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Introduction

[00:00:00] My name is Ethan Wilson. I work for Catalyst strategic government affairs. Our firm is based in Kansas City, but I'm fortunate enough to call Lake Tahoe my home base, I live in Incline Village, Nevada. Our team at Catalyst specializes in multi-state government relations, strategy, advocacy, and relationship management with our nation, state legislatures, and attorneys general. Specifically, I direct our firm's multi-state legislative portfolios. This includes everything from bill tracking and multi-state lobbyists hiring and management to grasstops advocacy and trade associations. And as a multi-state attorney, a former NCSL staffer and current NCSL Foundation board member, and many times over a legislative intern in both undergrad and in law school working for, in, and around state legislatures is a passion. And today, while I have you all I'd like to explore a few topics that I believe are key to any successful multi-state legislative engagement, whether that's engagement on behalf of multiple clients, such as our firm at Catalyst, or engagement as an in-house member of a company or a trade association, or non-profit. For the topics that I'd like to discuss, or try to distill down in some way, shape or form in a meaningful way within, you know, 30 to 40 minutes here, there are three specific things that I want to talk about. One is value. One is a network, and one is knowledge, or as far as knowledge goes more specifically state legislative institutional knowledge as I'll refer to it. And then finally to wrap things up, I'll provide my hot take, so to speak on another incredibly important issue in multi-state legislative engagement that to be quite honest probably doesn't get the coverage or have the awareness that it should. So we'll talk about that towards the end. Okay. So of the core concepts of multi-state legislative engagement that I want to talk about let's start with that. I'm talking about the value that you bring to your company, your organization, your clients whomever it may be.

Providing Value

[00:02:00] So what is value? Well, Merriam Webster defines value as relative worth, utility, or importance. Okay. That's fine. And perhaps obvious, but I'm talking about something that's truly a value. Something that cannot be easily replaced, if replacing at all. And so what does that value look like? What kind of value? Right. Well, value from a multi-state legislative perspective can take a number of different forms. For example, providing access through key relationships and other soft skills, or on the other hand providing technical skills, such as legislative drafting, policy analysis, and bill tracking, but the value that you provide becomes essential value to again, your company, your client, your organization, whomever, it may become essential value when the skills or products that you bring to the table and your capacity and your role, be it soft or hard skills. They become essential when they're essential to workflow and they're essential to your organization or company or clients. Ultimately the value becomes essential when it's involved with achieving goals, whether they're corporate goals or organizational goals, whatever it might be. So looking at it a little bit more deeply, right? What exactly is essential value or what are some examples of essential value? Like I said, both hard skills and soft skills can become an essential value to your clients or companies, or organization. But to provide essential value, you have to go above and beyond you and your team, maybe you and your manager or director of, of, of a state team, right? Maybe it's, maybe you're a one-person shop. [00:04:00] And it's just yourself. That doesn't really matter. I think this all still applies. But you have to take the time and you really gotta put in the effort to learn the issues, whether that's for your organization or specific client issues. For example, becoming an expert and a trusted resource on particular policy areas that matter most from a substantive and, and in-depth perspective and not merely utilizing canned talking points like many lobbyists and consultants use when talking about policy issues. I'm talking about becoming a thought leader in an area, right? Bringing novel ideas and concepts to the table, thinking outside the box. And importantly problem solving these, these things and this type of value. It can all be achieved, right? By both soft skills and hard skills. Maybe you're someone that likes to have the relationship side of government relations and government affairs. Maybe you're somebody who really likes the policy analysis of it. Right. That doesn't matter maybe. And maybe you like both. You can still, I think, provide a central value to your organization or client by honing in on specific. But don't get me wrong. This is certainly easier said than done. It's easy for me to just say this stuff right. When I know that it takes all of us a really long time to craft what we do and the art of what we do. And it's not easy to become, snap your fingers and become an expert on one policy, right? Let alone multiple areas of policy, but I will say it is the time and the resulting expertise that truly provides value that becomes essential to your client or your company, or your organization. Becoming a trusted resource and a thought leader on a policy area or issue may actually be less about the intricacies of one particular policy and more about the process that you took or that you implemented to become a trusted resource it's this process or roadmap that can actually be repeated and translated and refined to the next issue or policy broadly speaking. This is the process of both learning the substance of a policy area. Right. That's pretty obvious. [00:06:00] But also it's becoming an effective communicator around, you know, particular policies or issues that you and your company or your client, your organization deal with most and becoming an effective communicator. I think really we can kind of distill this down to three really important things. One of them is talking points, developing and fine-tuning, effective talking points that incorporate both substance and persuasion. Effective talking points are all about distilling down and delivering an issue or concept in a way that is approachable, digestible, and ultimately understandable. Right? Also key to being an effective communicator, knowing your audience. And this kind of goes hand in hand with developing effective talking points and your talking points and delivery of those talking points will look different depending on your own. And to truly be persuasive. If that is your goal, you must know your audience, right? You must know your audience quite well and adapt your message and your delivery to that audience. Whether you're talking to a Republican or a Democrat, a nonpartisan staffer, a member of the media, or members of a coalition that you're trying to build support on an issue for your ability to connect, and ultimately educate must take into account the audience that you're communicating with and finally, on communication as it relates to value and identifiable message, having an identifiable message or, or an idea or a takeaway is key. Super important. Your overall message or takeaway is potentially a little bit different than your talking points, right? [00:08:00] That difference may be nuanced. But I do think that your overall message or takeaways are different than your talking points. Yes. You use your talking points to help you deliver your ideas or your concepts, but really your takeaway should be the idea or position or persuasion that you want your audience to remember and even embrace. Okay. So that was kind of, lot of information, things I wanted to talk about in regards to value. And so to recap value and the value that you bring to your organization, right? Your team, your corporate mission, or your organization's nonprofit mission, whatever it might be. Essential value, right, is key. And then in the world of multi-state legislative engagement, you can provide value in a number of ways, but the essential value comes from skills or work product that become essential to your client or company's mission. And again, this can be achieved by putting in the time and effort to become a trusted resource and a thought leader, right? Someone who thinks outside the box, someone who really is a problem solver. This can be achieved by being an effective communicator and knowing your audience and leaving behind key takeaways and being persuasive. Finally, on value, which I do want to touch on, you know, it can be tough for GR folks or government relations, government affairs, public policy, folks to show executive leadership or management, tangible ROI on government relations. Maybe that's not always the case. Sometimes executive leadership really embraces public policy and, and advocacy and government relations, but that's not always the case. And investing in GR and public affairs is largely a long-term proposition. [00:10:00] If a company or organization starts spending on GR and expects immediate results or results yesterday, they're probably late to the game. Relationships and brand or corporate welfare and political capital is built over time, not overnight. Nonetheless, right, at certain times, most of us GR professionals will find ourselves in the position of needing to demonstrate express or quantifiable value through some kind of metric, right. And maybe that's during budget season. And that can be through definable OKR. Or, you know, a number of conferences you and your team have attended or meetings held and so forth, but that's just the world that we live in, right. It's trying to quantify an industry or a business that's not very easily quantifiable. And that ROI can be hard to illustrate and articulate. But again, that's, that's kind of the world that we live in and it is stuff that we, there is stuff that we can point to, to show that sort of quantifiable value to our executive leadership.

Building Your Network Across 50 States

I want to transition to a second topic, although a lot of these go a lot of these three topics value, network, and knowledge are super intertwined and they're definitely not mutually exclusive. The second topic is network and it's probably not a surprise to anyone on here that's in multi-state legislative government affairs. But I'm talking about a network as a noun and network as a verb and building and constantly growing a 50 state network. You grow that network by being able to leverage a national network of contacts and multi-state resources is absolutely vital to directing an effective 50 state legislative program. And again, that goes for whether you're in-house or you're working with multiple clients. You cannot be in two places at once let alone 50. But in many cases, you do need to know exactly what's going on in numerous states at one time. I'm thinking in the height of legislative sessions when committee schedules and committee calendars are more like guidelines than rules and they're constantly changing and floor votes are being called at a moment's notice, right? [00:12:00] Sometimes you got to know when this stuff's going on and you're not obviously on the ground in those states. Well, in-state lobbyists consultants, representatives of local chapters of trade associations, advocacy groups, legislative staff, even legislators can make up a circuit board of connections and tethers that represents your multi-state network. One that's both accurately predictive and one that's quickly reactive when you need it to be. And I'll stress there is no substitute for live, on the ground, trusted intel. But on the other hand in regards to network also playing a super important role in building that 50 state network are the technology resources available at your fingertips, literally at your fingertips. These are resources, specially designed to develop and to capture and consolidate and distill all kinds of data points and events that impact policy outcomes in the states. I'm thinking about bill tracking and scraping legislative timelines. Media monitoring of keywords and key phrases, social media monitoring, database management to log you and your team's interactions and contacts and touchpoints with elected officials, and so forth. Personally, I couldn't do what I do without Quorum. Everything it empowers our firm to do. Bill-tracking analytics, data visualizations, reports, PDFs, online, accessible legislative databases, and dashboards. Right? You name it. It's harnessing the power and innovation of technology that allows you to build dynamic real-time inputs and resources that are critical to your 50 state network, and truly become an expert with these types of resources and leverage that. [00:14:00] This will separate you and your team from the pack. I think that there's a lot of folks in our space that don't really embrace or not necessarily embrace but become experts in these types of resources. And I think if more people did they would find you know, their jobs, not, not necessarily easier. But I think that they would find themselves probably bringing more value to their clients or organization. And so again, this, this kind of goes hand in hand, right? With providing value to your client company or organization, it's the expertise and the command of public affairs technologies and software that when paired with on the ground resources and that live trusted intel on the ground results in really, really powerful, multi-state engagement. And so recapping network. Remember network is both a noun and a verb. I had a mentor a long time ago tell his law clerks when you're not working, you're networking. Now I have to say at the time, I kind of hated that saying and it's definitely too extreme. Right? I get anxiety thinking that like, I can never really fully turn off. And even when I'm not at work or whatever, you know, you kind of always have to be on. But I think what that saying is, you know, when you're not working, you're networking you get the idea right? With that building, a large network of both on the ground and technology resources is key to driving effective 50 state legislative engagement.

