Next year’s state legislative sessions are going to be intense.
Just look at the numbers. Legislatures will hold sessions in 44 states. By one estimate, roughly 100,000 bills will be introduced. Hundreds—maybe thousands—will be approved. And most of the action will transpire in the short period between January and May.
Add to that the election in 2020, in which thousands of state lawmakers will face voters, and it sums up to a very busy time in state capitals.
Advocacy organizations that want to be successful will start getting ready now. With roughly three months before the sessions begin, there is still time to identify priorities, set a strategy, plan your advocacy work and then work on your advocacy plan.
Getting Ready for the Action
While every organization will have different priorities and resources, there are some areas of focus that are universal. Here are some ideas to think about first.
- Define Your Top Priorities. In Congress, where the action is slower, it is possible to monitor multiple issues and stay on top of the game. In the states, where dozens of legislatures are operating simultaneously and bills can move to passage in a matter of days, that becomes much more difficult. Organizations with a solid idea of what matters most will have a major advantage.
- Know What’s Happening, Where. When the priorities are clear, you need intelligence on what’s going to happen. Of course, you’ll be watching bills that are pre-filed or carried over, and monitoring news about the states and issues you track. Savvy organizations will add to that, gathering information through their state or regional offices, field teams, volunteers and others on the ground. Any credible information about what lawmakers will address in the session is helpful. That kind of reporting can start now.
- Get Your Messaging Ready. This is something almost every organization can do. If you know your issues and your positioning, you can create a messaging document that will make rapid response much easier during the session. The document should contain your basic language, in formats that facilitate email, text, social and any other channel you use. When your language is ready, it can quickly be customized by state or situation when lawmakers start to act.
- Educate Your Teams. This is a good time to get your people on the ground ready. Whether they are volunteers, state offices or teams that you assemble and send in, most organizations have to do some education to get people up to speed on issues, positioning and messaging. Webinars, calls and packets of materials are strong ideas. Training on the ground is even stronger. Start now and you have enough time to get your teams ready.
- Get Your Technology Straight. State legislatures move fast. If you are struggling with clunky tools that drag on your response, now is a good time to look for a remedy. Professional advocacy software, which is designed to facilitate rapid response, can make a tough job far easier. If you are interested in learning more, download the white paper, The Case for Professional Advocacy Software.
Above All, Be Flexible
This might be the most important ingredient to success. No plan survives an encounter with reality, and yours will very likely undergo some change when the action starts. Lawmakers can introduce surprise bills. Governors can make unforeseen proclamations. Your opponents can flex their muscles in unforeseen ways.
Expect some change and be ready to adapt. If you have clear priorities, your messaging is prepared in advance and you are using solid advocacy technology, last-minute changes will be far less difficult to address.
Talk to your team about flexibility, adapting to change and how you’ll respond when new action items present themselves. If you know change is coming, it’s never really a surprise.
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