by Belinda Judson
Executive Director, Mid-States NATO
Lest you think you can relax because
legislative calendar says it is not in session, you’d
best think again.
While around a dozen states have year-round
legislative sessions and a couple of states only convene
every other year, the remaining states average a 3- to
4-month session. So if that’s the case, why is it
necessary to be vigilant at all times?
You need to be aware that although sessions
may only be scheduled for a particular period of time,
there are other
opportunities for the legislators to conduct business.
can be particularly
challenging because the legislators are
usually under time constraints and want to get bills passed very quickly.
This leaves constituents little time to voice any concerns.
Before the beginning of scheduled sessions,
many states have special organizational sessions to prepare
for “regular” sessions.
Twenty-eight states actually have “prefile” available,
meaning that lawmakers can draft legislation early for
their next session. In a couple of states, legislation
for minimum wage and local sales and use taxes have already
been drafted for 2007 sessions.
On the other end, special sessions can be
called to clean up unfinished business. These special sessions
involve issues along the lines of state budgets, taxes
and minimum wage, all of which could have great impact
Special sessions can be particularly challenging
because the legislators are usually under time constraints
want to get bills passed very quickly. This leaves constituents
little time to voice any concerns. Also in the interest
of time there can be a tendency for lawmakers to “bundle” several
issues into one bill, making it difficult for those affected
by the bill to even keep track of what it contains.
So you can see that, while it is imperative
to keep abreast of activity during regularly scheduled
it is equally as important to be alert at other times.
It is also why it is crucial to maintain relationships
with your elected representatives throughout the year rather
than only when the calendar says they are in session.
Especially when things are moving along
quickly and there is little time to bring legislators up
to speed, that education – gained
through ongoing contact with cinema operators – will
help give legislators a much better grasp of how certain
legislation will directly impact the exhibition industry.
The more lawmakers know about the industry,
the greater the success rate exhibitors will have in defeating
legislation at any time of the year!