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Outside the Beltway: Is Your Organization At the Table or On the Menu?

by Sherry Whitworth
Managing Director, FiscalNote

Historically, the Washington, DC government relations community has focused its efforts primarily, on Congress and the federal agencies. Today, if you are not also engaging in state (and even local) legislative and regulatory activities, it is likely your business, association, customers, suppliers, stockholders, employees, members, and other relevant stakeholders could be vulnerable to public policy decisions impacting your interests.

In the 1970’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, it was not unusual for Congress to pass 600, 700 or more bills in a two-year session. This pace began decreasing in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. In the past ten years, an average of less than 350 bills were enacted in each congressional biennium. For each of the 112th (2011-2012) and 113th (2013-2014) Congresses, the numbers reached a low of less than 300 enacted bills, while action from the states’ sessions are on the rise.

In some cases, the states are taking on issues that have not been legislatively addressed at the federal level, like immigration, healthcare, and gun control. States are also active on issues like revenues and taxation, education, deregulation and occupational licensing reform, where there may be a federal nexus, but the states are leading in creative policy approaches. And then there are issues of opportunity, like online sales tax collections and legal sports wagering, that states are focusing on in response to U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

FiscalNote has published, “17 Issues Facing State Legislatures in 2019” that can provide additional insights on these and other hot state issues that could be relevant to your company or association.

There is a popular quote that is often heard in the government relations arena – “if you are not at the table, you are probably on the menu”. Being at the table is a productive, proactive, and often offensive approach where your industry or profession’s voice is shaping the policy agenda and outcomes. Those on the menu are reactive, often in a defensive posture, possibly spending more dollars to be less effective in achieving desired results, or even too late to make a difference in the outcomes that can potentially severely impact their interests.

State sessions move quickly and, as of this writing, 46 states and the District of Columbia are in session. Now is the time to engage. Make sure your organization is at the table, and not on the menu.