Building Institutional Knowledge

I'm going to transition to the sort of third and final ish topic that I want to talk about and that's knowledge, right? Or more specifically institutional knowledge of state legislatures. We've already established that we can't really be an expert on the policy process in all 50 states. Or in more than one place at one time. Because we just simply can't do that. And as multi-state legislative professionals, sometimes it feels like we do have to shapeshift. [00:16:00] And that we do have to be in multiple places at one time, especially in the height of legislative sessions. When we got to go from capital to capital, right. That can be really, really tough. But it's impossible to know every state's legislative part. It's impossible to know every chamber session calendar, and it's impossible to know every committee's hearing schedule, right? That's why having a 50 state network and access to public affairs technology like Quorum, for example, is incredibly important. However, that said it is important and valuable to develop a healthy knowledge of the legislative process in states generally. Pair that with developing the skills necessary to conduct statutory and regulatory research in every state or potentially every state. Right? I mean, that's some really nuts and bolts stuff, and I'll get into more of that in a second. But it's really important to what we do and doing our jobs effectively and look ultimate. This stuff all takes time, right? There's no real way to shortcut this. The longer you work in 50 state legislative affairs, the more opportunities you'll have to work with a new state and gain a better understanding of how the legislative process and the players in that process and that state. But when you do that, when you have the opportunity to work in a new state, right? Whether it's through a new client or it's through a new issue, or maybe you're taking on a new region or whatever within your team take care or be careful and take mental and physical notes on the process in that state and the experience in that state and sort of log it, right? I mean, you talk to folks that have been in this world long enough and they'll have sort of these, this weird. You know, ability to have these like fun facts or whatever about states, right. About maybe when it is exactly that state session runs in the calendar year. [00:18:00]  Or when pre-filing begins and that state or whatever. And again, this, this stuff all takes time, but as we all grow in what we do, we can always be better at what we do. I find that working in a new state is an amazing opportunity. Being able to advocate or work with lobbyists on the ground, in a state where I have not previously done so before is an awesome opportunity. I love taking opportunities to work in new states. Cause I like to make mental notes of that particular state, how it's similar to other states, how it's different and unique, and so forth. And logging that information is I think really important in a space where you can kind of go back and refer. Again, I mean, this is everything from pre-filing, as far as the legislative calendars go to veto sessions and everything in between, right? These are all part of the life cycle of legislation that we experienced. And it's different from state to state. Now, some of this can be pretty basic. For example, knowing that Montana and Nevada and North Dakota and Texas are the only states that meet every other year. Or that Nebraska is the only unicameral and technically nonpartisan legislative chamber in the country. Also that Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia, hold off-year elections. Also important is having a good lay of the land as it relates to key legislative players in states, such as speakers of the house, Senate presidents, majority and minority leaders, and so forth. And believe me, that's all good stuff to know for sure. But I've also found that it's very important to know the nuts and bolts of navigating state-specific online resources, which I will tell you can be quite a mixed bag. I'm sure most of us have run into this, for example. Navigating the New Jersey legislature's website and its online resources is a heck of a lot different than say navigating Colorado's. And some states like California have pretty much completely separate websites and resources for the assembly and the Senate as separate bodies. And there are probably pluses and minuses to that, but it can be frustrating when you're looking for something that is maybe a bill in the assembly, but you're on the Senate website or whatever, just knowing that kind of stuff. [00:20:00] It's knowing these funky little idiosyncrasies and differences from state to state that I think ultimately will help you become a more effective 50 state government affairs professional. And a better researcher. And again, that kind of goes back to that value component and providing more value to, to your companies or your clients, your organizations. Some of the keys to 50 state legislative research. I think I would say are knowing how and where to access online and archived committee hearings, pulling floor and committee calendars, which I will admit can for whatever reason, at least in my case be hard to track down. Sometimes, you know, I just want to be able to go to a state legislative website and find exactly what the calendar is for that month for a particular chamber, and for whatever reason, in some states it's just hard to find and that's frustrating, but that's just the way it is. Being able to research legislative history super-important scouring, state statutes, and regulatory code for specific chapters or provisions. These are all skills that successful 50 state government affairs professionals will need to develop at some point and undoubtedly there are resources and applications that make this type of work easier. There's no doubt. Again, Quorum, for example, can make a lot of this stuff. But nonetheless, at some point we will all find ourselves sort of waist-deep, right? In a state's official statutory or regulatory database with a UX or user experience that's better suited for Windows 98 than the new Macbook Pro. And, you know, you just kinda gotta be able to roll with that and kind of be able to log in your head what states might be easier or more user-friendly to conduct legislative research than others can be helpful as we navigate. So to recap, knowledge or institutional knowledge, I would say like having at least a decent understanding of the legislative process in most states is very, very helpful. [00:22:00] Knowing which states have a traditional January to April or May session versus states that are in and out of session throughout the year, right? Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania. I'm looking at you guys here. And I'll plug NCSL for this too. NCSL has a ton of great resources on the parliamentary process and state sessions. So, you know, there are online resources and databases we can go to, to find out some of this state-specific. Also having an understanding of the political lay of the land and the key legislative players in a given state and look this changes fairly often at the state level. And that changes through elections of course, but also through appointments and retirements and special elections and so forth. So constantly keeping sort of an ear to the ground on that and turnover or change with state legislative leadership. And finally knowing how to conduct legislative research in state legislatures, online resources, or archives. Again, some are better than others. Let's just put it that way. And we've gotta be able to, to kind of roll with working in a state that, you know, the online resources may not be as great as, as another state. So to conclude on, on knowledge and before I move on to really my final topic, which is sort of my hot take I'll conclude on the three topics of value, network, and knowledge or institutional knowledge. I think you can see that all three of these topics value, network, and knowledge are highly intertwined. They're certainly not mutually exclusive. But if you were to pick out a few themes or me write the themes I would pick out that seemed to be recurring in what we do as, as multi-state government relations professionals. I would argue that these three topics, value, network, and knowledge are at the very foundation of what we do as government relations professionals. And, you know, anytime we can show more value to our clients, companies, and organizations, anytime we can build bigger and better. networks. Anytime we can know more about the state legislative process. We become better, I think, inherently at what we do.

One Hot Take: The Challenges of 50 State Compliance

[00:24:00] Quorum asked me, you know, do you have a particular hot take right? Or something that's maybe not controversial, but you know, an issue that people might think is interesting or hadn't thought of or whatever. And I thought to myself, well, you know, I do actually and it's on the ever-present issue of lobbying compliance for multi-state government affairs professionals. And specifically, right. My hot take is that we as 50 state government affairs professionals live and work in an interesting space. A space that probably brings us a lot closer to noncompliance with state laws and regulations on lobbying and advocacy than most of us know, or that we want. Are we lobbyists, right? Are we actually influencing policy or are we consultants or in-house lobbyists or in-house employees that are one or two steps removed from the actual on-the-ground lobbying. When do we walk up to, but not actually cross that threshold and actually trigger lobbyist, registration, or alternatively, when do we cross that threshold and actually trigger lobbyist registration, reporting, and disclosure? For our consultant friends that are on the ground and our lobbyists registered in particular states, this is a different calculus for them. They know they are lobbyists. They know they're in there, they're impacting and influencing policy in a given state. But when you're working on 30 states on different pieces of legislation, right. That calculus or that question can seem different. The reality is that 50 state government affairs professionals as 50 state government affairs professionals, we probably get a lot closer to or walking up to lobbying thresholds and even therefore potentially triggering, lobbying-related requirements than we might think. I mean, think about it, right. We're going from one capital to the next, during legislative sessions. [00:26:00] We're holding in-person and zoom meetings constantly it seems like. We're testifying. We're going from one multi-state legislative event to the next.  I'm thinking about the alphabet soup groups, right? We all know what I'm talking about there. As a multi-state legislative professional, you know, we make a lot of connections. We have a lot of conversations and we source lots of legislative and political intel and a great thing as a very, very good thing. It's that kind of value in-network and knowledge that makes us effective operators in vital and valuable to our companies and organizations and clients. But as multi-state professionals, we can't realistically be registered lobbyists in all 50 states, right. Or even 15 states for that matter. So where does that leave us from a lobbying and advocacy perspective? Well, look, unfortunately, I don't have a fantastic answer for you. At least not like a blanket answer because all this is very specific to you and to your practice and your scope. But what I can tell you is we have to be aware. We have to be very aware of lobbying definitions and thresholds in states where we have communications written or verbal with lawmakers and legislative staff or in any other way, meaningfully engage in the legislative process. This can be a gray area, right? There's no doubt about that, but we have to be vigilant when it comes to identifiable thresholds and definitions for lobbying activity, such as communications with elected officials and what exactly that means. And whether that triggers or meets rises to, the definition of lobbying in a state, the amount of time spent advocating on specific pieces of legislation, whether directly or indirectly, some states actually set like a time threshold. Or once you cross you trigger lobbying, lobbying, disclosures, and requirements in that state other states set compensation, amounts, and thresholds. How much you get paid to work on a particular piece of legislation. Sometimes they're like hard floors that once you cross that you trigger that state's lobbying and disclosure requirements. Also, something to keep in mind is when you know as the multi-state folks the [00:28:00] 50 state, you know, consultants are working with a registered in-state lobbyist, whether that impacts our status as a lobbying principle and any responsibilities that may come with that. I think the last thing we'll really talk about here is I'm going to provide you with an example of a state definition of lobbying and I want you to think about it. I want you to think about whether any of your actions may have, or could be seen to have fallen into such a definition. And before I tell you the specific state, let you guys have a guess and bear with me as I am going to read the definition verbatim from the statute. Okay? So this particular definition, which I chose, right? I selected this is legislative lobbying is defined as any act to promote, oppose, influence or attempt to influence legislation or to promote, oppose, or influence the governor's approval or veto thereof, including any action to influence introduction, sponsorship, consideration, action, or non-action with respect to any legislation and provided further that legislative lobbying shall include strategizing, planning, and research if performed in connection with, or for use in actual communication with a government employee. So any guesses folks as to what that, what state that might be anybody have any guesses? [00:30:00] Okay, well, nobody's got, nobody's guessed this yet. But that is the definition of lobbying in the wonderful and beautiful state of Massachusetts. And look I say all this, and I highlight this definition and look, I may have singled out Massachusetts with this example, but I could have highlighted any number of state definitions of lobbying that are quite broad or can appear to be quite broad and potentially be interpreted to be quite broad because working in this space, we must be vigilant and aware of when we will trigger or potentially trigger lobbying compliance requirements, whether through communications with elected officials or even non-elected officials, such as legislative or regulatory staff. Every state is different. It can be very different and their definitions of lobbying and lobbyists, but that mere fact makes it all the more important to be familiar with lobbying requirements and states and states that you will have a nexus to right, states you're following a piece of legislation on and you're having communications about. And look as a lawyer, I would be remiss to not say that there are situations where you need to seek formal guidance, either from legal counsel or compliance specialists in a particular state or even through an inquiry with the state's ethics body, if they provide that type of resource. And ultimately when in doubt, seek out the information and counsel needed to always be compliant with state lobbying and ethics laws. So that is my hot take for the day. Something that we can all maybe chew on a little bit as we all kind of start to gear up for, what's going to be probably a legislatively, a crazy 2022, and gearing up for the midterms.

Questions from the Audience

What advice do you have for small one to two professional staff and three to five intern policy and large shops? Great question.

Well, I mean, look, part of it, I think is arming yourself with the appropriate tools that you need to have a multi-state presence. And a big part of that is, is partnering with the resources, the technology resources that you need to be able to stay up to date and be able to wrap your hands around legislative bill tracking come January 1st or even before that. [00:32:00] I mean like pre-filing of bills seems to get crazy, like in November and certain states will like dump them all at once. It seems like, you know, some like, you know, on Quorum, whatever I'll be tracking and then, you know, one day goes by and it's like, there have been 300 bills pre-filed and that's lovely, but that's, that's kind of the nature of the beast and that's what we do. So I would say arming yourselves with that type of resource is well worth an investment. And you really do need to be able as a small shop, you need to be able to leverage those and, and really be able to provide your clients, you know, the information that they need to, to accurately track legislation in all 50 states. And then I think beyond that, I mean, having a presence at and multi, multi, or 50 states national organizations can be really incredible too. And there are all kinds of options out there. Right? There are partisan options, there are nonpartisan options. There are diverse options out there in the multi-state and 50 state space. And I think those organizations provide a ton of value. And they're able to, you know, they allow smaller shops, smaller groups, I think, to kind of leverage grasstops advocacy. So I think that's all kind of important.

[00:34:00]  Do you have recommendations for bill tracking software tools?

You know, there's a lot in this space. There's a lot of amazing products. It's crazy actually. You know, I've been working in this space now for about a decade and again, I started at NCSL and NCSL used a particular bill track resource through our clients, at Catalyst I've worked, I worked through a number of different products and services. I really do enjoy working with Quorum. I think Quorum has got a great user experience and I think it allows myself and, and our team at Catalyst to have and provide some wonderful, wonderful resources to our clients, but you know, again, it's, it's tough to answer that question. There is a ton in this space. There's a lot of great resources out there. And also you want to keep in mind I mean, if you're gonna do a lot of legal research as well, I mean, if you're gonna do a lot of statutory research and you're gonna be looking up some case law and stuff like that, right. You've got your Westlaw's and you've got your Lexis out there and others. And so that's maybe something you want to keep in mind too, if you're going to actually be doing some, some, some legal research as.

I work with a small nonprofit around social services. The majority of our members are state, local government workers and very hesitant to engage in advocacy. How do we best build a 50 state, DC territory, network?

That's a great question. I mean, you really kind of summed up, I think of what a lot of us face, right. You know, I've got the privilege of working with all different kinds of clients and shapes and sizes of clients. But certainly, clients that fall into that space. I think being able first and foremost, for them to rely on you and the services that you're able to provide or your staff or your team is able to provide, whether that's weekly updates or monthly updates on issues that matter most to them. I do think having access to public affairs software is probably first, should be first and foremost, right on that list. Just to be able to arm yourself with the information that you need to distribute and disseminate to your membership regarding issues that they care about most. You can kind of see yourself and the tools that you have at your disposal as sort of a funnel for that kind of information. And you're able to through the appropriate software and resources and tools to kind of distill out of this massive information at the state level, which comes in every single year, and be able to distill that in a meaningful way, I think can be potentially very helpful to your folks. [00:36:00] And also I think getting, getting membership engaged is important, right? Whether that's organizing hill days, lobby days in particular states working with other coalition partners or, or local chapters. To kind of set up meetings, right? Set up a stakeholder engagement with particular caucuses or with particular members in a particular state, right. Getting those members engaged, making them feel like they have some skin in the game or that, that they're invested in what you're doing. I think it's all really important and can hopefully sort of lend to ultimately building and building a very solid 50 state, DC and territory. [post_title] => Building a 50-State Government Affairs Strategy with Catalyst's Ethan Wilson [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => building-50-state-government-affairs-strategy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-10-11 20:09:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-10-11 20:09:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=5768 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 5768 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'building-50-state-government-affairs-strategy' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5768 [post_author] => 12 [post_date] => 2021-10-11 20:09:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-10-11 20:09:35 [post_content] => Check out our session from 2021 Wonk Week:

Introduction

[00:00:00] My name is Ethan Wilson. I work for Catalyst strategic government affairs. Our firm is based in Kansas City, but I'm fortunate enough to call Lake Tahoe my home base, I live in Incline Village, Nevada. Our team at Catalyst specializes in multi-state government relations, strategy, advocacy, and relationship management with our nation, state legislatures, and attorneys general. Specifically, I direct our firm's multi-state legislative portfolios. This includes everything from bill tracking and multi-state lobbyists hiring and management to grasstops advocacy and trade associations. And as a multi-state attorney, a former NCSL staffer and current NCSL Foundation board member, and many times over a legislative intern in both undergrad and in law school working for, in, and around state legislatures is a passion. And today, while I have you all I'd like to explore a few topics that I believe are key to any successful multi-state legislative engagement, whether that's engagement on behalf of multiple clients, such as our firm at Catalyst, or engagement as an in-house member of a company or a trade association, or non-profit. For the topics that I'd like to discuss, or try to distill down in some way, shape or form in a meaningful way within, you know, 30 to 40 minutes here, there are three specific things that I want to talk about. One is value. One is a network, and one is knowledge, or as far as knowledge goes more specifically state legislative institutional knowledge as I'll refer to it. And then finally to wrap things up, I'll provide my hot take, so to speak on another incredibly important issue in multi-state legislative engagement that to be quite honest probably doesn't get the coverage or have the awareness that it should. So we'll talk about that towards the end. Okay. So of the core concepts of multi-state legislative engagement that I want to talk about let's start with that. I'm talking about the value that you bring to your company, your organization, your clients whomever it may be.

