When the Iowa Legislature is underway, we carefully follow the Governor’s priorities, partisan politics and controversial issues on a daily basis. Yet, we rarely hear about the lobbyists and their work in silently driving the life or death of legislation.
That’s why I recently visited with Dave Scott who is a multi-client lobbyist representing the interests of trucking, engineering, construction, transportation, tobacco and oil. For more than 30 years, Dave has navigated the intricacies within Iowa’s legislative process.
What is lobbying? What really happens during a legislative session? What is the value in hiring a lobbyist? Dave and I explored these questions. It was an intriguing conversation and I wanted to share the following few excerpts with you.
“Iowa legislators do not have year-round staffers to delve into each bill and every issue of interest,” explained Dave. “They depend upon industry experts, department liaisons and lobbyists to share the pros and cons of legislation.”
While the House and Senate have limited research staffs, often times the researchers are faced with short deadlines on complex issues. According to Dave, in a 110-day session, there may be 600 to 700 bills introduced along with nearly 2,000 amendments.
“Bills can be complex. It’s important that legislators understand the realities and the impact each bill has on individuals, communities and businesses,” said Dave. “After all, ultimately it’s up to our elected officials to sort out the competing interests and determine what is best for Iowans. They push the voting buttons and answer to the public”
He went on to say, “For long-term lobbyists, it’s not unusual for legislators and their staffs to seek opinions or resources to understand the impact of a particular bill. The lobby, as a whole, helps present both sides of an issue, and that’s extremely important.
“Lobbyists help legislators with the nuances of issues and they often find a champion for bills. During the session, it is a cumbersome and time-consuming process involving committee meetings, subcommittee meetings, daily bill packets and study bills.”
As our conversation drew to an end, it was clear to me: Lobbyists are vital brokers of information and their personal credibility determines their value. They are paid advocates, yet conscientious individuals. Lobbyists truly are the creative artists within an intricate process that we call democracy.