Posts Tagged ‘state legislative affairs’

Failed Upon Adjournment

May 20, 2014

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.”

12 Local Officials Groups You Should Not Go Without

April 1, 2014

By Heather Williams, Vice President

local government monitoringAmerica is well organized. Almost 90,000 county, city, township and special district governments establish policies and procedures for everything from plastic bags at the grocery store to fracking and beyond. And, the interplay between state and local governments on hot topics like data security, fair share, e-cigarettes, minimum wage, procurement changes, health care reform, chemical regulation and pharmaceutical waste makes it increasingly impossible to focus efforts only at the state capitol.

Many state government relations professionals never face (or hope they never face) local government issues. And, that is an understandable sentiment. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to look past what is happening at the local level because the issues are, in many ways, state issues. And, they are influencing what we do in state capitols.

So, what can you do?

When faced with the opportunity or need to create a multi-state or national local officials relationship strategy, there are a number of paths that can be taken. One could take the “go it alone” strategy and travel to each of the jurisdictions of interest to create a relationship with the local official of interest, although this would be a monumental task and an ineffective way to reach this goal. Another route would be to use the relationships of state and local lobbyists by working through them to their rolodex of local officials. But if you are looking for a more coordinated and practical effort, I recommend engaging the relevant local officials Groups.

Let’s start with the three Groups with which we are all most familiar: National Association of Counties (NACo), National League of Cities (NLC) and U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM). These Groups are big and their membership is increasing. This is especially true of NACo and NLC, where recent senior level staff changes have refocused the Groups’ efforts on many things including growing their membership. These policy Groups use member driven policy directives to advocate the federal government on behalf of their membership. In addition they address current issues, monitor trends and serve as an incubator for policy ideas.

If relationships with local officials are what you are looking for, I challenge you to look beyond these three and into additional local Groups engagement opportunities. Looking beyond the three local policy Groups will increase the number of access points you have to local officials. The local officials involved in these Groups, especially within leadership, tend to be the more active, influential and vocal local officials.

Local Partisan Groups

These are the 527 Groups of local officials. Each political party has had a local officials Group since McCain Feingold campaign finance reform split the 527 Groups from the national party organizations. And, in parallel with the movement of state issues onto local agendas, these Groups are experiencing a political renaissance. Community Leaders of America (CLA) represents Republican mayors and other local elected executives. Democratic Municipal Officials (DMO) is the national association of Democratic mayors, council members, and other municipal leaders. Each Group has state chapters, providing a vast network of relationships to tap into.

State Leagues and Associations

There are 49 state municipal leagues – Hawaii does not have a state municipal league as Honolulu is the only city and it is governed by a consolidated city/county government – and 53 state associations of counties – 47 states have at least one state association and Arizona, Illinois, Washington and West Virginia have multiple. Each state league or association operates independently of the national Groups (NLC or NACo). Membership within the state leagues or associations are handled on an individual basis. If your objectives require a deeper dive into an individual state or a handful of states, consider joining the league or association within a particular state.

Constituency Groups and Affiliated Associations

Local officials also join constituency groups and affiliated organizations. These operate independently of but work collaboratively with NACo and NLC. Six Constituency Groups are associated with NACo and five are associated with NLC. Examples include the National Association of Black County Officials (NABCO), National Association of Hispanic County Officials (NAHCO) and their city counterparts National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) and Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO). Examples of the 25 affiliated associations that work with NACo include National Association for County Community & Economic Development (NACCED), National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and National Association of County Collectors, Treasurers & Finance Officers (NACCTFO). Membership in these Groups covers all 50 states.

There is no question that expanding to incorporate local government Groups into a government relations program requires significant resource commitment. Being more aware of the array of organizations with which you can work may make decisions easier. But, the fact remains – state issues are now local issues and that is not likely to change.

***

Heather Williams is Vice President at Stateside Associates. She works to help clients manage state and local government issues. She also manages client relationships with key Groups, including her “alma mater,” the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), where she served as National Finance Director.

No Check? No Problem

March 20, 2014

By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

There are two kind of political candidates.

1. Those who have lots of money or who raise it from their family and friends and,

2. Those who lose.

I “borrowed” that line from a former state legislator (who lost his re-elect, btw) and have used it unabashedly for decades.

Another state legislator recently told Stateside Principal Mike Behm that he tells his local audiences the following: “I have to think about reelection every morning when I wake up and every evening before I go to bed, because I cannot help you with anything unless I get re-elected.”

They are both right, of course. Money is necessary for campaigns. And, as government relations professionals, we are expected to either provide some of it ourselves or to help candidates find it from clients, members and other professional acquaintances.

This year, thousands of state and local offices will be on the primary and general election ballots. If we wanted to, we could spend the remaining 7+ months hosting fundraisers for our favorite candidates across the 50 states. Naturally, we cannot do that much, but we appreciate how events give us the opportunity to get to know candidates better. And, that translates into service down the road for our clients. Yes, there is a connection between politics and policy.

Unfortunately, culture, infrastructure and other reasons leave some organizations out in the cold when it comes to direct political giving.

For example, many associations do not have PACs or political giving budgets.

Some of our corporate clients simply eschew political giving as part of their cultural mores.

Still others cannot engage comfortably in political giving due to “pay to play” or other restrictions.

This blog is for those who want to take advantage of the political season to get to know candidates and develop relationships, but who cannot make political contributions.

At Stateside, we make direct political contributions, but we also like to help candidates and our clients by bringing them together in non-fundraising events or “Meet and Greets.” Ultimately, the candidate hopes to make acquaintances that will become donors, but—unlike fundraisers—the Meet and Greet itself has no ticket price and no “host committee.”

So far this year, we have hosted two state Attorney General candidates, one gubernatorial candidate and two House Speakers interested in maintaining their respective legislative majorities. We will host another dozen or so events before the end of the election season.

To be clear, candidates would much prefer real fundraisers to “Meet and Greets.” We get that. But, sometimes it is the best or only option. For example, some states do not allow actual fundraising during legislative sessions, but “Meet and Greets” are OK. Primaries are often avoided by corporate and association givers, but a “Meet and Greet” can help increase a candidate’s visibility in a competitive field. And, in some states, the partisan demographic is so skewed that the primary IS the election.

If you cannot make direct contributions, consider the “Meet and Greet” as a way to maximize the value of the 2014 election season for your company or association.

Here are some tips:

  1. Always check with your legal counsel first to make sure that no planning or promotion for the event is considered fundraising or reportable as an in-kind contribution that could trigger “Pay to Play” rules.
  2. If you are a corporation, consider a “Meet and Greet” for senior corporate executives.
  3. If you are an association, bring your members together with candidates to help build awareness of your industry and key issues.
  4. Be sensitive to the candidate’s time and need to raise money. Consider scheduling “Meet and Greet” events adjacent to fundraisers so the candidate can do multiple events without additional travel.
  5. Host “Meet and Greet” events at Groups meetings. The candidates and the guests are already there. You bring them together.
  6. Keep “Meet and Greet” events smaller than fundraisers to maximize opportunity for guests and the candidates to talk.
  7. Be bipartisan. Even if you usually prefer candidates of one party, take this opportunity to get to know other contenders–especially in competitive races.
  8. If a “Meet and Greet” is not an option, consider other alternative such as inviting electeds and/or candidates to your corporate facility for a tour or to address employees.

In nearly all cases, “Meet and Greets” produce connections that ultimately result in the candidate receiving financial support. Even though you did not write a check, you earn status as someone who was helpful.

Win – Win

***

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.”