, make sure you can define your key messages in three or four bullet points.

3. Know Your Fallback Strategy 

This is not to argue that you should compromise early, but to make sure your coalition messaging is appropriate. Without knowing what a potential fallback position might be, the initial arguments made by individual coalition members might not be consistent with an ultimate position that needs to be taken by the coalition. Successful coalitions know their objective and keep everyone focused on the arguments that will advance that objective for the entire coalition, even when negotiations are necessary.

4. Broaden the Lobbyist Reach

One of the big advantages of working with a coalition is the ability to broaden the network of lobbyists used for the issue. But it is amazing how often I have worked with a coalition where the coalition agrees to hire a lobbyist as a group and they will hire one of the coalition partner’s lobbyists because “she already knows the issue.” Just as mentioned above in the broadening the coalition point, it is important to know what relationships all the lobbyists in the coalition have with elected officials.

5. Regular Updates

Making sure coalition members are regularly keeping each other informed about their progress is critical to success. Whether one holds in person meetings, phone calls or even just e-mail updates; the key is to make sure everyone is reporting on progress and the leader of the coalition can tell where gaps may be developing. Without regular accountability, the coalition is likely to fall apart or be a coalition in name only. Commitments for action are important, following through on those commitments is the only thing that really matters.

Conclusion

When determining how to engage in a state, a coalition could be the right answer in many circumstances. A trade association is almost always going to be your best bet for long term ongoing representation for an industry. But when fighting a particularly bad policy or building awareness of a newer industry that doesn’t have the bandwidth to sustain an association, a coalition may be the best path.

Many coalitions will hire a lobbyist, a public relations company or a government relations firm to manage the coalition and to take the lead on making sure the steps outlined above get done. Whether managed internally or handled by an outside entity, successful coalitions don’t just happen. They take planning and a commitment to execute, but the results can be so much better than trying to go it alone.

***

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.

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.