Closing days of a session are always a test of Leadership… from Chapter 2 of the draft 4th Edition of Lobbying on a Shoestring

“Leadership, like other legislators, must be reelected. Because it is particularly embarrassing for a party leader to lose a local election, leaders listen to their constituents very closely and use the power of their positions to accommodate constituent requests promptly.

In addition, the President and the Speaker must stand for reelection a second time—to their own leadership posts. And anyone who thinks that those votes are locked up because of past favors or appointments should be reminded of the oldest political comeback in the world, “What have you done for me lately?” In fact, every day is election day for the Speaker and the President. To hold on to their personal power and their role as the chief spokespersons for their respective branch, they must exercise real power and figure ways to get some decisions made within the legislative process.

The Speaker and the President cannot avoid conflict; they must confront it, resolve it, and sometimes take the blame for it. Since real power in the legislative process is defined as the ability to influence the outcome, both the President and the Speaker must take responsibility for an unpopular new law—unlike a rank-and-file legislator who can explain away his ineffectiveness or lack of real power by blaming the fast gavel of the tyrannical leadership.

The waiting rooms of both the Speaker and the President are always jammed with special interest groups or their lobbyists armed with persuasive facts and compelling arguments that their cause is just and their time is now. And while it is sometimes useful to arrange a courtesy meeting at the beginning of a campaign, especially if the whole issue is brand new to the legislature, don’t waste any limited access you may have with either the President or the Speaker on a meeting just to say hello.

All meetings, letters, or phone calls directed to the leadership should have one goal: getting on the agenda for action. Leadership does not generate policy; it reacts to the proposals suggested, or demanded, by others. Most frequently those proposals come in the form of bills filed by members, who are in turn responding to a constituent or special interest group. Your legislative campaign should create a public debate which the leadership is obligated to resolve somehow.

To resolve such a debate, the Speaker and the Senate President first must evaluate the strengths of often conflicting positions on legislation from the Governor, outside special interest groups, committee chairs, the informal regional and ideological caucuses, and (last but not least) one another. Then they try to meld a majority coalition around the most acceptable solution—to pass the bill, to amend it, or to let it die. Because they don’t have time to do this work on every bill, the leadership usually works hardest to develop a coalition on bills for which there is the greatest public clamor for a resolution. So, if you want your bill to be one of these, you must keep the heat on them.

Sometimes issues are debated and debated with no progress until both the problems and the debates have disappeared (sometimes dropped out of exasperation or exhaustion). If this is due to the leadership’s inability to identify and build a majority coalition on one side of the question or the other, then the leadership has failed at its main function. If they fail on many issues, you may assess this leadership team as ineffective.

As a lobbyist, it’s important to determine whether the leadership is weak or strong to assess their help or hindrance for your bill.”