Case Study: What to do When the State Legislature is Out of Session
From John Wittman, PLUS Public Affairs Partner, based in our Austin, Texas Office
When state legislative sessions draw to a close, your advocacy work can be put on ‘pause’ until the legislature is back in session, right?
No – in fact, now is the perfect time to begin applying the lessons you’ve learned during the session and start preparing to meet your organization’s policy goals the next time lawmakers descend on the state capitol.
Let’s take a look at Texas. Here are five things to consider when the legislature is out of session.
As the 88th Texas legislative session draws to a close, here are a few key things you and your colleagues need to consider:
- Coalition Building
Coalitions are not formed overnight. All too often, companies or organizations scramble at the last minute to form coalitions in support of a particular issue or bill. The more lead time you have in building and organizing a coalition, the more successful it will be in speaking with a unified voice on any given issue.
The interim is an ideal time to identify and begin meeting with potential stakeholders and coalition members on why a future legislative issue should be on their radar. Be sure to take full advantage of the lull in legislative activity to bring together the local and statewide partners that will be most valuable when you need them to speak up.
- Reputation Management
The interim is also a perfect opportunity to build brand awareness in key legislative districts across Texas. Striving to be good a community partner is important to driving success for everyone. Your leaders at the local, state and national levels need to know about your proactive engagement in the communities you serve.
By highlighting and promoting the important work your company or organization does year-round, you can begin building goodwill with influential lawmakers now. Use this time to enhance your credibility in your local community so that you will be in a stronger position to advocate for the policies you want to see enacted or not enacted next session.
- State Agency Rulemaking
Just because the legislature is not in session does not mean there won’t be new rules or regulations implemented or handed down by a state agency. In fact, after session is when many agencies initiate the rulemaking process to implement and comply with the laws that the legislature just passed.
As a result, it is crucial that you and your colleagues remain apprised of what rules state agencies are proposing and be responsive to any rules or regulations that may be applied during the interim. Mark any forthcoming public comment periods on your calendar so you and your peers can weigh in on the impact of such rule changes and prevent unintended consequences from harming your operations. Engaging in the agency rulemaking process also allows you to start forming valuable partnerships with like-minded organizations that you may need to activate when lawmakers return to the state capital.
- Building Media Relationships
Establishing relationships with reporters and media organizations in Texas takes time and experience. The more opportunities you have to work with specific reporters, editors and outlets, the more you will be able to anticipate the kinds of facts, data and other information they will need to tell a compelling story that can have an impact for your organization.
During the interim, take the time to meet with reporters covering issues of particular importance to your company or organization – even if it’s an informal, off-the record conversation over coffee. Stay connected periodically so that when a reporter is covering a certain issue, you’ve already established a trusted relationship that will ensure your perspective is presented to the public in a fair manner.
- Issue Awareness
With 18 months between regular legislative sessions, the interim is the perfect time to promote awareness of issues important to your organization. This can be done through both earned and paid media, as well as through traditional media channels or social media channels.
Keep in mind that a steady drumbeat of content, facts and thought leadership from your organization is critical to maintaining momentum heading into the next legislative session. Find new ways to engage in conversations that are happening at the local and state levels. By strategically keeping your message on the airwaves and in the media, your organization can have a more powerful voice in future policy debates.