When it comes to building a successful legislative agenda, there are a number of critical factors to take into consideration. But of all the things that could influence a vote on a bill, three things stand out that truly make the difference between success and irrelevance in lobbying.
Any measure of success in lobbying begins and ends with an organization’s or a person’s relationships, credibility and the information they are bringing to the table. PBA members who attended PBA Day in Trenton on March 3 got to witness the State PBA’s relationships, credibility and information on display and what can be accomplished in Trenton when they all come together.
It would be easy to summarize all these things and suggest that they begin and end with the State PBA. Leadership. The strong relationships and the credibility of State PBA President Colligan and Executive Vice-President Kovar are solid and getting stronger every day. When they show up at the State House, people take notice and everyone wants to have their ear.
Personally, I was lobbying an important bill with a senator and a senior staff person recently when the senator wanted to know how he could be sure the information I told him really happened. The staffer supported everything I said by reminding the senator that my information was always reliable and factual. In short, I am fortunate to have earned a level of trust as a lobbyist that takes years to develop. Those relationships, coupled with bringing excellent information to the discussion, builds a credibility that opens doors and keeps them open in government.
But it isn’t entirely accurate to say one, two or three people can deliver success any time they want. The State PBA quite honestly doesn’t, and shouldn’t, work that way politically. If PBA Day, and the PBA’s aggressive Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) activity in the last election, proved anything, it is that the State PBA as an organization has a reputation, a level of trustworthiness and an integrity of ideals that makes it possible for us to build on our own relationships and make a difference in Trenton.
PBA Day was the embodiment of that in one busy Thursday. While the numbers themselves were overwhelming, the biggest impression PBA members left that day was the focus Trenton regulars could sense from the masses in attendance. Legislators who had no idea the PBA was invading the State House that day went out of their way to see the crowds for themselves. Committee chair’s stopped meetings to acknowledge and recognize the mass of PBA members. Many legislators engaged with PBA members on meaningful issues like pensions and the possible state takeover of Atlantic City.
But through it all, there was a sense of purpose emanating from the members in attendance that acted as if it were a blue wall built high around the State PBA leaders when they testified on several issues before the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. It was a feeling as if the members were an extension of the relationships, the credibility and the information President Colligan and I presented to the committee. Committee members were looking at us, but they were really seeing the entire State PBA membership standing behind us in the faces that filled every section of that massive meeting room.
That in itself is the takeaway from PBA Day and goal of what the State PBA is becoming again. The bills that moved in committee that day, and the many bills we support and oppose along the way, are all very important to the future of law enforcement in New Jersey. Certainly, our efforts on PBA Day to move bills to prohibit discipline for failing to write enough tickets, to restore the Sick Leave Injury Program or to keep employers from firing a disabled officer awaiting his retirement hearing are among the more critical bills we will promote this session.
But what the State PBA has been building isn’t about one bill on one day of the year. What we are developing is the belief in Trenton that when Pat Colligan, Marc Kovar or I are lobbying an issue, what those legislators see inside our relationships with them is the impenetrable wall of PBA members that surrounds us. We want them to visualize the entirety of the 30,000 plus officers that make up the organization. We want them to sense that focus that was all around the State House during PBA Day every time they see us coming.
This is possible provided everyone stays engaged. So continue to get to know your legislators and make sure they know you. When the PBA puts out info on legislation, call their offices and let them know what the PBA thinks of the bill. When elections come around, support PBA candidates and volunteer to help them win.
The legislators in Trenton know and respect Pat, Marc and me. What we need is for them to sense that you’re all standing there next to us whenever we show up to see them again.