Thursday, February 26, 2009

Half-way Point

Indiana's legislature is at the half-way point. Now I'm admittedly a little biased for my home state, but Indiana generally finishes on time and we still continue to have a surplus while other states debate what to cut.

There are little squabbles that pop up though. This week's installment of Statehouse Shenanigans involves a technicality that I can both understand and disagree with.

The Speaker of the House called a bill on third readings that was not on the calendar. The Minority Leader stood up and said that the Speaker could not do that and expressed outrage at his attempt to do so. Well, all that happened was that the House stopped for a few minutes while a new calendar was printed with the omitted bill added to the list.

In the end, I can understand the Minority Leader's position of following the rules, but he also surely recognized that the majority party could do exactly what happened (reprint the calendar, then vote on the bill). I think he could've been a bit more diplomatic and simply said that adding the bill was not appropriate, but in the spirit of good governance and expediency, the minority party will simply vote against the measure as expected.

Sometimes I just get pretty frustrated at the legislative leaders. The Speaker was wrong for not following protocol, but the Minority Leader was wrong for holding up the process unnecessarily.

I can't wait for the final push.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

finally testified

Yesterday, I finally testified on a bill...not bad since we're about six weeks into session!

"My" bill was first on the agenda, but was authored by the Committee Chairman. Other lobbyists working on the same bill and I had been told that our bill would be called first. Too bad that wasn't the case.

We got in there and the Chairman wanted to hear from an out-of-state group who had come in to make a presentation on a product/issue the Chairman thought was interesting. That took about 30 minutes (the meeting started at 9 a.m.). Next, the Chairman called on another Senator who was not on the Committee, but who was waiting in the audience to present his bill. Then, another Senator was called...and so on. You get the picture.

I don't recall exactly how many bills were on the agenda for the committee, but I think there were probably 8-10 bills. The meeting started at 9, but the Senate goes into session around 1 or 1:30 most days and they generally like to grab something to eat after committees, but before session. So you're basically talking about a three hour window.

Next week is pretty much the deadline for bills to be out of committee in their house of origin, so we're getting down to crunch time.

I don't mind waiting, but the debate on the animal cruelty bill revolving around whether killing/eating a fish from your neighbor's pond constituted the cruelty definition in the bill grew a bit frustrating, but that's what happens when most of the committee members are attorneys.

It's quite fascinating to watch. Maybe it's just an Indiana-phenomenon, but I doubt it. The attorney legislators like to come up with scenarios where the bill has problems. Generally speaking that is a great thing, but sometimes, I think they get caught up in the moment. I suppose there could be a situation where someone has a pet catfish in their backyard pond and a neighbor sneaks onto the property, catches the fish, then eats it...but after sitting through a few hours of debate, I couldn't help but chuckle at the whole thing.

Finally, the one other thing that amused me, was the facebook update by a lobbyist sitting right in front of me was how much they were displeased at sitting through another long committee meeting. I guess I wasn't the only one whose mind was drifting during the meeting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lobbyist Jobs

So occasionally, I get request from folks who are looking for lobbying jobs. While I don't have the time or know-how to keep up on every lobbying job site, here are a few I've come across:

On the websites, you can search for "lobbyist" or "government affairs", but generally, these are the best sites I've come across for folks.

Good luck on your search.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Know when to shut up

Pardon the blunt nature of that title, but I continue to be amazed at what I see at the Statehouse. So in today's committee meeting, there was a somewhat controversial bill being discussed in committee. I didn't have a dog in the fight, so I was just watching the show. Unfortunately, many of the legislators were not and I didn't blame them. In fact, at one point I turned on the "corners" app for my iphone (that's the little square that bounces around your screen and then you get a point when it hits in the exact corner)...yeah, that boring. So there were a couple of lobbyists who got up to wax eloquently. They weren't doing themselves any favors.

A good lobbyist must know when they need to drive home a point and when they need to gloss over content. Taking it to the heart of the matter, a good lobbyist knows the vote before the Committee even meets. If a lobbyist goes in to committee without knowing the outcome, then they haven't done their job, or it's one of those very rare occasions where it's a tough vote. But even in those tough-vote situations, there is such a thing as overkill.

When there are multiple lobbyists advocating the same position on a bill, the legislators don't enjoy duplicative testimony. I'm a strong believer in brevity. Obviously there are situations where the complexity of a proposal or concept warrants in-depth analysis and discussion, but in most cases, legislators have their minds made up before any testimony occurs. For those situations when they haven't, or it's a close vote, then try and be as brief as possible and summarize your testimony at the end...or don't look out into the audience or at the legislators when they're playing on their computers or cell phones.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Motivation for Involvement

So I got a note from a gal who is wanting to get involved in politics and wasn't sure whether to get involved by running for office or by trying to influence those in office...and it got me to thinking.

I guess I've been an Indiana lobbyist for about 10 years (give or take) and have noticed that there are essentially two types of people in politics: those in it for a cause or they are in it for themselves.

Personally, I'm involved because I believe in the insurance industry in Indiana. Don't get me wrong, I get paid more doing this than I could doing most anything else, but I feel like I'm a part of doing something good for my neighbors.

As a lobbyist, I get paid pretty well considering that mine is a job based on simply having a reasonable intelligence, but more importantly, being able to work with people. That reminds me of something. I saw a story a year or two ago saying that younger folks and kids now have less social interaction as they are on the computer and don't spend as much "active" time. I don't know whether or not that is the case, but I would agree that communicating via email and texting isn't the same thing as standing in front of someone, having a conversation and reading their facial and body expressions. A good lobbyist has at least a modest ability to gauge how to handle face-to-face communications.

So back to the main point of this note: reason for involvement. You see plenty of folks who are in it for all the wrong reasons, but I suppose any business sector is like that.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Client growth & conflicts

Last week, I got a phone call from a friend who mentioned a couple of issues that were circulating through the legislature that might present an opportunity for me to offer a group additional representation. (The group already has a lobbyist, but they are in a tough fight and could use more help).

Well, I called my ONE signed client to see if they objected to my advocating for this other issue and they said yes they would be opposed. Admittedly, their position is understandable and I don't write this as an statement on their objection, but rather to point out the fact that client conflicts are a part of the business.

I have made it a point with my little start-up firm to ask my existing client(s) if they oppose my taking on a new client. I just feel like if someone had enough faith in my services to pay me in the first place, then they will take priority over new clients. I want to keep clients for the long-run, not just blowing where the dollars go.

From my perspective, a good lobbyist is one who understands the issues impacting his/her clients, but also understands the company or group they represent. This takes time. Other clients without conflicts will come along.

So the site will be changing

After chatting with the programmer, we're going to change the look and feel of the website. The current site has limits in what it will allow us to add and amend. The new site should allow flexibility as we expand into federal and local lobbyists, service providers, unique state-focused pages and a few other items.

Not sure of the time frame, but I'd say changes will probably take a couple of weeks.