Rules for Effective Lobbying

Advocacy in Practice Interview with Ray LeBov

For today’s podcast, I sat down with veteran lobbyist and familiar voice, Ray LeBov. As I’m sure you remember from Ray’s many posts, he’s a 40+ year veteran of the California Legislature, working both in the Building as committee staff and in the third house.

He graciously took the time to share the wealth of wisdom that he has when it comes to navigating California’s legislative process that he gained from his depth of experience.

We talk at length about his time at the Judicial Council of California and the nuances of client management, the most difficult part of job.

Lobbying the Budget

There are some who are intimidated by the process of lobbying the budget. One theory as to why they’re intimidated is, put simply, that it contains numbers and people are intimidated by numbers. That’s just one theory. However, there are quite a few subtle and not so subtle differences between lobbying the budget and lobbying any other piece of legislation that can make the budget process seem more intimidating. Today’s podcast with veteran lobbyists Ray LeBov and Chris Micheli seeks to demystify that process.

There are two very important things to understand about the budget. First, remember that in some ways, the budget bill is a bill just like any other bill – but in some ways unlike any other bill. The other thing to keep in mind is why the budget is so important because it can do things to you and your client(s) or for you and your client(s).

We’ll go over the calendar for the budget here and leave the other topics Ray and Chris discuss for you to listen to. The first difference between lobbying the budget and lobbying legislation is the calendar. The budget does not run on the normal legislative calendar. The budget process starts right after beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1. There is a lot of behind the scenes work over the next six months culminating in the Governor’s budget proposal on January 10, which kicks off the legislative portion of budget lobbying.

After the Governor announces the budget proposal, it becomes two identical bills – one in the Assembly and one in the Senate – that begin to work their way through the California Legislature. The bills start in their respective house’s Budget Committee, and then the work on the budget gets divided up between the budget subcommittees which work on different issue area jurisdictions within the budget.

After the subcommittee process is completed, the budget bill goes back to the full Budget Committee, which essentially amends the recommended changes from the subcommittees into the budget bill. The next step in the legislative process is conference committee to reconcile differences between the Assembly and Senate versions of the budget. That said, they can make changes to the budget bill that were identical in the versions the two houses sent over in addition to reconciling differences between the two versions of the budget bill.

After conference committee come negotiations between the Big Three – the two Democratic leaders in the Legislature and the Governor – to negotiate any final changes to the budget. Then, by June 15, the budget is passed by the Legislature and sent to the Governor to be signed. The Governor has the final say on the budget and can either reduce, or completely line item veto, appropriations in the budget.

Working with Legislative Committees

Today’s post is a continuation of our Rules for Effective Lobbying conversations. Today’s talk between Ray LeBov and Chris Micheli focuses in on the advice they have for lobbyists when it comes to working with committees and committee staff in the California Legislature.

The first step to being successful in working with committees is – like it is in many other aspects of legislative and regulatory advocacy – building good working relationships with the committee staff. This goes beyond just building good relationships with committee consultants, and into building good relationships with the committee secretaries in the Assembly and committee assistants in the Senate.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the work you do that is going to affect your success working in committee is done long before the committee hearing. Testimony at the hearing and other things that occur at the hearing really don’t change many votes. The work done with committee consultants and the minority part consultant to that committee is what will truly affect the outcome.

Also remember that on top of the Joint Rules and the standing rules for either House, that each committee also its own rules. To give one example, every committee has a rule about many days in advance of a hearing you have to submit your letter for it to be included in the analysis under support and opposition. For some committees, it’s a twelve day rule. Now, if you’ve built a good relationship with committee staff, if you’re a few days late, you might be able to go to them and ask them to list the letter, and they will do you that favor. In that situation remember that the twelve day rule applies to you, not them.

On the topic of letters, there may be times when committee staff asks you to submit a letter. A good rule to adhere to is that if honoring that request can in no possible way do harm to your client, always, 100% of the time, honor that request. The good will it can build up is invaluable. That said, never cross the line and agree to a request that could harm your client in any way.

Lobbying the Administration

Our In Practice series continues today with lobbying experts Ray LeBov and Chris Micheli discussing how to lobby the Governor’s administration on policy bills. They speak about important points of contact and mistakes lobbyists make when lobbying the administration.

