Government Relations "Best Practices"
A sampling of successful past government relations
projects funded by the State Public Affairs Grant program.
- Nebraska: In 1998, the Nebraska State Legislature sent a wake up call to the Nebraska engineering community by passing legislation that dramatically changed the responsibilities of engineers in the Nebraska. This legislation made the Nebraska Section realize that they needed to be more proactive in local, state, and national affairs. Three organizations, the Nebraska Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Council of Engineering Companies of Nebraska, and the Nebraska Society of Professional Engineers formed an alliance known as the Professional Engineers Coalition (PEC). The PEC realized that the most efficient means to keep abreast of legislative affairs was to hire a lobbyist.
In 2003, PEC received recognition in the Omaha World Herald where they were touted as one of the most powerful groups lobbying to protect the Highway Trust Fund. In 2003, the legislature repeatedly attempted to use this fund to balance the State budget. Other attempts to balance the budget that would have had a direct impact on Engineers in the state included legislation to tax engineering services and to charge a flat $1,250 "Occupational Privilege" tax on privately employed engineers. The bill failed to make it to final reading due to the efforts of the ASCE lobbyist and members that testified or wrote their senators. The Nebraska Section of ASCE relied solely on SPAG money to pay for their portion of this legislative affairs program.
- Central Ohio: In 2000, the Central Ohio Section partnered with the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers to hire a lobbyist to work against a bill in the Ohio Legislature that would have allowed landscape architects to perform engineering activities. The Ohio Council of ASCE decided to participate in the effort to deflect this legislation and requested funds of $10,000 from ASCE to help support the effort. The Central Ohio section funded the work on a monthly basis at $1,000 per month to the extent of funds and so long as the process continued. Additional funding was provided by ASCE as the effort extended into a second legislative session. The Section was able to block the legislation in the Ohio Senate in 2000 but the bill was reintroduced in the Ohio House of Representatives in 2001. The Section continued to oppose the bill as introduced and suggested changes to meet their concerns, in cooperation with OSPE and the Institute of Transportation Engineers. The Section was ultimately able to reach agreement with the Ohio Society of Landscape Architects on wording that was considered acceptable, and then supported the bill. The lobbyist the Section jointly funded with OSPE was very useful in tracking the bill; arranging negotiating sessions; advising on strategy; and communicating separately with the bill's sponsor to assure him of the Section's good intentions in the public interest and willingness to negotiate in good faith.
- Boston: In 2001, the Boston Section of ASCE established a legislative fellowship program closely modeled after ASCE's Congressional Fellows Program. A fellow was selected by a committee comprised of past section presidents. The fellow was sent to the Massachusetts Legislature to work full time in the Joint Committee on Transportation. Monthly reports were prepared by the fellow which were distributed to section officers, posted on the section's website and published in the section's monthly newsletter. Additional copies were also sent to ASCE's Washington, DC office for coordination with federal activities. A new fellow has been selected every year since 2001 to continue the success of the program. The SPAG funding is used to provide a small portion of the stipend allotted to the legislative fellow.
- Orange County: The Orange County Section released their report card in 2003. The section was able to get Todd Spitzer as one of the speakers. At the time of the event he was one of the County Supervisors and was later elected as Assemblyman of California's 71st district. Members of the Orange County Report Card Executive Committee met with all 5 of the county supervisors, as well as other local agency directors for the water, sewer and trash. Many of the supervisors attended the release event. The Orange County Report Card Group routinely sent out meeting notices to its distribution list, which included elected officials at both local and congressional levels, city managers, public agency reps, and local leaders. There was also coverage by many of the local newspapers which printed the grades as well. More than 2500 report cards have been distributed to government officials and business leaders in Orange County.
- Kentucky: In 2003, the Kentucky Section of ASCE produced a state report card that gave Kentucky's infrastructure grades ranging from a B- to a D-. To release the report card, the section held a legislative reception at the state capitol which was funded with SPAG money. A number of legislators came by the reception after the report card's release and were able to have one on one conversations with Kentucky Section members. As a follow up, copies of the report card were emailed to each state legislator.
- North Carolina: In 2002 the North Carolina Section held a legislative reception to coincide with ASCE's 150th Anniversary. The event was held at the North Carolina Museum of History. 40 legislators and legislative staffers attended the event. Copies of the North Carolina Section's book, Civil Engineering in North Carolina, were distributed at the reception to each legislator in attendance. Money to fund this reception was obtained through the SPAG program.