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Redistricting - it's effects on legislative policy.

As everyone knows by now, the 1990 population census resulted in substantial Congressional redistricting in each of the states. Congressional redistricting also results in state redistricting. The friendly state legislator with whom you were so congenial in 1991 or 1992 may very well be in a new state legislative district in 1993 or out of the state legislature altogether. There is a special significance to state redistricting. With a new assembly person or senator you must begin the "know your legislator" process all over again.

Redistricting is also a good time to formalize new action plans for the 1993 legislative session. It's a good time to get the affiliated state organization's legislative committee activated and infused with enthusiasm. There are some new faces in the state legislature and the ASO's legislative committee should know who they belong to.

The importance of the ASO's legislative committee cannot be over-emphasized. It has an important mission to accomplish if the ASO's legislative action plan is to meet with any success. The legislative committee should not be one that filters all the work down to one or two members. The committee must be sufficiently large to spread the workload and to identify, discuss and explain the issues. The ASO legislative committee is a workhorse committee. There's no place on it for prima-donnas.

Redistricting emphasizes the importance of communicating with the legislators. One of the functions of the ASO's legislative committee is to communicate its views to the state legislators, especially those who are newly elected. Even when the ASO lobbyist is doing a super job, contact between the legislative committee and the legislators is extremely important. Personal contact - the "eyeball to eyeball" direct approach - is the highest form of communication. The direct approach is extremely effective because it provides the opportunity to discuss with your legislator the issues that effect you and your small business clients.

When the process of redistricting presents you with a new legislator one good way to "break the ice" is to invite the legislator to speak at your ASO meetings. If necessary, offer an honorarium for the legislator's personal appearance or, at the least, a contribution to the legislator's campaign fund. When an honorarium is paid, the experience stands out in the legislator's mind. Also, an honorarium creates a more personal relationship between the organization and the legislator, especially a new one.

Redistricting may also put a new focus on the legislature's committee process. Old, influential legislators may find that seniority is no longer the major qualification for choice committee assignment. Committee action on a bill is the most important step in the legislative process because committees have the authority to recommend that bills be passed as introduced, passed as amended by the committee or killed. The power of the committee in the legislative process is overwhelming. It is in the committee that the front line battle over a bill will take place. Accordingly, if the redistricting process has put new faces on the key committee that you are mainly concerned with, it is terribly important to reach and contact those new committee members with an intensive lobbying effort.

The reason for contacting the legislators, especially the ones on your key committee, is to educate them with the facts and information that will persuade them to your point of view. Educating the legislators is simply showing them how the bill - either the one you are sponsoring or the one you are opposing - affects your association's members, and their small business clients, who are most likely constituents of the legislators.

Often the legislator, especially a new legislator, may very likely have a different point of view from yours or no point of view at all since the issue was never previously presented. This is where education comes in. Education of the legislator may be accomplished by lobbying, which is a process or device that educates the legislator by discussion of the issues involved. There is nothing inherently bad or evil about lobbying. Lobbying represents power and legislators respect and appreciate power.

We have repeated frequently in Washington Comment that anytime is a good time to get involved in the legislative process. Anytime is a good time to protect or enhance your position in the state legislature. If you or the ASO legislative committee don't do it, nobody else is going to do it for you. An opportune time to get involved is when a redistricting of the state legislature has occurred. New faces representing new constituents take up their respective positions. The players can start off on a level playing field.
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Title Annotation:Washington Comment; Congressional redistricting as a result of the 1990 population census
Author:Sager, William H.
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Words:761
Previous Article:Preparer liability extended.
Next Article:Compliance 2000.
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