LeBov emphasizes that if a bill you are lobbying affects a department or agency, you are going to need to be speaking with them. Even if they cannot take a position on a bill, their insights and knowledge will be critical to the success or failure of a bill. The agencies and departments a bill affects are going to be making a short presentation and a recommendation later on to the Governor as to whether to sign or veto a bill.

Another point of contact to lobby the administration is through the Horseshoe, which consists of the immediate Governor’s staff. The Deputies in the Legislative Affairs Units are responsible for every single bill that is introduced in the Legislature and are critical to contact. They analyze each bill and compose a file of reports prepared by the Department of Finance and relevant departments and agencies. They also collect letters sent to the Legislature about the proposed bills. LeBov and Micheli suggest sending every letter you as a lobbyist send to the Legislature to the Deputy in charge of the bill so they have it when they analyze the bill for the Governor.

Our experts also emphasize the importance of contacting the Deputies early on so that they can provide insight into any amendments that would make the bill more likely to be signed by the Governor.

Each Deputy is a person and creating a personal relationship with them is critical to building a strong support within the administration and will thus help you effectively advocate and lobby for your clients.

To find out more insights and common mistakes lobbyists make when lobbying the administration, listen to the full podcast.

Finding an Author for Your Sponsored Legislation

Today we’re continuing our In Practice addenda to Ray LeBov’s Rules for Effective Lobbying series. Today’s podcast drops in again on a conversation between veteran lobbyists Ray LeBov and Chris Micheli talking about how to find an author for your sponsored bill. This is one of the most important tasks when sponsoring a bill, and LeBov argues, one of the most understated.

Ray argues that any lobbyist should use some sort of list in order to ensure they are analyzing their decision thoroughly. After years in practice, he found a series of 15 questions to ask himself before deciding on a member, some of which are:

  • “What is the potential author’s relationship with members of all four caucuses and the Governor in the administration?”
  • “How will the issue play in potential author’s district?”, and
  • “Who’s going to staff that bill in the particular legislator’s office?”

None of these questions on their own are a silver bullet, but each one is worth weighing in context with all of the others on the list. Therefore, before deciding on an author, a lobbyist should weigh each one of the questions carefully and avoid common mistakes that could cause trouble later in the process for the bill – and your client.

Not only do Ray and Chris give veteran insight into important questions to ask, they also go over why they think each one is important to ask. Some questions may seem obvious but have nuanced purposes such as unwritten protocol in the Legislature or laying the foundation for long-term relationships with potential future legislative powerhouses.

To hear more questions you should ask yourself to help find an author for your sponsored bill, listen to the podcast and hear both Ray and Chris explain why each question should be asked and how it will benefit your search.

Common Mistakes Lobbyists Make

Today’s podcast is a slightly different take on our In Practice series. It’s actually part In Practice as well as part addendum to Ray LeBov’s Rules for Effective Lobbying series.

The podcast today is from a fly on the wall regular perspective of a conversation between contributors – and veteran lobbyists – Ray LeBov and Chris Micheli talking about common mistakes that colleagues in their industry make.

These mistakes can range from seemingly obvious oversights – such as not reading the text of a bill or always being honest- to more nuanced mistakes – such as not fully recognizing the importance of rulemaking bodies and how they can really dictate a win or a loss on lobbying public policy despite the outcome in the California Legislature or knowing to tailor your message for the staffer or legislator that you are talking to.

I hope you enjoy today’s episode. It’s a fun and insightful conversation between two seasoned and respected lobbyists. There are a number of golden nuggets of knowledge and wisdom in here that we can’t fully get into detail with here. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to glean the rest of Ray and Chris’s insights into avoiding common lobbying mistakes and how you can be a more effective legislative – and regulatory – advocate.

 

 

 

Life Lessons for Lobbyists

In today’s Rules for Effective Lobbying podcast we will be discussing some life rules as they apply to lobbying. Some of my previously mentioned rules have been specifically generated in the lobbying context. There are others that are really life rules of more general applicability.

 

There are three of these in particular:

1: Don’t take setbacks personally;

2: When you get frustrated, stop breathe, and think; and

3: RALF your mistakes.

 

Now RALF in this context is an acronym that stands for Recognize, Admit, Learn From, and Forget About.

