Andrew Ausel | January 3, 2016
Among what distinguishes the Federal government from state governments is how often and when each body meets to pass bills. On top of this, there is a significant diversity in the amount of time and frequency with which states conduct official business or what is more often referred to as session. Some states pass legislation quickly from January through early spring by using deadlines, while others take their time and meet intermittently throughout the entire year. Session is to government relations professionals what autumn is for bears. We take in a tremendous amount of bills and hearings for 6 months, and pass into a form of coma shortly there-after. Well, except our hibernation after session consists of traveling to and putting on conferences, preparing reports and presentations for the next year, and strategizing which states to target. Nonetheless, we do take a number of steps to prepare for the first six months of each year. Here are five strong indicators that this wonderful time of the year is approaching:
1. States turn back into targets
This is an important part of any government relations operation. Let me first assure you that this image is not indicative of our strategy. For DBIA, we find which authorization sunsets are due to expire in upcoming years or where legislation has stalled at the end of last session. For example, in 2015, New York and Louisiana were two of DBIA’s top priorities as the design-build authority for the New York DOT and the Louisiana Port Authority were set to expire. Thankfully, these sunsets were extended.
2. Alerts are set
The next logical step after priorities are set is to watch those states carefully. Most government relations operations utilize some sort of tracking service to stay on top of the vast amounts of legislative action. Fortunately for us, the terminology we look for is pretty consistent from year to year, making our tracking of bills pretty straight forward.
3. Pre-files drop. Early bird gets the worm.
While some states vary, most will release most of their bills before session starts through a pre-file process. Legislators will work over the summer to generate new bills or redraft failed bills from prior years. The incentive? Speed up the process by introducing an idea to committee members and staff sooner. Pre-files “drop” as early as November with most coming in early to mid-January.
Full disclosure, this is a bit of an anomaly. However, Illinois and Pennsylvania are still locked into budget negotiations that were supposed to be resolved in July…yes, of 2015. But while those states continue to slog through the last fiscal year, some states will begin to generate budget priorities in early January. Governors’ state-of-the-state addresses are often good indicators of budget goals and are important to monitor.
5. Twitter lists are set up
For all you tech-savvy whipper-snappers out there, Twitter lists are a great way to organize your news feed if you aren’t using them already. Twitter allows you to organize the sources you follow into designated lists which gives you a one-stop shop for up to the minute intelligence without having to scroll through your entire feed. Sources can be added or removed from lists by clicking the the wheel beside the “follow” button and then clicking on “Add or remove from lists…”. As more and more news sources post all their content to twitter, you can increasingly rely on this.
While session is always challenging, we look forward to working with our regions and industry partners to achieve the same record-setting success of 2015. Last year saw the highest rate of design-build bills passed (70%) with huge victories in New York, Delaware and Washington to name a few. Some of our top priority states are already shaping up and we are working with regional leadership to formulate an effective strategy for each segment of the country. Missouri, New York and California look to be three of our top priority states, just to name a few. While time may only tell the outcome of this upcoming session, we definitely foresee one thing: