Government Relations Insights

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Who is the best patron for my bill?

In the Virginia General Assembly, the correct answer to this question is the key to a successful legislative strategy. Considerable thought must be given to this question. Here are a few factors to consider:

Ambition: Bills carried by legislators running for statewide or congressional office are frequently viewed with skepticism or targeted in order to deny a bragging right.

Committee: Membership on the relevant committee is absolutely mandatory; membership on the relevant subcommittee is highly preferred.

Committee chair: Some chairs do not feel it’s appropriate to push hard on their bills.   On the other hand, they have absolute control over their committee docket.

Complexity: An energetic legislator who does his homework should be a priority.

Controversy: A member of leadership or a subcommittee chair can usually take the heat.  

Cultivation: If you do your job well, working with a legislator on a bill is a unique opportunity to develop a positive relationship for many years to come.

Expertise: Quite a few legislators are recognized experts on certain subjects and want to carry all bills related to those subjects.

Governor: Some legislators are in the gubernatorial cross-hairs.

Hostages: Is your potential patron planning to carry a highly controversial bill? If so, your bill may become a hostage or bargaining chip.    

Line 6 problem: Line 6 is the line number for the patron’s name on a bill. Some legislators are known for introducing too many bills or not fully vetting their bills.

Money: Any bill with a fiscal impact is going to Senate Finance or Appropriations. Membership of your patron on the relevant money subcommittee is highly preferred.

Motivation: If the patron cares deeply about an issue and will work it hard, this attribute may outweigh other considerations.

Payback: Some legislators are on the outs with the chair of the relevant committee or subcommittee. On the other hand, there may be a strong friendship.

Partisanship: Bills carried by members of the minority party have an uphill climb.

Popularity: Some legislators are simply better liked and have a higher batting average.    

The Other Body: Some Delegates, regardless of their influence in the House, are targeted in the Senate.   Some Senators are similarly targeted in the House.