Providing Value

[00:02:00] So what is value? Well, Merriam Webster defines value as relative worth, utility, or importance. Okay. That's fine. And perhaps obvious, but I'm talking about something that's truly a value. Something that cannot be easily replaced, if replacing at all. And so what does that value look like? What kind of value? Right. Well, value from a multi-state legislative perspective can take a number of different forms. For example, providing access through key relationships and other soft skills, or on the other hand providing technical skills, such as legislative drafting, policy analysis, and bill tracking, but the value that you provide becomes essential value to again, your company, your client, your organization, whomever, it may become essential value when the skills or products that you bring to the table and your capacity and your role, be it soft or hard skills. They become essential when they're essential to workflow and they're essential to your organization or company or clients. Ultimately the value becomes essential when it's involved with achieving goals, whether they're corporate goals or organizational goals, whatever it might be. So looking at it a little bit more deeply, right? What exactly is essential value or what are some examples of essential value? Like I said, both hard skills and soft skills can become an essential value to your clients or companies, or organization. But to provide essential value, you have to go above and beyond you and your team, maybe you and your manager or director of, of, of a state team, right? Maybe it's, maybe you're a one-person shop. [00:04:00] And it's just yourself. That doesn't really matter. I think this all still applies. But you have to take the time and you really gotta put in the effort to learn the issues, whether that's for your organization or specific client issues. For example, becoming an expert and a trusted resource on particular policy areas that matter most from a substantive and, and in-depth perspective and not merely utilizing canned talking points like many lobbyists and consultants use when talking about policy issues. I'm talking about becoming a thought leader in an area, right? Bringing novel ideas and concepts to the table, thinking outside the box. And importantly problem solving these, these things and this type of value. It can all be achieved, right? By both soft skills and hard skills. Maybe you're someone that likes to have the relationship side of government relations and government affairs. Maybe you're somebody who really likes the policy analysis of it. Right. That doesn't matter maybe. And maybe you like both. You can still, I think, provide a central value to your organization or client by honing in on specific. But don't get me wrong. This is certainly easier said than done. It's easy for me to just say this stuff right. When I know that it takes all of us a really long time to craft what we do and the art of what we do. And it's not easy to become, snap your fingers and become an expert on one policy, right? Let alone multiple areas of policy, but I will say it is the time and the resulting expertise that truly provides value that becomes essential to your client or your company, or your organization. Becoming a trusted resource and a thought leader on a policy area or issue may actually be less about the intricacies of one particular policy and more about the process that you took or that you implemented to become a trusted resource it's this process or roadmap that can actually be repeated and translated and refined to the next issue or policy broadly speaking. This is the process of both learning the substance of a policy area. Right. That's pretty obvious. [00:06:00] But also it's becoming an effective communicator around, you know, particular policies or issues that you and your company or your client, your organization deal with most and becoming an effective communicator. I think really we can kind of distill this down to three really important things. One of them is talking points, developing and fine-tuning, effective talking points that incorporate both substance and persuasion. Effective talking points are all about distilling down and delivering an issue or concept in a way that is approachable, digestible, and ultimately understandable. Right? Also key to being an effective communicator, knowing your audience. And this kind of goes hand in hand with developing effective talking points and your talking points and delivery of those talking points will look different depending on your own. And to truly be persuasive. If that is your goal, you must know your audience, right? You must know your audience quite well and adapt your message and your delivery to that audience. Whether you're talking to a Republican or a Democrat, a nonpartisan staffer, a member of the media, or members of a coalition that you're trying to build support on an issue for your ability to connect, and ultimately educate must take into account the audience that you're communicating with and finally, on communication as it relates to value and identifiable message, having an identifiable message or, or an idea or a takeaway is key. Super important. Your overall message or takeaway is potentially a little bit different than your talking points, right? [00:08:00] That difference may be nuanced. But I do think that your overall message or takeaways are different than your talking points. Yes. You use your talking points to help you deliver your ideas or your concepts, but really your takeaway should be the idea or position or persuasion that you want your audience to remember and even embrace. Okay. So that was kind of, lot of information, things I wanted to talk about in regards to value. And so to recap value and the value that you bring to your organization, right? Your team, your corporate mission, or your organization's nonprofit mission, whatever it might be. Essential value, right, is key. And then in the world of multi-state legislative engagement, you can provide value in a number of ways, but the essential value comes from skills or work product that become essential to your client or company's mission. And again, this can be achieved by putting in the time and effort to become a trusted resource and a thought leader, right? Someone who thinks outside the box, someone who really is a problem solver. This can be achieved by being an effective communicator and knowing your audience and leaving behind key takeaways and being persuasive. Finally, on value, which I do want to touch on, you know, it can be tough for GR folks or government relations, government affairs, public policy, folks to show executive leadership or management, tangible ROI on government relations. Maybe that's not always the case. Sometimes executive leadership really embraces public policy and, and advocacy and government relations, but that's not always the case. And investing in GR and public affairs is largely a long-term proposition. [00:10:00] If a company or organization starts spending on GR and expects immediate results or results yesterday, they're probably late to the game. Relationships and brand or corporate welfare and political capital is built over time, not overnight. Nonetheless, right, at certain times, most of us GR professionals will find ourselves in the position of needing to demonstrate express or quantifiable value through some kind of metric, right. And maybe that's during budget season. And that can be through definable OKR. Or, you know, a number of conferences you and your team have attended or meetings held and so forth, but that's just the world that we live in, right. It's trying to quantify an industry or a business that's not very easily quantifiable. And that ROI can be hard to illustrate and articulate. But again, that's, that's kind of the world that we live in and it is stuff that we, there is stuff that we can point to, to show that sort of quantifiable value to our executive leadership.

Building Your Network Across 50 States

I want to transition to a second topic, although a lot of these go a lot of these three topics value, network, and knowledge are super intertwined and they're definitely not mutually exclusive. The second topic is network and it's probably not a surprise to anyone on here that's in multi-state legislative government affairs. But I'm talking about a network as a noun and network as a verb and building and constantly growing a 50 state network. You grow that network by being able to leverage a national network of contacts and multi-state resources is absolutely vital to directing an effective 50 state legislative program. And again, that goes for whether you're in-house or you're working with multiple clients. You cannot be in two places at once let alone 50. But in many cases, you do need to know exactly what's going on in numerous states at one time. I'm thinking in the height of legislative sessions when committee schedules and committee calendars are more like guidelines than rules and they're constantly changing and floor votes are being called at a moment's notice, right? [00:12:00] Sometimes you got to know when this stuff's going on and you're not obviously on the ground in those states. Well, in-state lobbyists consultants, representatives of local chapters of trade associations, advocacy groups, legislative staff, even legislators can make up a circuit board of connections and tethers that represents your multi-state network. One that's both accurately predictive and one that's quickly reactive when you need it to be. And I'll stress there is no substitute for live, on the ground, trusted intel. But on the other hand in regards to network also playing a super important role in building that 50 state network are the technology resources available at your fingertips, literally at your fingertips. These are resources, specially designed to develop and to capture and consolidate and distill all kinds of data points and events that impact policy outcomes in the states. I'm thinking about bill tracking and scraping legislative timelines. Media monitoring of keywords and key phrases, social media monitoring, database management to log you and your team's interactions and contacts and touchpoints with elected officials, and so forth. Personally, I couldn't do what I do without Quorum. Everything it empowers our firm to do. Bill-tracking analytics, data visualizations, reports, PDFs, online, accessible legislative databases, and dashboards. Right? You name it. It's harnessing the power and innovation of technology that allows you to build dynamic real-time inputs and resources that are critical to your 50 state network, and truly become an expert with these types of resources and leverage that. [00:14:00] This will separate you and your team from the pack. I think that there's a lot of folks in our space that don't really embrace or not necessarily embrace but become experts in these types of resources. And I think if more people did they would find you know, their jobs, not, not necessarily easier. But I think that they would find themselves probably bringing more value to their clients or organization. And so again, this, this kind of goes hand in hand, right? With providing value to your client company or organization, it's the expertise and the command of public affairs technologies and software that when paired with on the ground resources and that live trusted intel on the ground results in really, really powerful, multi-state engagement. And so recapping network. Remember network is both a noun and a verb. I had a mentor a long time ago tell his law clerks when you're not working, you're networking. Now I have to say at the time, I kind of hated that saying and it's definitely too extreme. Right? I get anxiety thinking that like, I can never really fully turn off. And even when I'm not at work or whatever, you know, you kind of always have to be on. But I think what that saying is, you know, when you're not working, you're networking you get the idea right? With that building, a large network of both on the ground and technology resources is key to driving effective 50 state legislative engagement.

