By Ray LeBov and Chris Micheli
We have put together some suggestions for improving as a lobbyist and being a more effective lobbyist. Entire books have been written on this topic, but we try to cover some of the main suggestions in this article.
Keep in Mind the 4 Ps:
Know the Process – Understand the rules governing the legislative process – not just how a bill becomes law, but all the rules, whether they cover ethics, or the details of the budget process.
Know the Players – Who are the players on both sides of the bill or issue that you are working on? Have a working relationship with all of them. It will improve your chances of success.
Know the Policy – While you may not be an expert as much as your client is, know your bill and have a working knowledge of the subject matter generally.
Have the Right Personality – Have and exhibit a pleasant demeanor when working with others during the legislative process. We are all professionals and can just as easily find ourselves working on the same side as we can working against each other. Treat others with respect and expect the same from them.
Seek Guidance from Others
Even after working in and around the California Legislature for several decades, we each learn something knew on a regular basis. Talk with your colleagues, staff, and others to learn more about a bill, a policy area, or the legislative process. Listen to suggestions that are made by others. Ask others why they succeeded or failed with a piece of legislation.
Your Word Is Key
Keep in mind that the Capitol community, whether in Sacramento or other state capitals around the nation, is small and word gets around quickly regarding those who are trustworthy and those who are not. Your reputation as a lobbyist can be made or broken by what you do, how you do it, and what you say.
If there is one cardinal rule in the legislative process, it is being flexible. Whether waiting for an appointment with a legislator, or waiting for a bill to be heard in committee or on the floor, one’s best laid plans sometimes run into unforeseen hurdles. It is important to be flexible in your dealings with others throughout the process. Being patient is also a beneficial asset while working on legislation.
Do Some Research
Whether it is research for your bill, a public policy issue, and a legislator you are lobbying, it is important to do at least some basic research. For example, you can use legislative websites for the Assembly and Senate to learn the background of legislators sitting on the key committees your bill will travel. “Google” information such as studies or academic research on a policy issue. The bottom line is to learn valuable information that is readily available to you.
Another critical rule for all lobbyists is to be prepared and plan contingencies for different scenarios that could arise during the legislative process. Understand what you can control and be prepared to reassess your approach to legislation. You may have prepared to defeat a bill in a particular committee, but you may have an obstacle there that precludes it from happening. Try to plan the entire trip that your bill will take through the legislative process and note the opportunities and the hurdles that will need to be addressed.
There certainly are many other potential suggestions that can be made for being a more effective advocate. But these are some of the recurring ones that we have shared with colleagues over the years.
Ray LeBov began working in Sacramento in 1975, when he was appointed as counsel to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Structure of the Judiciary. He served in various other legislative staff positions until 1991. Since 2006, Ray LeBov & Associates’ Capitol Seminars division has presented its Lobbying 101 and 201 seminars throughout the year in Sacramento and other locations, enabling some 2000 governmental advocacy and public affairs professionals.
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