Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to shadow part of Bravo’s Government Relations team at the Capitol in Harrisburg. Because I have an interest in lobbying, this was a great opportunity to learn from experienced professionals in the field and privy myself to some of the work that the team does. Not to mention my first trip to our beautiful PA state capitol building.
Creating legislation and public policy is a much more complex process than what may appear on the surface to the general public. Interest groups, labor unions, industries, corporations, etc. all have a particular view for policy measures that will enhance their operation and position. Particularly during the current budget discussions, these groups are establishing their case for a fair share of funds. One of the most effective tactics of influence is to work through legislatures in order to promote and secure a favorable outcome with the current legislative discussions.
Two groups stuck out on my trip to the capitol, both representing issues that have been highlighted as the budget deadline approaches.
Historically, education has always been a strong topic of discussion for the state’s budget plan. How much should our schools receive? Where should the funds be distributed? These are the types of questions that surround education on a yearly basis. A large group of education funding supporters gathered on the marble staircase chanting for proper funding for schools. Obviously, all legislatures believe education funding to be a critical part to the success of the state. However, the means to which this is achieved is what sparks such highly publicized debate. With both sides of the isle having different methods to ensure funding, it will be interesting to see how the legislature handles such an important issue for many in the Commonwealth.
While Governor Wolf’s proposed education funding increase will stem from a severance tax on the natural gas industry, a group in favor of jobs was also in the capitol building on Tuesday. Legislatures, Speaker Turzai among them, applauded the industry for its positive economic impacts. Damaging such a robust industry with an additional tax would hinder the PA economy. Labor leaders too applauded the industry and stressed the importance of continued investment. Once again, they too believe in education funding but wish to do so within the means of what is economically sustainable for the state.
Both of these issues are highly politicized. It’s not that one side of the isle favors education and one favors economic growth. Both are in favor of economic growth and investing in education within their respective districts and across the state. However, the means to which these are achieved become an open floor of discussion.
With that said, the influential groups such as those at the capitol last week have the opportunity to vie for political support. How they message their point of view and stance is crucial to the landscape of creating laws and policies. More and more of these groups find themselves to be critical parts of the process and will continue to grow as influencers.
Tyler Gilbert ~ Pittsburgh Intern