Building Institutional Knowledge

I'm going to transition to the sort of third and final ish topic that I want to talk about and that's knowledge, right? Or more specifically institutional knowledge of state legislatures. We've already established that we can't really be an expert on the policy process in all 50 states. Or in more than one place at one time. Because we just simply can't do that. And as multi-state legislative professionals, sometimes it feels like we do have to shapeshift. [00:16:00] And that we do have to be in multiple places at one time, especially in the height of legislative sessions. When we got to go from capital to capital, right. That can be really, really tough. But it's impossible to know every state's legislative part. It's impossible to know every chamber session calendar, and it's impossible to know every committee's hearing schedule, right? That's why having a 50 state network and access to public affairs technology like Quorum, for example, is incredibly important. However, that said it is important and valuable to develop a healthy knowledge of the legislative process in states generally. Pair that with developing the skills necessary to conduct statutory and regulatory research in every state or potentially every state. Right? I mean, that's some really nuts and bolts stuff, and I'll get into more of that in a second. But it's really important to what we do and doing our jobs effectively and look ultimate. This stuff all takes time, right? There's no real way to shortcut this. The longer you work in 50 state legislative affairs, the more opportunities you'll have to work with a new state and gain a better understanding of how the legislative process and the players in that process and that state. But when you do that, when you have the opportunity to work in a new state, right? Whether it's through a new client or it's through a new issue, or maybe you're taking on a new region or whatever within your team take care or be careful and take mental and physical notes on the process in that state and the experience in that state and sort of log it, right? I mean, you talk to folks that have been in this world long enough and they'll have sort of these, this weird. You know, ability to have these like fun facts or whatever about states, right. About maybe when it is exactly that state session runs in the calendar year. [00:18:00]  Or when pre-filing begins and that state or whatever. And again, this, this stuff all takes time, but as we all grow in what we do, we can always be better at what we do. I find that working in a new state is an amazing opportunity. Being able to advocate or work with lobbyists on the ground, in a state where I have not previously done so before is an awesome opportunity. I love taking opportunities to work in new states. Cause I like to make mental notes of that particular state, how it's similar to other states, how it's different and unique, and so forth. And logging that information is I think really important in a space where you can kind of go back and refer. Again, I mean, this is everything from pre-filing, as far as the legislative calendars go to veto sessions and everything in between, right? These are all part of the life cycle of legislation that we experienced. And it's different from state to state. Now, some of this can be pretty basic. For example, knowing that Montana and Nevada and North Dakota and Texas are the only states that meet every other year. Or that Nebraska is the only unicameral and technically nonpartisan legislative chamber in the country. Also that Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia, hold off-year elections. Also important is having a good lay of the land as it relates to key legislative players in states, such as speakers of the house, Senate presidents, majority and minority leaders, and so forth. And believe me, that's all good stuff to know for sure. But I've also found that it's very important to know the nuts and bolts of navigating state-specific online resources, which I will tell you can be quite a mixed bag. I'm sure most of us have run into this, for example. Navigating the New Jersey legislature's website and its online resources is a heck of a lot different than say navigating Colorado's. And some states like California have pretty much completely separate websites and resources for the assembly and the Senate as separate bodies. And there are probably pluses and minuses to that, but it can be frustrating when you're looking for something that is maybe a bill in the assembly, but you're on the Senate website or whatever, just knowing that kind of stuff. [00:20:00] It's knowing these funky little idiosyncrasies and differences from state to state that I think ultimately will help you become a more effective 50 state government affairs professional. And a better researcher. And again, that kind of goes back to that value component and providing more value to, to your companies or your clients, your organizations. Some of the keys to 50 state legislative research. I think I would say are knowing how and where to access online and archived committee hearings, pulling floor and committee calendars, which I will admit can for whatever reason, at least in my case be hard to track down. Sometimes, you know, I just want to be able to go to a state legislative website and find exactly what the calendar is for that month for a particular chamber, and for whatever reason, in some states it's just hard to find and that's frustrating, but that's just the way it is. Being able to research legislative history super-important scouring, state statutes, and regulatory code for specific chapters or provisions. These are all skills that successful 50 state government affairs professionals will need to develop at some point and undoubtedly there are resources and applications that make this type of work easier. There's no doubt. Again, Quorum, for example, can make a lot of this stuff. But nonetheless, at some point we will all find ourselves sort of waist-deep, right? In a state's official statutory or regulatory database with a UX or user experience that's better suited for Windows 98 than the new Macbook Pro. And, you know, you just kinda gotta be able to roll with that and kind of be able to log in your head what states might be easier or more user-friendly to conduct legislative research than others can be helpful as we navigate. So to recap, knowledge or institutional knowledge, I would say like having at least a decent understanding of the legislative process in most states is very, very helpful. [00:22:00] Knowing which states have a traditional January to April or May session versus states that are in and out of session throughout the year, right? Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania. I'm looking at you guys here. And I'll plug NCSL for this too. NCSL has a ton of great resources on the parliamentary process and state sessions. So, you know, there are online resources and databases we can go to, to find out some of this state-specific. Also having an understanding of the political lay of the land and the key legislative players in a given state and look this changes fairly often at the state level. And that changes through elections of course, but also through appointments and retirements and special elections and so forth. So constantly keeping sort of an ear to the ground on that and turnover or change with state legislative leadership. And finally knowing how to conduct legislative research in state legislatures, online resources, or archives. Again, some are better than others. Let's just put it that way. And we've gotta be able to, to kind of roll with working in a state that, you know, the online resources may not be as great as, as another state. So to conclude on, on knowledge and before I move on to really my final topic, which is sort of my hot take I'll conclude on the three topics of value, network, and knowledge or institutional knowledge. I think you can see that all three of these topics value, network, and knowledge are highly intertwined. They're certainly not mutually exclusive. But if you were to pick out a few themes or me write the themes I would pick out that seemed to be recurring in what we do as, as multi-state government relations professionals. I would argue that these three topics, value, network, and knowledge are at the very foundation of what we do as government relations professionals. And, you know, anytime we can show more value to our clients, companies, and organizations, anytime we can build bigger and better. networks. Anytime we can know more about the state legislative process. We become better, I think, inherently at what we do.

One Hot Take: The Challenges of 50 State Compliance

[00:24:00] Quorum asked me, you know, do you have a particular hot take right? Or something that's maybe not controversial, but you know, an issue that people might think is interesting or hadn't thought of or whatever. And I thought to myself, well, you know, I do actually and it's on the ever-present issue of lobbying compliance for multi-state government affairs professionals. And specifically, right. My hot take is that we as 50 state government affairs professionals live and work in an interesting space. A space that probably brings us a lot closer to noncompliance with state laws and regulations on lobbying and advocacy than most of us know, or that we want. Are we lobbyists, right? Are we actually influencing policy or are we consultants or in-house lobbyists or in-house employees that are one or two steps removed from the actual on-the-ground lobbying. When do we walk up to, but not actually cross that threshold and actually trigger lobbyist, registration, or alternatively, when do we cross that threshold and actually trigger lobbyist registration, reporting, and disclosure? For our consultant friends that are on the ground and our lobbyists registered in particular states, this is a different calculus for them. They know they are lobbyists. They know they're in there, they're impacting and influencing policy in a given state. But when you're working on 30 states on different pieces of legislation, right. That calculus or that question can seem different. The reality is that 50 state government affairs professionals as 50 state government affairs professionals, we probably get a lot closer to or walking up to lobbying thresholds and even therefore potentially triggering, lobbying-related requirements than we might think. I mean, think about it, right. We're going from one capital to the next, during legislative sessions. [00:26:00] We're holding in-person and zoom meetings constantly it seems like. We're testifying. We're going from one multi-state legislative event to the next.  I'm thinking about the alphabet soup groups, right? We all know what I'm talking about there. As a multi-state legislative professional, you know, we make a lot of connections. We have a lot of conversations and we source lots of legislative and political intel and a great thing as a very, very good thing. It's that kind of value in-network and knowledge that makes us effective operators in vital and valuable to our companies and organizations and clients. But as multi-state professionals, we can't realistically be registered lobbyists in all 50 states, right. Or even 15 states for that matter. So where does that leave us from a lobbying and advocacy perspective? Well, look, unfortunately, I don't have a fantastic answer for you. At least not like a blanket answer because all this is very specific to you and to your practice and your scope. But what I can tell you is we have to be aware. We have to be very aware of lobbying definitions and thresholds in states where we have communications written or verbal with lawmakers and legislative staff or in any other way, meaningfully engage in the legislative process. This can be a gray area, right? There's no doubt about that, but we have to be vigilant when it comes to identifiable thresholds and definitions for lobbying activity, such as communications with elected officials and what exactly that means. And whether that triggers or meets rises to, the definition of lobbying in a state, the amount of time spent advocating on specific pieces of legislation, whether directly or indirectly, some states actually set like a time threshold. Or once you cross you trigger lobbying, lobbying, disclosures, and requirements in that state other states set compensation, amounts, and thresholds. How much you get paid to work on a particular piece of legislation. Sometimes they're like hard floors that once you cross that you trigger that state's lobbying and disclosure requirements. Also, something to keep in mind is when you know as the multi-state folks the [00:28:00] 50 state, you know, consultants are working with a registered in-state lobbyist, whether that impacts our status as a lobbying principle and any responsibilities that may come with that. I think the last thing we'll really talk about here is I'm going to provide you with an example of a state definition of lobbying and I want you to think about it. I want you to think about whether any of your actions may have, or could be seen to have fallen into such a definition. And before I tell you the specific state, let you guys have a guess and bear with me as I am going to read the definition verbatim from the statute. Okay? So this particular definition, which I chose, right? I selected this is legislative lobbying is defined as any act to promote, oppose, influence or attempt to influence legislation or to promote, oppose, or influence the governor's approval or veto thereof, including any action to influence introduction, sponsorship, consideration, action, or non-action with respect to any legislation and provided further that legislative lobbying shall include strategizing, planning, and research if performed in connection with, or for use in actual communication with a government employee. So any guesses folks as to what that, what state that might be anybody have any guesses? [00:30:00] Okay, well, nobody's got, nobody's guessed this yet. But that is the definition of lobbying in the wonderful and beautiful state of Massachusetts. And look I say all this, and I highlight this definition and look, I may have singled out Massachusetts with this example, but I could have highlighted any number of state definitions of lobbying that are quite broad or can appear to be quite broad and potentially be interpreted to be quite broad because working in this space, we must be vigilant and aware of when we will trigger or potentially trigger lobbying compliance requirements, whether through communications with elected officials or even non-elected officials, such as legislative or regulatory staff. Every state is different. It can be very different and their definitions of lobbying and lobbyists, but that mere fact makes it all the more important to be familiar with lobbying requirements and states and states that you will have a nexus to right, states you're following a piece of legislation on and you're having communications about. And look as a lawyer, I would be remiss to not say that there are situations where you need to seek formal guidance, either from legal counsel or compliance specialists in a particular state or even through an inquiry with the state's ethics body, if they provide that type of resource. And ultimately when in doubt, seek out the information and counsel needed to always be compliant with state lobbying and ethics laws. So that is my hot take for the day. Something that we can all maybe chew on a little bit as we all kind of start to gear up for, what's going to be probably a legislatively, a crazy 2022, and gearing up for the midterms.

Questions from the Audience

What advice do you have for small one to two professional staff and three to five intern policy and large shops? Great question.

Well, I mean, look, part of it, I think is arming yourself with the appropriate tools that you need to have a multi-state presence. And a big part of that is, is partnering with the resources, the technology resources that you need to be able to stay up to date and be able to wrap your hands around legislative bill tracking come January 1st or even before that. [00:32:00] I mean like pre-filing of bills seems to get crazy, like in November and certain states will like dump them all at once. It seems like, you know, some like, you know, on Quorum, whatever I'll be tracking and then, you know, one day goes by and it's like, there have been 300 bills pre-filed and that's lovely, but that's, that's kind of the nature of the beast and that's what we do. So I would say arming yourselves with that type of resource is well worth an investment. And you really do need to be able as a small shop, you need to be able to leverage those and, and really be able to provide your clients, you know, the information that they need to, to accurately track legislation in all 50 states. And then I think beyond that, I mean, having a presence at and multi, multi, or 50 states national organizations can be really incredible too. And there are all kinds of options out there. Right? There are partisan options, there are nonpartisan options. There are diverse options out there in the multi-state and 50 state space. And I think those organizations provide a ton of value. And they're able to, you know, they allow smaller shops, smaller groups, I think, to kind of leverage grasstops advocacy. So I think that's all kind of important.

[00:34:00]  Do you have recommendations for bill tracking software tools?

You know, there's a lot in this space. There's a lot of amazing products. It's crazy actually. You know, I've been working in this space now for about a decade and again, I started at NCSL and NCSL used a particular bill track resource through our clients, at Catalyst I've worked, I worked through a number of different products and services. I really do enjoy working with Quorum. I think Quorum has got a great user experience and I think it allows myself and, and our team at Catalyst to have and provide some wonderful, wonderful resources to our clients, but you know, again, it's, it's tough to answer that question. There is a ton in this space. There's a lot of great resources out there. And also you want to keep in mind I mean, if you're gonna do a lot of legal research as well, I mean, if you're gonna do a lot of statutory research and you're gonna be looking up some case law and stuff like that, right. You've got your Westlaw's and you've got your Lexis out there and others. And so that's maybe something you want to keep in mind too, if you're going to actually be doing some, some, some legal research as.

I work with a small nonprofit around social services. The majority of our members are state, local government workers and very hesitant to engage in advocacy. How do we best build a 50 state, DC territory, network?

That's a great question. I mean, you really kind of summed up, I think of what a lot of us face, right. You know, I've got the privilege of working with all different kinds of clients and shapes and sizes of clients. But certainly, clients that fall into that space. I think being able first and foremost, for them to rely on you and the services that you're able to provide or your staff or your team is able to provide, whether that's weekly updates or monthly updates on issues that matter most to them. I do think having access to public affairs software is probably first, should be first and foremost, right on that list. Just to be able to arm yourself with the information that you need to distribute and disseminate to your membership regarding issues that they care about most. You can kind of see yourself and the tools that you have at your disposal as sort of a funnel for that kind of information. And you're able to through the appropriate software and resources and tools to kind of distill out of this massive information at the state level, which comes in every single year, and be able to distill that in a meaningful way, I think can be potentially very helpful to your folks. [00:36:00] And also I think getting, getting membership engaged is important, right? Whether that's organizing hill days, lobby days in particular states working with other coalition partners or, or local chapters. To kind of set up meetings, right? Set up a stakeholder engagement with particular caucuses or with particular members in a particular state, right. Getting those members engaged, making them feel like they have some skin in the game or that, that they're invested in what you're doing. I think it's all really important and can hopefully sort of lend to ultimately building and building a very solid 50 state, DC and territory. [post_title] => Building a 50-State Government Affairs Strategy with Catalyst's Ethan Wilson [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => building-50-state-government-affairs-strategy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-10-11 20:09:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-10-11 20:09:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=5768 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5768 [post_author] => 12 [post_date] => 2021-10-11 20:09:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-10-11 20:09:35 [post_content] => Check out our session from 2021 Wonk Week:

Introduction

[00:00:00] My name is Ethan Wilson. I work for Catalyst strategic government affairs. Our firm is based in Kansas City, but I'm fortunate enough to call Lake Tahoe my home base, I live in Incline Village, Nevada. Our team at Catalyst specializes in multi-state government relations, strategy, advocacy, and relationship management with our nation, state legislatures, and attorneys general. Specifically, I direct our firm's multi-state legislative portfolios. This includes everything from bill tracking and multi-state lobbyists hiring and management to grasstops advocacy and trade associations. And as a multi-state attorney, a former NCSL staffer and current NCSL Foundation board member, and many times over a legislative intern in both undergrad and in law school working for, in, and around state legislatures is a passion. And today, while I have you all I'd like to explore a few topics that I believe are key to any successful multi-state legislative engagement, whether that's engagement on behalf of multiple clients, such as our firm at Catalyst, or engagement as an in-house member of a company or a trade association, or non-profit. For the topics that I'd like to discuss, or try to distill down in some way, shape or form in a meaningful way within, you know, 30 to 40 minutes here, there are three specific things that I want to talk about. One is value. One is a network, and one is knowledge, or as far as knowledge goes more specifically state legislative institutional knowledge as I'll refer to it. And then finally to wrap things up, I'll provide my hot take, so to speak on another incredibly important issue in multi-state legislative engagement that to be quite honest probably doesn't get the coverage or have the awareness that it should. So we'll talk about that towards the end. Okay. So of the core concepts of multi-state legislative engagement that I want to talk about let's start with that. I'm talking about the value that you bring to your company, your organization, your clients whomever it may be.

