We live in an age of statutes. The vast majority of laws we deal with in our every day lives, whether they’re called rules, regulations, statutes, or ordinances, are written by our elected representatives in government, whether they serve in Congress, the Legislative Assembly, County Commission, or City Council.
Legislative and Government Relations, more commonly known as “lobbying,” is an art as old as government itself. The stereotype of a lobbyist is often humorous and reflects the public’s general misunderstanding of government relations – a portly, cigar-smoking man, clad in a top hat or fedora, who wines and dines lawmakers, taking them for rides in his private jet, all while slipping money into their pockets.
Section 54-05.1-01 of the North Dakota Century Code defines a lobbyist as “any person who, in any manner whatsoever, directly or indirectly, performs any of the following activities:
Attempts to secure the passage, amendment, or defeat of any legislation by the legislative assembly or the approval or veto of any legislation by the governor of the state.
Attempts to influence decisions made by the legislative council or by an interim committee of the legislative council.”
However, lobbying involves much more than the persuasion of legislators. Lobbying involves intense research and analysis of legislation or regulatory proposals; monitoring and reporting on developments in particular areas of public policy; attending committee or regulatory hearings; working with coalitions interested in the same issues; and educating legislators, government officials, and employees and corporate officers in regard to the implications of proposed changes to statutory law. What comes to mind for most people when they hear “lobbying” – communicating with legislators and other government officials – actually reflects the smallest portion of a lobbyist’s work for their client. Most of a lobbyist’s efforts are devoted to the other aspects of the legislative process, generally consisting of preparation, information, and communication.
Lobbying is simply advocating a point of view – either by groups or on an individual basis. “Special interests” are merely groups expressing their respective viewpoints, whether they’re public and private colleges and universities, religious organizations, charities, professional organizations, business groups, the local PTA, or an environmental group. Lobbying is also a legitimate and necessary part of our democracy. Government decisions affect both people and organizations, and information must be provided so that informed decisions can be made. Legislators and government officials need input from a broad group of interested parties to make a fair and informed decision.
Our attorneys and staff have the experience, connections, and capabilities to best represent your interests from the capitol to the city commission.