By Laurie Speed
As you read this, we are in the throws of the 2019 Legislative Session. Crossover Day, the last day by which a piece of legislation must pass from it’s chamber of origin, is upon us, and we are on the downhill slope of this year’s 40 Legislative Day session (Sine Die – the
last day of the Legislative Session – is set for April 2). Your interests as a GTLA member and plaintiff’s attorney have been, and will continue to be, well-represented under the Gold Dome, but not without great time and effort on the front end.
If you ask anyone on the GTLA Lobbying Team, they will tell you that “Session” is the most stressful time of their year. It may only be 40 Legislative Days, but that translates into roughly three months of meetings, bills, haggling, negotiations, floor fights, etc. all *hopefully* culminating with the end result of our Civil Justice System remaining in-tact and the assaults made on our client’s rights successfully fended-off. To effectively carry-out this tall order, meetings among the Lobbying Team and GTLA leadership began taking place over the summer to identify pieces of proactive legislation to pursue, as well as meaningful measures to combat harmful legislation. These meetings continued in the form of weekly conference calls leading up to November’s General Election and multiple meetings post-election to begin drafting legislation and developing strategies.
In an attempt to incorporate more of our membership into the legislative process, we implemented two new initiatives for the 2019 Legislative Session: the Bill Review Committee and issue-specific task forces within our Legislative Committee. The Bill Review Committee, comprised of our LEAD Alum, assists the Lobbying Team each day by reviewing the First Readers from each Chamber to determine which bills are of concern to our membership. After their initial evaluation, they submit the bills which require more attention back to the Legislative Team, who then determine what further action needs to be taken. If a bill requires a deeper interpretation of legal language, crafting amendments or even preparation for committee testimony, this is where our issue-specific task forces are ready to rapidly address these and any other questions that may arise when dealing with the legislation. By harnessing the collective power of our membership, we are creating more opportunities for members to be actively involved with the legislative process while also providing crucial guidance to the Lobbying Team.
Finally, I wanted to briefly highlight the members of our team. So often we refer to them, but very rarely do we actually give you any insight into who is representing you, your client’s, and their interests on a daily basis at the State Capitol. In-house at GTLA we have Political Director Bill Clark and Communications Director Ashley Williams. We also have several talented and experienced contract lobbyists including Wendi Clifton, her associate Ted Burdo, Jamie Lord, Jason Rooks, and William Woodall. I was recently told that, combined, these seven represent more than 100 years of experience in politics and lobbying. I do not know many organizations who can claim that level of expertise advocating on their behalf!
The road is not easy, and despite all the planning, preparation, and skill, it will still be difficult to navigate the remainder the Legislative Session; but, we go into these final weeks on a note of optimism knowing that our cause is just and our fight worth fighting.