Providing Value

[00:02:00] So what is value? Well, Merriam Webster defines value as relative worth, utility, or importance. Okay. That's fine. And perhaps obvious, but I'm talking about something that's truly a value. Something that cannot be easily replaced, if replacing at all. And so what does that value look like? What kind of value? Right. Well, value from a multi-state legislative perspective can take a number of different forms. For example, providing access through key relationships and other soft skills, or on the other hand providing technical skills, such as legislative drafting, policy analysis, and bill tracking, but the value that you provide becomes essential value to again, your company, your client, your organization, whomever, it may become essential value when the skills or products that you bring to the table and your capacity and your role, be it soft or hard skills. They become essential when they're essential to workflow and they're essential to your organization or company or clients. Ultimately the value becomes essential when it's involved with achieving goals, whether they're corporate goals or organizational goals, whatever it might be. So looking at it a little bit more deeply, right? What exactly is essential value or what are some examples of essential value? Like I said, both hard skills and soft skills can become an essential value to your clients or companies, or organization. But to provide essential value, you have to go above and beyond you and your team, maybe you and your manager or director of, of, of a state team, right? Maybe it's, maybe you're a one-person shop. [00:04:00] And it's just yourself. That doesn't really matter. I think this all still applies. But you have to take the time and you really gotta put in the effort to learn the issues, whether that's for your organization or specific client issues. For example, becoming an expert and a trusted resource on particular policy areas that matter most from a substantive and, and in-depth perspective and not merely utilizing canned talking points like many lobbyists and consultants use when talking about policy issues. I'm talking about becoming a thought leader in an area, right? Bringing novel ideas and concepts to the table, thinking outside the box. And importantly problem solving these, these things and this type of value. It can all be achieved, right? By both soft skills and hard skills. Maybe you're someone that likes to have the relationship side of government relations and government affairs. Maybe you're somebody who really likes the policy analysis of it. Right. That doesn't matter maybe. And maybe you like both. You can still, I think, provide a central value to your organization or client by honing in on specific. But don't get me wrong. This is certainly easier said than done. It's easy for me to just say this stuff right. When I know that it takes all of us a really long time to craft what we do and the art of what we do. And it's not easy to become, snap your fingers and become an expert on one policy, right? Let alone multiple areas of policy, but I will say it is the time and the resulting expertise that truly provides value that becomes essential to your client or your company, or your organization. Becoming a trusted resource and a thought leader on a policy area or issue may actually be less about the intricacies of one particular policy and more about the process that you took or that you implemented to become a trusted resource it's this process or roadmap that can actually be repeated and translated and refined to the next issue or policy broadly speaking. This is the process of both learning the substance of a policy area. Right. That's pretty obvious. [00:06:00] But also it's becoming an effective communicator around, you know, particular policies or issues that you and your company or your client, your organization deal with most and becoming an effective communicator. I think really we can kind of distill this down to three really important things. One of them is talking points, developing and fine-tuning, effective talking points that incorporate both substance and persuasion. Effective talking points are all about distilling down and delivering an issue or concept in a way that is approachable, digestible, and ultimately understandable. Right? Also key to being an effective communicator, knowing your audience. And this kind of goes hand in hand with developing effective talking points and your talking points and delivery of those talking points will look different depending on your own. And to truly be persuasive. If that is your goal, you must know your audience, right? You must know your audience quite well and adapt your message and your delivery to that audience. Whether you're talking to a Republican or a Democrat, a nonpartisan staffer, a member of the media, or members of a coalition that you're trying to build support on an issue for your ability to connect, and ultimately educate must take into account the audience that you're communicating with and finally, on communication as it relates to value and identifiable message, having an identifiable message or, or an idea or a takeaway is key. Super important. Your overall message or takeaway is potentially a little bit different than your talking points, right? [00:08:00] That difference may be nuanced. But I do think that your overall message or takeaways are different than your talking points. Yes. You use your talking points to help you deliver your ideas or your concepts, but really your takeaway should be the idea or position or persuasion that you want your audience to remember and even embrace. Okay. So that was kind of, lot of information, things I wanted to talk about in regards to value. And so to recap value and the value that you bring to your organization, right? Your team, your corporate mission, or your organization's nonprofit mission, whatever it might be. Essential value, right, is key. And then in the world of multi-state legislative engagement, you can provide value in a number of ways, but the essential value comes from skills or work product that become essential to your client or company's mission. And again, this can be achieved by putting in the time and effort to become a trusted resource and a thought leader, right? Someone who thinks outside the box, someone who really is a problem solver. This can be achieved by being an effective communicator and knowing your audience and leaving behind key takeaways and being persuasive. Finally, on value, which I do want to touch on, you know, it can be tough for GR folks or government relations, government affairs, public policy, folks to show executive leadership or management, tangible ROI on government relations. Maybe that's not always the case. Sometimes executive leadership really embraces public policy and, and advocacy and government relations, but that's not always the case. And investing in GR and public affairs is largely a long-term proposition. [00:10:00] If a company or organization starts spending on GR and expects immediate results or results yesterday, they're probably late to the game. Relationships and brand or corporate welfare and political capital is built over time, not overnight. Nonetheless, right, at certain times, most of us GR professionals will find ourselves in the position of needing to demonstrate express or quantifiable value through some kind of metric, right. And maybe that's during budget season. And that can be through definable OKR. Or, you know, a number of conferences you and your team have attended or meetings held and so forth, but that's just the world that we live in, right. It's trying to quantify an industry or a business that's not very easily quantifiable. And that ROI can be hard to illustrate and articulate. But again, that's, that's kind of the world that we live in and it is stuff that we, there is stuff that we can point to, to show that sort of quantifiable value to our executive leadership.

Building Your Network Across 50 States

I want to transition to a second topic, although a lot of these go a lot of these three topics value, network, and knowledge are super intertwined and they're definitely not mutually exclusive. The second topic is network and it's probably not a surprise to anyone on here that's in multi-state legislative government affairs. But I'm talking about a network as a noun and network as a verb and building and constantly growing a 50 state network. You grow that network by being able to leverage a national network of contacts and multi-state resources is absolutely vital to directing an effective 50 state legislative program. And again, that goes for whether you're in-house or you're working with multiple clients. You cannot be in two places at once let alone 50. But in many cases, you do need to know exactly what's going on in numerous states at one time. I'm thinking in the height of legislative sessions when committee schedules and committee calendars are more like guidelines than rules and they're constantly changing and floor votes are being called at a moment's notice, right? [00:12:00] Sometimes you got to know when this stuff's going on and you're not obviously on the ground in those states. Well, in-state lobbyists consultants, representatives of local chapters of trade associations, advocacy groups, legislative staff, even legislators can make up a circuit board of connections and tethers that represents your multi-state network. One that's both accurately predictive and one that's quickly reactive when you need it to be. And I'll stress there is no substitute for live, on the ground, trusted intel. But on the other hand in regards to network also playing a super important role in building that 50 state network are the technology resources available at your fingertips, literally at your fingertips. These are resources, specially designed to develop and to capture and consolidate and distill all kinds of data points and events that impact policy outcomes in the states. I'm thinking about bill tracking and scraping legislative timelines. Media monitoring of keywords and key phrases, social media monitoring, database management to log you and your team's interactions and contacts and touchpoints with elected officials, and so forth. Personally, I couldn't do what I do without Quorum. Everything it empowers our firm to do. Bill-tracking analytics, data visualizations, reports, PDFs, online, accessible legislative databases, and dashboards. Right? You name it. It's harnessing the power and innovation of technology that allows you to build dynamic real-time inputs and resources that are critical to your 50 state network, and truly become an expert with these types of resources and leverage that. [00:14:00] This will separate you and your team from the pack. I think that there's a lot of folks in our space that don't really embrace or not necessarily embrace but become experts in these types of resources. And I think if more people did they would find you know, their jobs, not, not necessarily easier. But I think that they would find themselves probably bringing more value to their clients or organization. And so again, this, this kind of goes hand in hand, right? With providing value to your client company or organization, it's the expertise and the command of public affairs technologies and software that when paired with on the ground resources and that live trusted intel on the ground results in really, really powerful, multi-state engagement. And so recapping network. Remember network is both a noun and a verb. I had a mentor a long time ago tell his law clerks when you're not working, you're networking. Now I have to say at the time, I kind of hated that saying and it's definitely too extreme. Right? I get anxiety thinking that like, I can never really fully turn off. And even when I'm not at work or whatever, you know, you kind of always have to be on. But I think what that saying is, you know, when you're not working, you're networking you get the idea right? With that building, a large network of both on the ground and technology resources is key to driving effective 50 state legislative engagement.

