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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Heredia

A Day with A Lobbyist

A few years ago, I was hired as a consultant by a real estate coalition to advise them on new changes in the appraisal profession. One of the things they wanted to do was have me address a state senate hearing on appraisal best practices and on an upcoming legislative bill. That’s where this fun adventure began.

I worked along side a small team of attorneys and faithfully flew off to the state senate hearing. That morning, over breakfast, I met a host of other attorneys at the state capital. Most of them were professional lobbyists, representing different companies or interest groups. It was the first time, though not the last, that I got to experience first hand just how our state laws get passed.

Lobbyists almost always are attorneys, and are professional advocates that work to influence the outcome of laws, usually that favor their clients. The stories of making agreements and shaking hands in some dark recess of the capitol or a hallway (a “lobby”) is all true and real. And it happens every day.

During breakfast, it was decided that our group needed a couple of extra votes to pass the bill. It was stuck in a committee, and in order to move it forward another couple of supporters (i.e., state lawmakers) were needed.

Now you might be thinking money exchanges hands. Actually, it is illegal for a lobbyist to give a politician any money, but generally what happens is that the lobbyists end up making the deals happen by exchanging a favor with other lobbyists to secure a vote or pledge of a certain piece of legislation. They are the negotiators of the lawmakers making sure that laws get passed and enacted, often with some modifications to their wording.

During the actual Senate hearing, one of the coalition attorneys would occasionally pop outside to the “lobby” to talk to someone. Sometimes an attorney would bring a note (cell phones not allowed at the hearing) to our coalition attorney inside the Senate chambers. In this way, the bill that the coalition group wanted passed was supported and slightly modified in real time in exchange for support (and vote later that day) of a special Veterans license plate for that state.

Yes, in the end, a sweeping change to a real estate regulation was passed in exchange for a license plate. My senate testimony was all but irrelevant.

Welcome to big government.

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