Deep Dive Breakout 2

Thursday, August 2, 2018


Congress is hopelessly divided. Legislation is difficult to move, leaving much of the policy action to the States. Has your advocacy program adjusted to this reality? Learn from organizations who understand this battleground and are achieving significant policy victories at the state and local level.

Notes from session:

The transition of public affairs to become more state-centric.

  • With stalemates at the federal level, and an ease of moving legislation at the state level, there’s been a shift – and a lot of opportunities to influence legislation and get engaged.
  • Some industries, in particular, are transitioning to where they can have the greatest impact. It’s possible to achieve hundreds of state & local policy victories in a year, against just a few federal victories.
  • Organizations are adjusting their resources, including adding flexibility to be better prepared to engage at more local levels.

Understanding when to focus on state/ local versus federal.

  • Federal legislation often comes from the state or local level, as different groups try out policies at a smaller geographic level.
  • Conversely, it’s easy to see how federal politics influence state or local policies.
  • Playing defense in the states allows an organization to hone their strategies, find partners and groups to work with, and identify what messaging works – and then use that knowledge at the federal level.
  • The same is true for proactive work in the states.
  • States have different legislative calendars and formats; some legislatures don’t meet every year!
  • That matters for when an organization might engage on issues.
  • The issues themselves also often dictate the geographic focus.

Fighting a national campaign state by state or using a state win to set up a national path.

  • Federal policymakers listen to the states, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true.
  • Nobody knows state political climates better than state organizations and associations.
  • Understanding the landscape of an individual state is essential to starting off on the right foot at the state or local level.
  • The same information collected about a state can be used to influence federal policy.
  • State-level elected officials and their staff turnover frequently.
  • Relationship building is critical.
  • An organization’s issue might not come up this year, but it will lend authenticity to future work to focus on constantly educating legislators at the state level.
  • State legislators also move up, either in other state-level offices or for federal office.
  • Having a prior relationship when someone moves up helps.
  • State legislators are also not as tied to political identities/party committees and their politics as federal legislators.
  • Turn your advocates into lawmakers: encourage champions to run for local or state office themselves, or to get more involved in local politics.