State Government Affairs
Major Issue Trends in 2023: State Legislative Recap
November 8, 2023 | MultiState
Keep track of meetings and events with our State and Local Groups Calendar.
Any effective state government affairs program needs a comprehensive plan for engaging with the policymaking community as a whole. A key component of that engagement is developing a strategic approach to the national membership organizations of policymakers and other stakeholders, which are collectively referred to as “the Groups.” The Groups provide opportunities for businesses and other organizations to engage with policymakers on priority issues and, more importantly, develop relationships with key state leaders without having to travel to every state in the country. Some Groups have the ability to set policy precedents that individual states often follow with their own legislative efforts.
A sophisticated approach to an engagement strategy takes into account not only strategic goals and objectives but also budgetary allocations, staff size and experience, and available time. You should also consider your staff’s ability to make a multi-year commitment to be closely engaged.
The engagement strategy for a well-funded, well-established, and robust team will be different than for a newly formed state affairs program with fewer teammates and resources. The primary purpose, though, is the same for both: effectively and efficiently advancing priorities in the states.
Groups can be organized into a few main categories (please note that this is not a comprehensive list of all available groups). We’ve listed the main categories below, but there are also dozens of issue-specific groups, some of which are likely to offer opportunities for your organization and help advance preferred policy positions.
First, there are the executive and administrative groups, such as the National Governors Association (NGA); the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA); and the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). Some of these executive groups also have regional associations such as the Attorney Generals Alliance (AGA) that offer opportunities to focus on regional policy priorities. There are also partisan counterparts for both the governors and the attorneys general: the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), the Republican Governors Association (RGA), the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA), and the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA).
Second, there are several groups devoted to legislative branch policymakers, such as the Institute for State Policy Leaders, National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Council of State Governments (technically a hybrid group, as CSG brings all three branches together under one umbrella), State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF), Senate Presidents’ Forum (SPF), the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), among others.
Third, there are dozens of policy think tanks and research organizations that offer a wide variety of engagement opportunities. This category will vary based on the issues the organization prioritizes. For example, if the preferred policy focus is on tax or budget issues, organizations that primarily focus on tax policy will be of value. These often range across the political spectrum, with some groups on the conservative side of the aisle and others leaning more liberal. They also vary based on size, budget, and influence. It’s important to take an inventory of these groups and understand their priorities and positions in order to identify which are allies and which may be obstacles to policy priorities. There are think tanks and research organizations for every policy area out there: tax, budget, health, housing, technology and privacy, and many more.
Finally, there are industry professional development groups, which provide a forum to interact with other professionals in the government affairs industry and learn skills and tools. These include the Public Affairs Council (PAC), State Government Affairs Council (SGAC), Women in Government Relations (WGR), National Black Professional Lobbyists Association (NBPLA), and Washington Area State Relations Group (WASRG).
There are two main parts to any comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan. First is a stakeholder analysis. A stakeholder analysis is both an inventory and a mapping exercise. You’ll need to research which groups are active on your priority issues or have influence with specific target audiences. After we’ve determined the “who,” it is equally important to determine how these groups are engaging on your issues so that you may understand which organizations could be helpful allies in the future and which may present obstacles.
The second step is to create an engagement plan. How will you interact with the organizations you’ve identified as priorities? It’s important to think through your specific goals — perhaps it’s to build or maintain relationships, or maybe it’s to engage in a proactive agenda on a specific issue. You may also be trying to lay the groundwork to prevent detrimental policy, or you may be trying to educate lawmakers or gather intelligence. These don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but you’ll be more efficient if you set goals up front. Here are some things to think about:
Once you’ve outlined your specific goals for each group, decide how to introduce yourself and your organization. Perhaps you want to reach out to the staff to set up an introductory call, or you may want to dive in by attending a meeting or conference. For both of these, come prepared with talking points on your organization and your goals.
If you’re looking to begin a sponsorship relationship, make a point to understand the costs and benefits of different sponsorship levels so you can ensure you’re choosing the level that’s right for your organization and that you have the bandwidth to utilize all the benefits outlined under your sponsorship level.
When it’s time to attend a meeting or conference, be sure to do your research on who will be attending the meeting so you can make the most of it. If you have an idea of who you want to talk to and why before you go, you’ll likely be more successful
Once you’ve started working with the groups, it’s important to stay updated on meetings, events, and conferences so that you don’t miss any opportunities to engage — especially now that in-person events are starting up again. You can track the Groups with MultiState’s State and Local Groups Calendar, which collects and organizes upcoming meetings of the main policymaker executive, legislative, and policymaker groups and is updated weekly. Bookmark this resource for meeting dates, location, access status (public or members only), and more. Also be sure to sign up for our Morning MultiState weekly tipsheet, where we provide tips, insights, and best practices related to the Groups and their upcoming meetings.
Need help kicking off a Groups management plan, or advice on how to maximize your current Groups engagement? MultiState can help. Read more about our Strategic Government Relations practice or contact us here.