Building Institutional Knowledge

I'm going to transition to the sort of third and final ish topic that I want to talk about and that's knowledge, right? Or more specifically institutional knowledge of state legislatures. We've already established that we can't really be an expert on the policy process in all 50 states. Or in more than one place at one time. Because we just simply can't do that. And as multi-state legislative professionals, sometimes it feels like we do have to shapeshift. [00:16:00] And that we do have to be in multiple places at one time, especially in the height of legislative sessions. When we got to go from capital to capital, right. That can be really, really tough. But it's impossible to know every state's legislative part. It's impossible to know every chamber session calendar, and it's impossible to know every committee's hearing schedule, right? That's why having a 50 state network and access to public affairs technology like Quorum, for example, is incredibly important. However, that said it is important and valuable to develop a healthy knowledge of the legislative process in states generally. Pair that with developing the skills necessary to conduct statutory and regulatory research in every state or potentially every state. Right? I mean, that's some really nuts and bolts stuff, and I'll get into more of that in a second. But it's really important to what we do and doing our jobs effectively and look ultimate. This stuff all takes time, right? There's no real way to shortcut this. The longer you work in 50 state legislative affairs, the more opportunities you'll have to work with a new state and gain a better understanding of how the legislative process and the players in that process and that state. But when you do that, when you have the opportunity to work in a new state, right? Whether it's through a new client or it's through a new issue, or maybe you're taking on a new region or whatever within your team take care or be careful and take mental and physical notes on the process in that state and the experience in that state and sort of log it, right? I mean, you talk to folks that have been in this world long enough and they'll have sort of these, this weird. You know, ability to have these like fun facts or whatever about states, right. About maybe when it is exactly that state session runs in the calendar year. [00:18:00]  Or when pre-filing begins and that state or whatever. And again, this, this stuff all takes time, but as we all grow in what we do, we can always be better at what we do. I find that working in a new state is an amazing opportunity. Being able to advocate or work with lobbyists on the ground, in a state where I have not previously done so before is an awesome opportunity. I love taking opportunities to work in new states. Cause I like to make mental notes of that particular state, how it's similar to other states, how it's different and unique, and so forth. And logging that information is I think really important in a space where you can kind of go back and refer. Again, I mean, this is everything from pre-filing, as far as the legislative calendars go to veto sessions and everything in between, right? These are all part of the life cycle of legislation that we experienced. And it's different from state to state. Now, some of this can be pretty basic. For example, knowing that Montana and Nevada and North Dakota and Texas are the only states that meet every other year. Or that Nebraska is the only unicameral and technically nonpartisan legislative chamber in the country. Also that Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia, hold off-year elections. Also important is having a good lay of the land as it relates to key legislative players in states, such as speakers of the house, Senate presidents, majority and minority leaders, and so forth. And believe me, that's all good stuff to know for sure. But I've also found that it's very important to know the nuts and bolts of navigating state-specific online resources, which I will tell you can be quite a mixed bag. I'm sure most of us have run into this, for example. Navigating the New Jersey legislature's website and its online resources is a heck of a lot different than say navigating Colorado's. And some states like California have pretty much completely separate websites and resources for the assembly and the Senate as separate bodies. And there are probably pluses and minuses to that, but it can be frustrating when you're looking for something that is maybe a bill in the assembly, but you're on the Senate website or whatever, just knowing that kind of stuff. [00:20:00] It's knowing these funky little idiosyncrasies and differences from state to state that I think ultimately will help you become a more effective 50 state government affairs professional. And a better researcher. And again, that kind of goes back to that value component and providing more value to, to your companies or your clients, your organizations. Some of the keys to 50 state legislative research. I think I would say are knowing how and where to access online and archived committee hearings, pulling floor and committee calendars, which I will admit can for whatever reason, at least in my case be hard to track down. Sometimes, you know, I just want to be able to go to a state legislative website and find exactly what the calendar is for that month for a particular chamber, and for whatever reason, in some states it's just hard to find and that's frustrating, but that's just the way it is. Being able to research legislative history super-important scouring, state statutes, and regulatory code for specific chapters or provisions. These are all skills that successful 50 state government affairs professionals will need to develop at some point and undoubtedly there are resources and applications that make this type of work easier. There's no doubt. Again, Quorum, for example, can make a lot of this stuff. But nonetheless, at some point we will all find ourselves sort of waist-deep, right? In a state's official statutory or regulatory database with a UX or user experience that's better suited for Windows 98 than the new Macbook Pro. And, you know, you just kinda gotta be able to roll with that and kind of be able to log in your head what states might be easier or more user-friendly to conduct legislative research than others can be helpful as we navigate. So to recap, knowledge or institutional knowledge, I would say like having at least a decent understanding of the legislative process in most states is very, very helpful. [00:22:00] Knowing which states have a traditional January to April or May session versus states that are in and out of session throughout the year, right? Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania. I'm looking at you guys here. And I'll plug NCSL for this too. NCSL has a ton of great resources on the parliamentary process and state sessions. So, you know, there are online resources and databases we can go to, to find out some of this state-specific. Also having an understanding of the political lay of the land and the key legislative players in a given state and look this changes fairly often at the state level. And that changes through elections of course, but also through appointments and retirements and special elections and so forth. So constantly keeping sort of an ear to the ground on that and turnover or change with state legislative leadership. And finally knowing how to conduct legislative research in state legislatures, online resources, or archives. Again, some are better than others. Let's just put it that way. And we've gotta be able to, to kind of roll with working in a state that, you know, the online resources may not be as great as, as another state. So to conclude on, on knowledge and before I move on to really my final topic, which is sort of my hot take I'll conclude on the three topics of value, network, and knowledge or institutional knowledge. I think you can see that all three of these topics value, network, and knowledge are highly intertwined. They're certainly not mutually exclusive. But if you were to pick out a few themes or me write the themes I would pick out that seemed to be recurring in what we do as, as multi-state government relations professionals. I would argue that these three topics, value, network, and knowledge are at the very foundation of what we do as government relations professionals. And, you know, anytime we can show more value to our clients, companies, and organizations, anytime we can build bigger and better. networks. Anytime we can know more about the state legislative process. We become better, I think, inherently at what we do.

One Hot Take: The Challenges of 50 State Compliance

[00:24:00] Quorum asked me, you know, do you have a particular hot take right? Or something that's maybe not controversial, but you know, an issue that people might think is interesting or hadn't thought of or whatever. And I thought to myself, well, you know, I do actually and it's on the ever-present issue of lobbying compliance for multi-state government affairs professionals. And specifically, right. My hot take is that we as 50 state government affairs professionals live and work in an interesting space. A space that probably brings us a lot closer to noncompliance with state laws and regulations on lobbying and advocacy than most of us know, or that we want. Are we lobbyists, right? Are we actually influencing policy or are we consultants or in-house lobbyists or in-house employees that are one or two steps removed from the actual on-the-ground lobbying. When do we walk up to, but not actually cross that threshold and actually trigger lobbyist, registration, or alternatively, when do we cross that threshold and actually trigger lobbyist registration, reporting, and disclosure? For our consultant friends that are on the ground and our lobbyists registered in particular states, this is a different calculus for them. They know they are lobbyists. They know they're in there, they're impacting and influencing policy in a given state. But when you're working on 30 states on different pieces of legislation, right. That calculus or that question can seem different. The reality is that 50 state government affairs professionals as 50 state government affairs professionals, we probably get a lot closer to or walking up to lobbying thresholds and even therefore potentially triggering, lobbying-related requirements than we might think. I mean, think about it, right. We're going from one capital to the next, during legislative sessions. [00:26:00] We're holding in-person and zoom meetings constantly it seems like. We're testifying. We're going from one multi-state legislative event to the next.  I'm thinking about the alphabet soup groups, right? We all know what I'm talking about there. As a multi-state legislative professional, you know, we make a lot of connections. We have a lot of conversations and we source lots of legislative and political intel and a great thing as a very, very good thing. It's that kind of value in-network and knowledge that makes us effective operators in vital and valuable to our companies and organizations and clients. But as multi-state professionals, we can't realistically be registered lobbyists in all 50 states, right. Or even 15 states for that matter. So where does that leave us from a lobbying and advocacy perspective? Well, look, unfortunately, I don't have a fantastic answer for you. At least not like a blanket answer because all this is very specific to you and to your practice and your scope. But what I can tell you is we have to be aware. We have to be very aware of lobbying definitions and thresholds in states where we have communications written or verbal with lawmakers and legislative staff or in any other way, meaningfully engage in the legislative process. This can be a gray area, right? There's no doubt about that, but we have to be vigilant when it comes to identifiable thresholds and definitions for lobbying activity, such as communications with elected officials and what exactly that means. And whether that triggers or meets rises to, the definition of lobbying in a state, the amount of time spent advocating on specific pieces of legislation, whether directly or indirectly, some states actually set like a time threshold. Or once you cross you trigger lobbying, lobbying, disclosures, and requirements in that state other states set compensation, amounts, and thresholds. How much you get paid to work on a particular piece of legislation. Sometimes they're like hard floors that once you cross that you trigger that state's lobbying and disclosure requirements. Also, something to keep in mind is when you know as the multi-state folks the [00:28:00] 50 state, you know, consultants are working with a registered in-state lobbyist, whether that impacts our status as a lobbying principle and any responsibilities that may come with that. I think the last thing we'll really talk about here is I'm going to provide you with an example of a state definition of lobbying and I want you to think about it. I want you to think about whether any of your actions may have, or could be seen to have fallen into such a definition. And before I tell you the specific state, let you guys have a guess and bear with me as I am going to read the definition verbatim from the statute. Okay? So this particular definition, which I chose, right? I selected this is legislative lobbying is defined as any act to promote, oppose, influence or attempt to influence legislation or to promote, oppose, or influence the governor's approval or veto thereof, including any action to influence introduction, sponsorship, consideration, action, or non-action with respect to any legislation and provided further that legislative lobbying shall include strategizing, planning, and research if performed in connection with, or for use in actual communication with a government employee. So any guesses folks as to what that, what state that might be anybody have any guesses? [00:30:00] Okay, well, nobody's got, nobody's guessed this yet. But that is the definition of lobbying in the wonderful and beautiful state of Massachusetts. And look I say all this, and I highlight this definition and look, I may have singled out Massachusetts with this example, but I could have highlighted any number of state definitions of lobbying that are quite broad or can appear to be quite broad and potentially be interpreted to be quite broad because working in this space, we must be vigilant and aware of when we will trigger or potentially trigger lobbying compliance requirements, whether through communications with elected officials or even non-elected officials, such as legislative or regulatory staff. Every state is different. It can be very different and their definitions of lobbying and lobbyists, but that mere fact makes it all the more important to be familiar with lobbying requirements and states and states that you will have a nexus to right, states you're following a piece of legislation on and you're having communications about. And look as a lawyer, I would be remiss to not say that there are situations where you need to seek formal guidance, either from legal counsel or compliance specialists in a particular state or even through an inquiry with the state's ethics body, if they provide that type of resource. And ultimately when in doubt, seek out the information and counsel needed to always be compliant with state lobbying and ethics laws. So that is my hot take for the day. Something that we can all maybe chew on a little bit as we all kind of start to gear up for, what's going to be probably a legislatively, a crazy 2022, and gearing up for the midterms.

Questions from the Audience

What advice do you have for small one to two professional staff and three to five intern policy and large shops? Great question.

Well, I mean, look, part of it, I think is arming yourself with the appropriate tools that you need to have a multi-state presence. And a big part of that is, is partnering with the resources, the technology resources that you need to be able to stay up to date and be able to wrap your hands around legislative bill tracking come January 1st or even before that. [00:32:00] I mean like pre-filing of bills seems to get crazy, like in November and certain states will like dump them all at once. It seems like, you know, some like, you know, on Quorum, whatever I'll be tracking and then, you know, one day goes by and it's like, there have been 300 bills pre-filed and that's lovely, but that's, that's kind of the nature of the beast and that's what we do. So I would say arming yourselves with that type of resource is well worth an investment. And you really do need to be able as a small shop, you need to be able to leverage those and, and really be able to provide your clients, you know, the information that they need to, to accurately track legislation in all 50 states. And then I think beyond that, I mean, having a presence at and multi, multi, or 50 states national organizations can be really incredible too. And there are all kinds of options out there. Right? There are partisan options, there are nonpartisan options. There are diverse options out there in the multi-state and 50 state space. And I think those organizations provide a ton of value. And they're able to, you know, they allow smaller shops, smaller groups, I think, to kind of leverage grasstops advocacy. So I think that's all kind of important.

[00:34:00]  Do you have recommendations for bill tracking software tools?

You know, there's a lot in this space. There's a lot of amazing products. It's crazy actually. You know, I've been working in this space now for about a decade and again, I started at NCSL and NCSL used a particular bill track resource through our clients, at Catalyst I've worked, I worked through a number of different products and services. I really do enjoy working with Quorum. I think Quorum has got a great user experience and I think it allows myself and, and our team at Catalyst to have and provide some wonderful, wonderful resources to our clients, but you know, again, it's, it's tough to answer that question. There is a ton in this space. There's a lot of great resources out there. And also you want to keep in mind I mean, if you're gonna do a lot of legal research as well, I mean, if you're gonna do a lot of statutory research and you're gonna be looking up some case law and stuff like that, right. You've got your Westlaw's and you've got your Lexis out there and others. And so that's maybe something you want to keep in mind too, if you're going to actually be doing some, some, some legal research as.

I work with a small nonprofit around social services. The majority of our members are state, local government workers and very hesitant to engage in advocacy. How do we best build a 50 state, DC territory, network?

That's a great question. I mean, you really kind of summed up, I think of what a lot of us face, right. You know, I've got the privilege of working with all different kinds of clients and shapes and sizes of clients. But certainly, clients that fall into that space. I think being able first and foremost, for them to rely on you and the services that you're able to provide or your staff or your team is able to provide, whether that's weekly updates or monthly updates on issues that matter most to them. I do think having access to public affairs software is probably first, should be first and foremost, right on that list. Just to be able to arm yourself with the information that you need to distribute and disseminate to your membership regarding issues that they care about most. You can kind of see yourself and the tools that you have at your disposal as sort of a funnel for that kind of information. And you're able to through the appropriate software and resources and tools to kind of distill out of this massive information at the state level, which comes in every single year, and be able to distill that in a meaningful way, I think can be potentially very helpful to your folks. [00:36:00] And also I think getting, getting membership engaged is important, right? Whether that's organizing hill days, lobby days in particular states working with other coalition partners or, or local chapters. To kind of set up meetings, right? Set up a stakeholder engagement with particular caucuses or with particular members in a particular state, right. Getting those members engaged, making them feel like they have some skin in the game or that, that they're invested in what you're doing. I think it's all really important and can hopefully sort of lend to ultimately building and building a very solid 50 state, DC and territory. [post_title] => Building a 50-State Government Affairs Strategy with Catalyst's Ethan Wilson [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => building-50-state-government-affairs-strategy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-10-11 20:09:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-10-11 20:09:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=5768 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => 1 [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => 1 [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 35d29780fa66d6654b674e4b0c9f9f56 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )
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Building a 50-State Government Affairs Strategy with Catalyst’s Ethan Wilson

Building a 50-State Government Affairs Strategy with Catalyst’s Ethan Wilson

Check out our session from 2021 Wonk Week:

Introduction

[00:00:00] My name is Ethan Wilson. I work for Catalyst strategic government affairs. Our firm is based in Kansas City, but I’m fortunate enough to call Lake Tahoe my home base, I live in Incline Village, Nevada. Our team at Catalyst specializes in multi-state government relations, strategy, advocacy, and relationship management with our nation, state legislatures, and attorneys general. Specifically, I direct our firm’s multi-state legislative portfolios. This includes everything from bill tracking and multi-state lobbyists hiring and management to grasstops advocacy and trade associations.

