It may seem a bit premature, but the waning of one legislative session is simply the beginning of the next one. There is no dead stop. People continue to talk and plan and plot and scheme and promote regardless of the month.
Then, why is January – the start of most legislative sessions – such a surprise to folks? Not everything can be foreseen, but there are things you can do to narrow the possibilities.
Here are 8 areas to master to avoid the January surprise:
1. Interim Committees and Studies
When bills are remanded to study in Massachusetts that usually means – DEAD. But, not all states use this euphemism for killing legislation. Studies and interim committee activities can be a very rich vein and state government relations professionals are wise to be aware of them and how they are likely to translate their deliberation into legislation.
2. Opposition Plans
Many NGO’s overshare. They blab about their plans and their frustrations all over their websites and on social media. Read their websites, dip into the discussion groups and blog sites and read what state lawmakers post with and about NGO’s on social media. Just 140 characters goes a long way toward keeping an issue warm.
3. Groups Meeting Agendas
Whether or not you are a member, attendee or non-participant, read the Groups agendas carefully. The best way to socialize an issue is to get it on the agendas of these meetings over the summer and fall.
4. Frustrated Regulators
If you are fussing with a regulator regarding your interpretation of a regulation – versus theirs – do not be surprised to see that regulator advance “clarifying” legislation next session. In addition to using that tactic as leverage, the regulator could be nailing down his position for all time, leaving you to change your business practices.
5. Face the Devil
Imagine. You had a difficult time defeating a bill in one state. You do not monitor legislation nationwide, but this popped up and you had to hire a lobbyist and engage. Are you done? You will not know unless you undertake a 49 state sweep for any relevant legislation. And, if something turns up – even if it is dead – you will need a full political write up to determine the likelihood of return in 2016.
6. Coalition Integrity
The expression is “Hold your friends close and your enemies closer.” Perhaps. But I have seen quite a few examples of companies in coalitions bidding adieu to their former partners and making deals with the opposition for exemptions. Distasteful, but when “the boss” says stop spending money or reputation on an issue, this is what occurs sometimes.
Stay very close to your coalition colleagues during the interim. Understand their position and notice if cracks are forming. Do not assume that nothing changes.
7. End of Session Post Mortem With Your Lobbyist
We have written before about conducting thoughtful interviews at the end of session with your lobbyists. You are likely paying them for the full year. You should secure a lot of insight into what they think could occur next year AND a plan of action to ensure that you are using your dollars and your time during the interim to best advantage.
8. Bad Press = Bad Legislation
July is a great time for bad press. It is summer. Almost all the legislatures are on recess or adjourned. Corporate executives go on vacation. It is bliss.
Unfortunately, bad press does not disappear – ever. Your media fiasco in July is still available in January for a legislative “solution.” A great monitoring platform is essential and be prepared to put some lobbyists on retainer in state(s) directly impacted by whatever event still makes you cringe.