When new legislation is introduced at the state capitol, organizations start a process to understand the impact of the bill and decide how they will deal with it. Each organization’s process is different, but it often involves input from more than just the lobbyist or government affairs staff. For example, an association’s members or legislative committee usually make decisions based on the combined input from their committee and their lobbyist, while state agencies will gather input from department personnel that have a professional understanding of how the bill may impact their organization. Professional lobbyists may need input from their clients to understand what course of action to take on a bill.
The issue facing any organization that manages legislation is communication. Each bill under scrutiny typically requires input from multiple people. Receiving, organizing, and reviewing diverse input is often challenging and time consuming. Here are some tips on improving the legislation communication process to ultimately make developing your lobbying strategy easier.
Create a Communication Environment
Does your organization have an antiquated communication process that involves printing bill information out, delivering the papers to each reviewer, and waiting on a response? Not only does this method waste paper, but waiting on feedback and organizing the correspondence can be a nightmare when the legislative session is in swing. Paper correspondence can pile up on not just the lobbyist’s desk, but the commentator’s desk as well. Additionally, reading all that material often becomes a task that people really try to avoid.
To combat this, consider creating an online communication environment by utilizing online legislative tracking software. Eliminate the paper, and send people to an online copy of a bill. Every state has an online legislative website, so if you are only tracking a few bills, use the state site and copy links into an email. If, however, you are tracking a number of bills, you should consider a professional service that builds a tracking portfolio. With a tracking portfolio environment, bills can be organized and published online. Each commenter in your audience can be assigned to categories, allowing them to be sent bills in their area of expertise electronically when you assign the bill to their category. Each person can review and comment on the bills from their computer. This saves the lobbyist time by enabling them to send a message to anyone that still needs to leave a comment telling them to check their portfolio. The commentators can click a link to their list of bills so they never have to search for information about the bills. When they finally do write a comment it is attached to the bill for easy organization. This saves the lobbyist time by eliminating the need to swim through reams of paper commentary.
An online communication environment can be customized to fit the needs of your organization. For local government lobbyists that require discussion on bills, department heads would be able to see bill comments as they are written by their colleagues and add their commentary on the fly. Association lobbyists may not want comments to be seen by all of the association members, so they can customize the environment to hide comments to create a one-way communication process. Professional lobbyists can design the system so that each client can comment on a bill, but not see the comments made by other clients of the lobbying firm. This way, the firm has one instance of a bill and many people can view the bill text while the firm staff can view all the comments. Your communication environment should be flexible to fit your needs as an organization.
An online communication environment for legislation can save time and money for your organization. If you think this type of solution can benefit your association, state agency, or lobbying firm and would like to learn more, take our online tour or schedule a live demonstration.