States Are All Over the (Status) Map
The conventional wisdom: State legislatures operate a few months at the beginning of the year and then everyone goes home. The truth: Legislating has become something much closer to a year-round occupation. Yes, a number of states have already adjourned for the year, and more will be wrapping up their official duties in the coming weeks, but for many the job isn’t over yet.
Take a look at the legislative status map from StateTrack.
As you can see, two states are currently in special session and three have already — in early June! — begun prefiling bills for 2014. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a handy chart breaking down each state by how close it comes to being a full-time job for lawmakers. (While dividing them up as red, white and blue is patriotic, it’s also a bit confusing since red and blue are the default colors used to classify the Republican and Democratic parties. For this post, we’ll use the NCSL definitions.)
The red states are primarily the biggest and/or most populous states (California, New York, Illinois, etc.). They tend to have longer sessions and bigger districts, requiring more work of the legislators and their staffs. Our three early prefilers — Alabama, Kentucky and Tennesse — fall into the middle-of-the-road, white category. While some of the blue states are still in session, most will be done soon and the part-time legislators will head home to continue their day jobs. But before too long, we’ll probably see prefiled bills in some of those states too.
So what’s the point of this rundown? Simple: Whether you’re a legislative analyst or a lobbyist, working for a small lobbying firm or a major association, there really isn’t any down-time in the cycle anymore. You’re either following bills through an active session, gearing up for a special session, hitting committee hearings or getting a head start on next year.
Or, heaven forbid, you’re also responsible for compliance and need to follow the regulatory process. With countless agencies across 50 states, you may never get a day off.