On the very best of days, the legislative process can be a complicated, messy, and grueling endeavor. If you’ve ever heard a lawmaker liken it to “sausage making,” you have an idea of how unpleasant it can be.
Lobbyists do their best to make the process easier by providing substantive information so that the thoroughly vetted legislation can be realized.
Because of the behind-the-scenes role they play in the process, lobbyists tend to be overlooked when landmark legislative accomplishments are celebrated. However, through their direct work with members of the General Assembly and Governor, government relations professionals are critical to the process.
Here are five positive ways lobbyists impact the lawmaking process:
- They provide history, context, and perspective on key issues.
Experienced lobbyists can help lawmakers analyze the merits of an idea before it makes its way into the process and can sometimes forecast the success or failure of a bill based on legislation or circumstances that have come before it. Veteran lobbyists have often witnessed or even participated in similar efforts over the years, giving them credible insight into what challenges or support an idea or concept might face when presented for consideration. Individuals, associations and companies of all sizes often seek the help of lobbyists when it comes to sensitive or controversial issues, which may be difficult to address, articulate or even support publicly. Lobbyists can neutralize arguments, organize PR strategies, and mobilize grassroots support in ways other entities simply cannot.But it’s not just the connections, perspective, and knowledge lobbyists have that helps them achieve results; it’s also the approach they take to get it done. A light touch may be required to reach one demographic, while a more aggressive approach may be necessary to convince another.
- Lobbyists anticipate the politics of moving a bill.
Lobbyists know many of the key players involved in the legislative process, so they are well-equipped to understand the politics around a bill’s possibility of passage. With this insight, they can provide legislators and others the information needed in the legislative effort. Identifying which lawmakers are likely to be allies of a cause and which lawmakers are likely to try and block a particular bill can mean the difference between success and failure. Lobbyists, in turn, provide lawmakers with critical information necessary to achieve goals. Often lawmakers have specific reasons for not wanting to see a bill passed or not. For instance, sometimes a member’s district prevents them from supporting a measure. Understanding what motivates a given legislator is almost as important as understanding the process itself so that objective deliberations and compromises can occur.
- They can suggest legally palatable legislative language.
Because lobbyists have a great familiarity with the legislative process, they can often articulate the vision or goal to meet the intent of the lawmaker. In some cases, lobbyists can develop legislative language that saves government money by shortening the time the state’s legal counsel spends drafting or reviewing a bill.
- They represent groups that would otherwise have no voice in the process.
Many trade associations or groups of like-minded entities pool resources to engage lobbyists because on their own they would be either ineffective or incapable of influencing outcomes. Lobbying is at the core of the governmental process and protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” With thousands of bills being introduced in a two-year session, effective lobbyists provide lawmakers the information necessary to make sound, fact-based decisions.
- Through information shared, they keep the process balanced.
Very often, opposing sides will hire lobbyists to represent their positions on a given issue or piece of legislation when both sides want their perspectives heard and all ramifications considered. These competing factions working to elevate awareness of impact, need and effects of legislation are the heart of good government. Lobbyists, who can articulate the most compelling case to the widest possible audience, typically prevail. In this way, government maintains balance through robust discussion and adequate representation of interests.
Lobbyists have been around since the early days of the Republic, and still have influence on every level of government from local to state to federal. From developing relationships with lawmakers to advocating for their clients with credibility, lobbyists are one of the key ingredients for successful, thoughtful governance.
If you need the help of experienced lobbyists, Pugliese Associates has your back. If you have a message that needs to be heard, contact one of our government relations professionals today.