Government Relations And Lobbying
lobby vb. (1837) 1. To try to persuade a government official, such as a legislator, usu. repeatedly or frequently, in an attempt to influence some action proposed to be taken <she routinely lobbies for tort reform in the state legislature>. 2. To support or oppose (a measure) by working to influence a legislator’s vote <the organization lobbied the bill through the Senate>. 3. To try to influence (a political decision-maker) <the counsel for legislative affairs lobbied Senator Smith to bury the bill>. — lobbying, n. — lobbyist, n.
While this might seem like a simple concept and a concept that can invoke the shades of House of Cards, it simply is not.
This past Iowa General Assembly, I served as my Sellers, Galenbeck, and Nelson’s (SGN) lobbyist. Unlike most years, where I would just be monitoring bills and have provided education to the legislators, this year was different, never-mind Covid. The Board of Medicine filed a piece of legislation to invalidate a district court decision that SGN won. That case, which is being briefed in front of the Supreme Court, prohibits the licensing board from publishing investigative materials in the press releases. This bill was a quintessential case of a small carrot and a log instead of a stick and sought to overturn the District Court ruling.
This legislation would allow the licensed professionals to receive the investigative file before any charges were presented. While we supported this section, the rest of the bill was the log. The rest of the bill contained provisions that would allow any licensing board to publish any documents that they see fit completely. This would allow them to publish anything they wanted before the licensed professional had the opportunity to defend themselves. Additionally, the bill would have allowed the licensing agency to push the costs of the investigation and the proceedings onto the licensee.
Taking on a state agency is never easy, mainly when multiple agencies supported the proposed legislation. In the first committee meeting that addressed the bill, I was the first lobbyist to speak directly against the bill. I refuted the statements directly, and the conclusions propounded by the Director of the Board of Medicine and pointed out that many of his comments were accurate.
Institutional knowledge is also crucial for lobbying. In that first committee meeting, I had one of the partners attend the committee meeting since he was a primary attorney on the District Court case. After the hearing, he was rearing to get back to the office and leave the Capitol rotunda. However, I told him that we would need to stay a few minutes and be available for the Representatives if they had any questions after the committee meeting. The factions of a lobbyist claimed their waiting spots and were eyeing the other groups. As the Representatives left the conference room, the chairman of the committee meeting I came over to me and the Partner, further discussing our issues with the legislation. He asked that I send him a letter that contained more arguments and references to the code section that we felt conflicted with the bill. The Director of the Board of Medicine was not spoken to after the committee meeting.
The following week, the Senate brought up the bill for a committee meeting as well. Again, the Partner and I were in Zoom attendance. The Director of the Board of Medicine was not. Instead, the Director of the Board of Pharmacy and the Director of the Board of Dentistry were in attendance. The Partner and a few other lobbyists spoke against the bill and were in much sharper tones and arguments. Fortunately for us, the Senate tabled the bill indefinitely.
The House bill came back up for consideration as the last bill for consideration by the full committee on the last day of funnel week. If it did not pass, the bill would have died. However, the bill did pass the committee. The bill was sent to the House Ways and Means Committee, and a subcommittee was assembled for its consideration.
At this point, I sent multiple letters to both the House members who were assigned to the subcommittee on the bill and other lobbyists who were registered as neutral on the bill. Through these letters and discussions with the various lobbyists, SGN built a coalition of multiple professional licensing groups to defeat the bill. Through these efforts, the bill was not given priority. The bill died in the House chamber waiting for the Ways and Means subcommittee meeting. While this is the fate of many pieces of legislation, the bill can still be revived next session. We at Sellers Galenbeck and Nelson and other professional organizations will continue to be vigilant to ensure that this bill is not resurrected.