And as a multi-state attorney, a former NCSL staffer and current NCSL Foundation board member, and many times over a legislative intern in both undergrad and in law school working for, in, and around state legislatures is a passion. And today, while I have you all I’d like to explore a few topics that I believe are key to any successful multi-state legislative engagement, whether that’s engagement on behalf of multiple clients, such as our firm at Catalyst, or engagement as an in-house member of a company or a trade association, or non-profit.

For the topics that I’d like to discuss, or try to distill down in some way, shape or form in a meaningful way within, you know, 30 to 40 minutes here, there are three specific things that I want to talk about. One is value. One is a network, and one is knowledge, or as far as knowledge goes more specifically state legislative institutional knowledge as I’ll refer to it. And then finally to wrap things up, I’ll provide my hot take, so to speak on another incredibly important issue in multi-state legislative engagement that to be quite honest probably doesn’t get the coverage or have the awareness that it should. So we’ll talk about that towards the end. Okay. So of the core concepts of multi-state legislative engagement that I want to talk about let’s start with that. I’m talking about the value that you bring to your company, your organization, your clients whomever it may be.

Providing Value

[00:02:00] So what is value? Well, Merriam Webster defines value as relative worth, utility, or importance. Okay. That’s fine. And perhaps obvious, but I’m talking about something that’s truly a value. Something that cannot be easily replaced, if replacing at all. And so what does that value look like?

What kind of value? Right. Well, value from a multi-state legislative perspective can take a number of different forms. For example, providing access through key relationships and other soft skills, or on the other hand providing technical skills, such as legislative drafting, policy analysis, and bill tracking, but the value that you provide becomes essential value to again, your company, your client, your organization, whomever, it may become essential value when the skills or products that you bring to the table and your capacity and your role, be it soft or hard skills. They become essential when they’re essential to workflow and they’re essential to your organization or company or clients.

Ultimately the value becomes essential when it’s involved with achieving goals, whether they’re corporate goals or organizational goals, whatever it might be. So looking at it a little bit more deeply, right? What exactly is essential value or what are some examples of essential value?

Like I said, both hard skills and soft skills can become an essential value to your clients or companies, or organization. But to provide essential value, you have to go above and beyond you and your team, maybe you and your manager or director of, of, of a state team, right? Maybe it’s, maybe you’re a one-person shop.

[00:04:00] And it’s just yourself. That doesn’t really matter. I think this all still applies. But you have to take the time and you really gotta put in the effort to learn the issues, whether that’s for your organization or specific client issues. For example, becoming an expert and a trusted resource on particular policy areas that matter most from a substantive and, and in-depth perspective and not merely utilizing canned talking points like many lobbyists and consultants use when talking about policy issues. I’m talking about becoming a thought leader in an area, right? Bringing novel ideas and concepts to the table, thinking outside the box. And importantly problem solving these, these things and this type of value.

It can all be achieved, right? By both soft skills and hard skills. Maybe you’re someone that likes to have the relationship side of government relations and government affairs. Maybe you’re somebody who really likes the policy analysis of it. Right. That doesn’t matter maybe. And maybe you like both. You can still, I think, provide a central value to your organization or client by honing in on specific.

But don’t get me wrong. This is certainly easier said than done. It’s easy for me to just say this stuff right. When I know that it takes all of us a really long time to craft what we do and the art of what we do. And it’s not easy to become, snap your fingers and become an expert on one policy, right? Let alone multiple areas of policy, but I will say it is the time and the resulting expertise that truly provides value that becomes essential to your client or your company, or your organization. Becoming a trusted resource and a thought leader on a policy area or issue may actually be less about the intricacies of one particular policy and more about the process that you took or that you implemented to become a trusted resource it’s this process or roadmap that can actually be repeated and translated and refined to the next issue or policy broadly speaking. This is the process of both learning the substance of a policy area. Right. That’s pretty obvious.

[00:06:00] But also it’s becoming an effective communicator around, you know, particular policies or issues that you and your company or your client, your organization deal with most and becoming an effective communicator. I think really we can kind of distill this down to three really important things. One of them is talking points, developing and fine-tuning, effective talking points that incorporate both substance and persuasion.

Effective talking points are all about distilling down and delivering an issue or concept in a way that is approachable, digestible, and ultimately understandable. Right? Also key to being an effective communicator, knowing your audience. And this kind of goes hand in hand with developing effective talking points and your talking points and delivery of those talking points will look different depending on your own.

And to truly be persuasive. If that is your goal, you must know your audience, right? You must know your audience quite well and adapt your message and your delivery to that audience. Whether you’re talking to a Republican or a Democrat, a nonpartisan staffer, a member of the media, or members of a coalition that you’re trying to build support on an issue for your ability to connect, and ultimately educate must take into account the audience that you’re communicating with and finally, on communication as it relates to value and identifiable message, having an identifiable message or, or an idea or a takeaway is key. Super important. Your overall message or takeaway is potentially a little bit different than your talking points, right?

[00:08:00] That difference may be nuanced. But I do think that your overall message or takeaways are different than your talking points. Yes. You use your talking points to help you deliver your ideas or your concepts, but really your takeaway should be the idea or position or persuasion that you want your audience to remember and even embrace. Okay. So that was kind of, lot of information, things I wanted to talk about in regards to value. And so to recap value and the value that you bring to your organization, right? Your team, your corporate mission, or your organization’s nonprofit mission, whatever it might be. Essential value, right, is key. And then in the world of multi-state legislative engagement, you can provide value in a number of ways, but the essential value comes from skills or work product that become essential to your client or company’s mission. And again, this can be achieved by putting in the time and effort to become a trusted resource and a thought leader, right? Someone who thinks outside the box, someone who really is a problem solver. This can be achieved by being an effective communicator and knowing your audience and leaving behind key takeaways and being persuasive.

Finally, on value, which I do want to touch on, you know, it can be tough for GR folks or government relations, government affairs, public policy, folks to show executive leadership or management, tangible ROI on government relations. Maybe that’s not always the case. Sometimes executive leadership really embraces public policy and, and advocacy and government relations, but that’s not always the case. And investing in GR and public affairs is largely a long-term proposition.

[00:10:00] If a company or organization starts spending on GR and expects immediate results or results yesterday, they’re probably late to the game. Relationships and brand or corporate welfare and political capital is built over time, not overnight. Nonetheless, right, at certain times, most of us GR professionals will find ourselves in the position of needing to demonstrate express or quantifiable value through some kind of metric, right.

And maybe that’s during budget season. And that can be through definable OKR. Or, you know, a number of conferences you and your team have attended or meetings held and so forth, but that’s just the world that we live in, right. It’s trying to quantify an industry or a business that’s not very easily quantifiable. And that ROI can be hard to illustrate and articulate. But again, that’s, that’s kind of the world that we live in and it is stuff that we, there is stuff that we can point to, to show that sort of quantifiable value to our executive leadership.

Building Your Network Across 50 States

I want to transition to a second topic, although a lot of these go a lot of these three topics value, network, and knowledge are super intertwined and they’re definitely not mutually exclusive. The second topic is network and it’s probably not a surprise to anyone on here that’s in multi-state legislative government affairs. But I’m talking about a network as a noun and network as a verb and building and constantly growing a 50 state network. You grow that network by being able to leverage a national network of contacts and multi-state resources is absolutely vital to directing an effective 50 state legislative program. And again, that goes for whether you’re in-house or you’re working with multiple clients.

You cannot be in two places at once let alone 50. But in many cases, you do need to know exactly what’s going on in numerous states at one time. I’m thinking in the height of legislative sessions when committee schedules and committee calendars are more like guidelines than rules and they’re constantly changing and floor votes are being called at a moment’s notice, right?

[00:12:00] Sometimes you got to know when this stuff’s going on and you’re not obviously on the ground in those states. Well, in-state lobbyists consultants, representatives of local chapters of trade associations, advocacy groups, legislative staff, even legislators can make up a circuit board of connections and tethers that represents your multi-state network. One that’s both accurately predictive and one that’s quickly reactive when you need it to be.

And I’ll stress there is no substitute for live, on the ground, trusted intel. But on the other hand in regards to network also playing a super important role in building that 50 state network are the technology resources available at your fingertips, literally at your fingertips. These are resources, specially designed to develop and to capture and consolidate and distill all kinds of data points and events that impact policy outcomes in the states.

I’m thinking about bill tracking and scraping legislative timelines. Media monitoring of keywords and key phrases, social media monitoring, database management to log you and your team’s interactions and contacts and touchpoints with elected officials, and so forth. Personally, I couldn’t do what I do without Quorum.

Everything it empowers our firm to do. Bill-tracking analytics, data visualizations, reports, PDFs, online, accessible legislative databases, and dashboards. Right? You name it. It’s harnessing the power and innovation of technology that allows you to build dynamic real-time inputs and resources that are critical to your 50 state network, and truly become an expert with these types of resources and leverage that.

[00:14:00] This will separate you and your team from the pack. I think that there’s a lot of folks in our space that don’t really embrace or not necessarily embrace but become experts in these types of resources. And I think if more people did they would find you know, their jobs, not, not necessarily easier. But I think that they would find themselves probably bringing more value to their clients or organization. And so again, this, this kind of goes hand in hand, right? With providing value to your client company or organization, it’s the expertise and the command of public affairs technologies and software that when paired with on the ground resources and that live trusted intel on the ground results in really, really powerful, multi-state engagement.

And so recapping network. Remember network is both a noun and a verb. I had a mentor a long time ago tell his law clerks when you’re not working, you’re networking. Now I have to say at the time, I kind of hated that saying and it’s definitely too extreme. Right? I get anxiety thinking that like, I can never really fully turn off.

And even when I’m not at work or whatever, you know, you kind of always have to be on. But I think what that saying is, you know, when you’re not working, you’re networking you get the idea right? With that building, a large network of both on the ground and technology resources is key to driving effective 50 state legislative engagement.

Building Institutional Knowledge

I’m going to transition to the sort of third and final ish topic that I want to talk about and that’s knowledge, right? Or more specifically institutional knowledge of state legislatures. We’ve already established that we can’t really be an expert on the policy process in all 50 states. Or in more than one place at one time. Because we just simply can’t do that. And as multi-state legislative professionals, sometimes it feels like we do have to shapeshift.

[00:16:00] And that we do have to be in multiple places at one time, especially in the height of legislative sessions. When we got to go from capital to capital, right. That can be really, really tough. But it’s impossible to know every state’s legislative part. It’s impossible to know every chamber session calendar, and it’s impossible to know every committee’s hearing schedule, right?

That’s why having a 50 state network and access to public affairs technology like Quorum, for example, is incredibly important. However, that said it is important and valuable to develop a healthy knowledge of the legislative process in states generally. Pair that with developing the skills necessary to conduct statutory and regulatory research in every state or potentially every state.

Right? I mean, that’s some really nuts and bolts stuff, and I’ll get into more of that in a second. But it’s really important to what we do and doing our jobs effectively and look ultimate. This stuff all takes time, right? There’s no real way to shortcut this. The longer you work in 50 state legislative affairs, the more opportunities you’ll have to work with a new state and gain a better understanding of how the legislative process and the players in that process and that state. But when you do that, when you have the opportunity to work in a new state, right? Whether it’s through a new client or it’s through a new issue, or maybe you’re taking on a new region or whatever within your team take care or be careful and take mental and physical notes on the process in that state and the experience in that state and sort of log it, right? I mean, you talk to folks that have been in this world long enough and they’ll have sort of these, this weird. You know, ability to have these like fun facts or whatever about states, right. About maybe when it is exactly that state session runs in the calendar year.

[00:18:00]  Or when pre-filing begins and that state or whatever. And again, this, this stuff all takes time, but as we all grow in what we do, we can always be better at what we do. I find that working in a new state is an amazing opportunity. Being able to advocate or work with lobbyists on the ground, in a state where I have not previously done so before is an awesome opportunity. I love taking opportunities to work in new states. Cause I like to make mental notes of that particular state, how it’s similar to other states, how it’s different and unique, and so forth. And logging that information is I think really important in a space where you can kind of go back and refer.