 

Lobbying often produces stress stemming from the frustration of things not going how you have hoped or planned for. Sometimes the roadblocks can seem irrational and unfair. Whatever obstacle you may confront is almost certainly not driven by anyone’s personal animosity towards you. Beyond not serving any useful purpose, personalizing it is likely misplaced.

 

It’s important not to overreact in a way that leads to taking an action that not only doesn’t address the new circumstance in a useful way, but may actually make your situation worse. So each of these three rules provides important guidance of how to respond to unexpectedly difficult situations.

 

You always need to be solution oriented. Overreacting impairs your ability to focus on finding the right response to a problem. I’m reminded of an ancient Chinese proverb that provides wonderful guidance. “It’s better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.”

 

We all know people whose response to mistakes is to self-flagellate. That serves no useful purpose. We all make mistakes. It’s part of the human condition. Instead of beating yourself up, use the occasion of a mistake as a positive by following our RALF rule. Again, RALF stands for Recognize, Admit, Learn From, and Forget About. Not only will this help prevent you from repeating it, but along with the other life rules we’ve cited, it will help keep you from unwisely misplacing your focus.

 

 

 

Rules for Effective Lobbying – Never speak on behalf of another entity without expressed, specific, authorization

In today’s podcast we will be discussing another one of my rules for effective lobbying – never speak on behalf of another entity or purport to represent its position without specific, clear, definitive, precise authorization. I cannot stress enough how important this rule is. Violating this rule potentially can get you into more trouble than violating any other rule that I’ve discussed before. Obviously, intentionally misrepresenting someone else’s position is unspeakably bad, and in most instances it is likely to be a career ender.

 

Inadvertent misrepresentation is almost as bad, and its potential is what gives rise to this rule. Imagine that you are testifying at a committee hearing and are asked what position on the bill in question has been taken by hypothetical Entity X, which you do not represent and which is not present at the hearing. Suppose further that based on your good faith belief, you state that Entity X supports the bill and as a result, the bill passes the committee. In fact, Entity X opposed the bill. To put it another way, suppose you inaccurately state that Entity X opposes the bill which results in the committee defeating the bill when in fact, Entity X supported the legislation. I can’t help thinking of the Southwest Airlines ad tagline, “Wanna get away?”

 

Not convinced? Think about it this way. How would you react if you represented Entity X in the preceding hypothetical.

 

 

 

Rules for Effective Lobbying – Part 8 – Don’t Ignore the Minority Party

In today’s podcast, I talk about my eighth rule for being an effective lobbyist: don’t ignore the minority party.  There are a number of reasons supporting this rule, among them: common courtesy, you may need their votes and not realize it, you will need them on some future issue, they may raise issues that you may not have thought out, and no one likes to be ignored.

Another point I focus on in this podcast is the role of committee consultants. Every committee in the Legislature has a staff of consultants who serve the full committee. Their role is primarily to work with the chair of the committee and the majority party members of the committee as well as to analyze every bill that is referred to the committee. The minority party also has committee consultants. I’ve said previously that committee staff is your best friend in Sacramento. Well, right behind them is the minority party staff.

In the rest of the podcast, I explore the many difference between the work and role of the committee staff and the minority party consultant.  Listen to the podcast to learn the details about the many differences that can be critical to your success as an advocate. Among those differences are the bill load of the consultants, whether their bill analyses are objective and non-partisan or subjective and partisan, and if their bill analyses are public record or not.

For more advocacy tips from the faculty at McGeorge School of Law, please visit CAP·impact’s In Practice Archive. For more advocacy tips from myself, you can refer back to my previous Rules for Effective Lobbying podcasts or attend one of the next sessions of Capitol Seminars, which are hosted at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.

Rules for Effective Lobbying Part 7 – Client Relations

In today’s podcast, I talk about my seventh rule for being an effective lobbyist: set yourself up for successful client relations. This is really a series of rules that will help you establish a solid foundation for a successful relationship with any client that you work with.

One example of these rules is: always under-promise and over-deliver. While it may be frustrating in the short-term to lose potential clients to lobbyists who make promises of success that they know they cannot deliver on, you and your reputation will be best served by adhering to this rule.

For more advocacy tips from me and from the faculty at McGeorge School of Law, please visit CAP·impact’s In Practice Archive or attend one of the next sessions of Capitol Seminars, hosted at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.