Staying Ahead of the Legislation Process
Arkansas’s next legislative session is still over seven months away, but if you want to be informed and involved, you may already be behind.
That may sound crazy, but when you factor in summer vacations, the fall elections, and the holiday season, now is the best time to get your efforts started. That’s not to suggest there is ever a bad time to begin monitoring the political process. However, the quicker you get a plan together, the more likely your chances of being successful.
The longer you wait increases the chance your issues will not be addressed until the next legislative session – which doesn’t happen for another two years. Nobody wants to wait that long, so let’s get started now! For a lot of businesses and associations, having to wait two years due to poor planning can be very devastating.
All industries and most businesses should include government relations as part of their yearly business plan. Whether intentional or unintentional, policy changes can influence your business in a multitude of ways, including higher tax burdens, unfair advantages for competitors, and more costly regulations. Taking it a step further, if your business is growing, you should be watching educational policy changes that could impact future workers and quality of life issues that keep people in your area.
Contrary to popular belief, having a government relations plan doesn’t have to break the bank. Cost truly depends on what all you are looking to do.
The first question you are bound to ask is “Should I hire a lobbyist?” The short answer – not necessarily.
Our government was designed to ensure everyone has a voice. That voice doesn’t have to be limited to casting your ballot every election. Arkansas has done a decent job over the last few years of making the legislative process more open to the public.
If you are looking to monitor legislation and watch legislative hearings, the state offers a website that anyone can utilize (www.arkleg.org). From this site, you can contact your local legislators and express your views and opinions. An important warning: legislators receive a lot of communications, especially during legislative sessions. Priority responses typically go to people who live in their districts.
Join An Industry Association
Like most busy individuals, you probably don’t have time to monitor legislation yourself. Try joining your industry association or the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. These groups offer regular reports on legislation, how it could impact you, and what steps they are taking to support or oppose. If you aren’t a member of the Chamber or your association, you should be.
Should You Hire A Lobbyist?
For those wanting to fully engage on changing policy, now is the time to get help. Unless you have a large group willing to storm the Capitol several times, if you are unfamiliar with how the process works, a lobbyist may need to be considered.
A lobbyist can guide you through the system, develop your message and strategy, help you connect with the right people, and be an advocate for your efforts. But even with help from a lobbyist, getting started as soon as possible needs to be a priority.
Remember, creating change is hard, stopping or holding up change can be easy. By starting now, you can define your message, build relationships, grow your coalition, and put a plan for change into action. Finding the right help will make this easier and can save you time and money in the long run.
Don’t put your success on hold. Get started before it's too late.