Again, I mean, this is everything from pre-filing, as far as the legislative calendars go to veto sessions and everything in between, right? These are all part of the life cycle of legislation that we experienced. And it’s different from state to state. Now, some of this can be pretty basic. For example, knowing that Montana and Nevada and North Dakota and Texas are the only states that meet every other year. Or that Nebraska is the only unicameral and technically nonpartisan legislative chamber in the country. Also that Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia, hold off-year elections. Also important is having a good lay of the land as it relates to key legislative players in states, such as speakers of the house, Senate presidents, majority and minority leaders, and so forth.

And believe me, that’s all good stuff to know for sure. But I’ve also found that it’s very important to know the nuts and bolts of navigating state-specific online resources, which I will tell you can be quite a mixed bag. I’m sure most of us have run into this, for example. Navigating the New Jersey legislature’s website and its online resources is a heck of a lot different than say navigating Colorado’s.

And some states like California have pretty much completely separate websites and resources for the assembly and the Senate as separate bodies. And there are probably pluses and minuses to that, but it can be frustrating when you’re looking for something that is maybe a bill in the assembly, but you’re on the Senate website or whatever, just knowing that kind of stuff.

[00:20:00] It’s knowing these funky little idiosyncrasies and differences from state to state that I think ultimately will help you become a more effective 50 state government affairs professional. And a better researcher. And again, that kind of goes back to that value component and providing more value to, to your companies or your clients, your organizations. Some of the keys to 50 state legislative research.

I think I would say are knowing how and where to access online and archived committee hearings, pulling floor and committee calendars, which I will admit can for whatever reason, at least in my case be hard to track down. Sometimes, you know, I just want to be able to go to a state legislative website and find exactly what the calendar is for that month for a particular chamber, and for whatever reason, in some states it’s just hard to find and that’s frustrating, but that’s just the way it is.

Being able to research legislative history super-important scouring, state statutes, and regulatory code for specific chapters or provisions. These are all skills that successful 50 state government affairs professionals will need to develop at some point and undoubtedly there are resources and applications that make this type of work easier. There’s no doubt. Again, Quorum, for example, can make a lot of this stuff. But nonetheless, at some point we will all find ourselves sort of waist-deep, right? In a state’s official statutory or regulatory database with a UX or user experience that’s better suited for Windows 98 than the new Macbook Pro. And, you know, you just kinda gotta be able to roll with that and kind of be able to log in your head what states might be easier or more user-friendly to conduct legislative research than others can be helpful as we navigate. So to recap, knowledge or institutional knowledge, I would say like having at least a decent understanding of the legislative process in most states is very, very helpful.

[00:22:00] Knowing which states have a traditional January to April or May session versus states that are in and out of session throughout the year, right? Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania. I’m looking at you guys here. And I’ll plug NCSL for this too. NCSL has a ton of great resources on the parliamentary process and state sessions.

So, you know, there are online resources and databases we can go to, to find out some of this state-specific. Also having an understanding of the political lay of the land and the key legislative players in a given state and look this changes fairly often at the state level. And that changes through elections of course, but also through appointments and retirements and special elections and so forth.

So constantly keeping sort of an ear to the ground on that and turnover or change with state legislative leadership. And finally knowing how to conduct legislative research in state legislatures, online resources, or archives. Again, some are better than others. Let’s just put it that way. And we’ve gotta be able to, to kind of roll with working in a state that, you know, the online resources may not be as great as, as another state.

So to conclude on, on knowledge and before I move on to really my final topic, which is sort of my hot take I’ll conclude on the three topics of value, network, and knowledge or institutional knowledge. I think you can see that all three of these topics value, network, and knowledge are highly intertwined.

They’re certainly not mutually exclusive. But if you were to pick out a few themes or me write the themes I would pick out that seemed to be recurring in what we do as, as multi-state government relations professionals. I would argue that these three topics, value, network, and knowledge are at the very foundation of what we do as government relations professionals.

And, you know, anytime we can show more value to our clients, companies, and organizations, anytime we can build bigger and better. networks. Anytime we can know more about the state legislative process. We become better, I think, inherently at what we do.

One Hot Take: The Challenges of 50 State Compliance

[00:24:00] Quorum asked me, you know, do you have a particular hot take right? Or something that’s maybe not controversial, but you know, an issue that people might think is interesting or hadn’t thought of or whatever. And I thought to myself, well, you know, I do actually and it’s on the ever-present issue of lobbying compliance for multi-state government affairs professionals. And specifically, right. My hot take is that we as 50 state government affairs professionals live and work in an interesting space.

A space that probably brings us a lot closer to noncompliance with state laws and regulations on lobbying and advocacy than most of us know, or that we want. Are we lobbyists, right? Are we actually influencing policy or are we consultants or in-house lobbyists or in-house employees that are one or two steps removed from the actual on-the-ground lobbying. When do we walk up to, but not actually cross that threshold and actually trigger lobbyist, registration, or alternatively, when do we cross that threshold and actually trigger lobbyist registration, reporting, and disclosure? For our consultant friends that are on the ground and our lobbyists registered in particular states, this is a different calculus for them. They know they are lobbyists. They know they’re in there, they’re impacting and influencing policy in a given state. But when you’re working on 30 states on different pieces of legislation, right. That calculus or that question can seem different. The reality is that 50 state government affairs professionals as 50 state government affairs professionals, we probably get a lot closer to or walking up to lobbying thresholds and even therefore potentially triggering, lobbying-related requirements than we might think. I mean, think about it, right. We’re going from one capital to the next, during legislative sessions.

[00:26:00] We’re holding in-person and zoom meetings constantly it seems like. We’re testifying. We’re going from one multi-state legislative event to the next.  I’m thinking about the alphabet soup groups, right? We all know what I’m talking about there.

As a multi-state legislative professional, you know, we make a lot of connections. We have a lot of conversations and we source lots of legislative and political intel and a great thing as a very, very good thing. It’s that kind of value in-network and knowledge that makes us effective operators in vital and valuable to our companies and organizations and clients. But as multi-state professionals, we can’t realistically be registered lobbyists in all 50 states, right. Or even 15 states for that matter. So where does that leave us from a lobbying and advocacy perspective? Well, look, unfortunately, I don’t have a fantastic answer for you. At least not like a blanket answer because all this is very specific to you and to your practice and your scope.

But what I can tell you is we have to be aware. We have to be very aware of lobbying definitions and thresholds in states where we have communications written or verbal with lawmakers and legislative staff or in any other way, meaningfully engage in the legislative process. This can be a gray area, right?

There’s no doubt about that, but we have to be vigilant when it comes to identifiable thresholds and definitions for lobbying activity, such as communications with elected officials and what exactly that means. And whether that triggers or meets rises to, the definition of lobbying in a state, the amount of time spent advocating on specific pieces of legislation, whether directly or indirectly, some states actually set like a time threshold. Or once you cross you trigger lobbying, lobbying, disclosures, and requirements in that state other states set compensation, amounts, and thresholds. How much you get paid to work on a particular piece of legislation.

Sometimes they’re like hard floors that once you cross that you trigger that state’s lobbying and disclosure requirements. Also, something to keep in mind is when you know as the multi-state folks the [00:28:00] 50 state, you know, consultants are working with a registered in-state lobbyist, whether that impacts our status as a lobbying principle and any responsibilities that may come with that.

I think the last thing we’ll really talk about here is I’m going to provide you with an example of a state definition of lobbying and I want you to think about it. I want you to think about whether any of your actions may have, or could be seen to have fallen into such a definition.

And before I tell you the specific state, let you guys have a guess and bear with me as I am going to read the definition verbatim from the statute. Okay? So this particular definition, which I chose, right? I selected this is legislative lobbying is defined as any act to promote, oppose, influence or attempt to influence legislation or to promote, oppose, or influence the governor’s approval or veto thereof, including any action to influence introduction, sponsorship, consideration, action, or non-action with respect to any legislation and provided further that legislative lobbying shall include strategizing, planning, and research if performed in connection with, or for use in actual communication with a government employee. So any guesses folks as to what that, what state that might be anybody have any guesses?

[00:30:00] Okay, well, nobody’s got, nobody’s guessed this yet. But that is the definition of lobbying in the wonderful and beautiful state of Massachusetts. And look I say all this, and I highlight this definition and look, I may have singled out Massachusetts with this example, but I could have highlighted any number of state definitions of lobbying that are quite broad or can appear to be quite broad and potentially be interpreted to be quite broad because working in this space, we must be vigilant and aware of when we will trigger or potentially trigger lobbying compliance requirements, whether through communications with elected officials or even non-elected officials, such as legislative or regulatory staff. Every state is different. It can be very different and their definitions of lobbying and lobbyists, but that mere fact makes it all the more important to be familiar with lobbying requirements and states and states that you will have a nexus to right, states you’re following a piece of legislation on and you’re having communications about. And look as a lawyer, I would be remiss to not say that there are situations where you need to seek formal guidance, either from legal counsel or compliance specialists in a particular state or even through an inquiry with the state’s ethics body, if they provide that type of resource.

And ultimately when in doubt, seek out the information and counsel needed to always be compliant with state lobbying and ethics laws. So that is my hot take for the day. Something that we can all maybe chew on a little bit as we all kind of start to gear up for, what’s going to be probably a legislatively, a crazy 2022, and gearing up for the midterms.

Questions from the Audience

What advice do you have for small one to two professional staff and three to five intern policy and large shops? Great question.

Well, I mean, look, part of it, I think is arming yourself with the appropriate tools that you need to have a multi-state presence. And a big part of that is, is partnering with the resources, the technology resources that you need to be able to stay up to date and be able to wrap your hands around legislative bill tracking come January 1st or even before that.

[00:32:00] I mean like pre-filing of bills seems to get crazy, like in November and certain states will like dump them all at once. It seems like, you know, some like, you know, on Quorum, whatever I’ll be tracking and then, you know, one day goes by and it’s like, there have been 300 bills pre-filed and that’s lovely, but that’s, that’s kind of the nature of the beast and that’s what we do.

So I would say arming yourselves with that type of resource is well worth an investment. And you really do need to be able as a small shop, you need to be able to leverage those and, and really be able to provide your clients, you know, the information that they need to, to accurately track legislation in all 50 states.

And then I think beyond that, I mean, having a presence at and multi, multi, or 50 states national organizations can be really incredible too. And there are all kinds of options out there. Right? There are partisan options, there are nonpartisan options. There are diverse options out there in the multi-state and 50 state space. And I think those organizations provide a ton of value. And they’re able to, you know, they allow smaller shops, smaller groups, I think, to kind of leverage grasstops advocacy. So I think that’s all kind of important.

[00:34:00]  Do you have recommendations for bill tracking software tools?

You know, there’s a lot in this space. There’s a lot of amazing products. It’s crazy actually. You know, I’ve been working in this space now for about a decade and again, I started at NCSL and NCSL used a particular bill track resource through our clients, at Catalyst I’ve worked, I worked through a number of different products and services. I really do enjoy working with Quorum. I think Quorum has got a great user experience and I think it allows myself and, and our team at Catalyst to have and provide some wonderful, wonderful resources to our clients, but you know, again, it’s, it’s tough to answer that question. There is a ton in this space. There’s a lot of great resources out there. And also you want to keep in mind I mean, if you’re gonna do a lot of legal research as well, I mean, if you’re gonna do a lot of statutory research and you’re gonna be looking up some case law and stuff like that, right. You’ve got your Westlaw’s and you’ve got your Lexis out there and others. And so that’s maybe something you want to keep in mind too, if you’re going to actually be doing some, some, some legal research as.

I work with a small nonprofit around social services. The majority of our members are state, local government workers and very hesitant to engage in advocacy. How do we best build a 50 state, DC territory, network?

That’s a great question. I mean, you really kind of summed up, I think of what a lot of us face, right.

You know, I’ve got the privilege of working with all different kinds of clients and shapes and sizes of clients. But certainly, clients that fall into that space. I think being able first and foremost, for them to rely on you and the services that you’re able to provide or your staff or your team is able to provide, whether that’s weekly updates or monthly updates on issues that matter most to them.

I do think having access to public affairs software is probably first, should be first and foremost, right on that list. Just to be able to arm yourself with the information that you need to distribute and disseminate to your membership regarding issues that they care about most. You can kind of see yourself and the tools that you have at your disposal as sort of a funnel for that kind of information.

And you’re able to through the appropriate software and resources and tools to kind of distill out of this massive information at the state level, which comes in every single year, and be able to distill that in a meaningful way, I think can be potentially very helpful to your folks.

[00:36:00] And also I think getting, getting membership engaged is important, right? Whether that’s organizing hill days, lobby days in particular states working with other coalition partners or, or local chapters. To kind of set up meetings, right? Set up a stakeholder engagement with particular caucuses or with particular members in a particular state, right.

Getting those members engaged, making them feel like they have some skin in the game or that, that they’re invested in what you’re doing. I think it’s all really important and can hopefully sort of lend to ultimately building and building a very solid 50 state, DC and territory.