Feb '99 issue
MSBA Home Page
Making New Law:
Bar Has New Face at Legislature
|With the onset of the 1999 session of the Minnesota Legislature, the St. Paul firm of Winthrop & Weinstine in particular, Lloyd Grooms took on the role of MSBA legislative representative, in which Mike Flanagan had long excelled. Flanagan announced last spring that he would be retiring, both from that role and from his practice with Moss & Barnett. The 1999 session had just started when Bench & Bar talked with Grooms about his new role.|
"Mike leaves not simply with great respect in the Legislature, but also with just a ton of institutional history. You don't replace that."
Q: What services will you be providing MSBA?
A: In short, the core of the services will be: identifying issues; assisting in drafting legislation; securing legislative authors; progressing with bills through the hearing process, committee process, floor action and so on; with that last step, lobbying both MSBA-endorsed, sponsored legislation as well as MSBA-supported legislation; and monitoring bill introductions and amendments, looking for issues we think might be relevant to the bar at large as well as to individual sections.
[The House of Delegates determined the MSBA's 1999 legislative agenda at its mid-year meeting Jan. 15.]
In our firm's proposal to represent the MSBA, we also said we would help the organization define its legislative objectives and develop a strategy to obtain those objectives. We also will help with public relations and communications, with advice on ethics and election laws, and with identifying and facilitating opportunities for MSBA members' grass-roots involvement in legislation. Representation goes year-round through the sessions and through the interim between sessions.
Q: Will anyone be assisting you?
A: We see Winthrop & Weinstine as bringing a team approach although I have primary responsibility. Because at the end of the day, with all legislative clients, you need a primary point person who gets the call to say, "On X, who do we look to? We need this piece of information." John Knapp [a lawyer and respected 23-year veteran business lobbyist, who heads the firm's legislative team] will be working along with me on MSBA matters.
The firm also has two non-lawyer lobbyists, Paul Cassidy and Molly Sigel although, for the purposes of this client (MSBA), it'll be the lawyers, as opposed to the non-lawyers, who'll be involved. [The firm has a wide range of legislative clients, from individual companies to trade associations to the Prairie Island Dakota Community.]
|Lloyd Grooms (left) now carries the MSBA banner at the state Legislature following the retirement of Mike Flanagan, who had served as lobbyist for the Association since 1966. The two are pictured during an informal reception held for Flanagan after the January 1999 session of the MSBA House of Delegates.|
every bill that gets introduced affects some member of the bar
in either their professional or their personal life; and the
process in which you determine which bills the association is
going to be involved in is pretty important for us, and
for the bar."
Q: What is your background in lobbying, and otherwise?
A: I was somewhat of a late bloomer; had graduated from college, worked for awhile and went back to law school. In '85, graduated [cum laude from the University of Notre Dame], and started practicing in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then relocated up here in 1987. One of my main areas of interest is environmental land use, and lobbying was kind of a natural extension of the other government work, regulatory work, that I was doing. One of the attractions of coming here was to be able to actually do legislative work as well as the municipal, local government work I had done up to that time. So, I've been representing clients at the Legislature and before state agencies since '87. My principal practice areas include environment and general regulatory work.
[Grooms earned a B.S. with high honors from Indiana University in 1975, and an M.A. from the University of Essex, England in 1977.]
Q: How does lobbying for an organization like the MSBA differ from lobbying for other sorts of clients?
A: As a lawyer, there's an added sense of responsibility for representing your own profession in the business of making laws which is the subject of your profession. Also, the bar association can be a unique client. Oftentimes, other clients will ask you to draft their legislation, but the bar association has a variety of sections that actually will draft amendments or bills.
Q: How does the MSBA involve members in its legislative program?
A: I'm speaking from limited experience, because it's still a little unclear to us, but historically the MSBA membership has manifested itself through the various sections through their legislative committees, and so on. By the time a bill gets to the Capitol, what you find is the folks who have been active on the particular issue then are part of the process [of testifying and personally contacting legislators]. That's where most involvement comes.
John Knapp says that virtually every bill that gets introduced affects some member of the bar in either their professional or their personal life; and the process in which you determine which bills the association is going to be involved in is pretty important for us, and for the bar.
Q: How do you expect to be involved in the process?
A: It's generally not a top-down phenomenon It's more that a section has identified an issue, has gone through its committee process and has presented it to the House of Delegates. Ideally, as the sections are doing this, you're having some interaction with the sections, in terms of discussing the language. There's a fine line between commenting as opposed to interjecting yourself, in terms of a section's consideration.
Q: How will you report to MSBA members regarding developments at the Capitol?
A: We'll provide weekly reports on general legislative activity specifically affecting the MSBA's interests, and we'll always be available to meet with the MSBA and staff as required. Like Mike Flanagan, we'll make in-depth, end-of-session legislative reports.
Q: What thoughts do you have about replacing Mike Flanagan?
A: Mike Flanagan has graciously offered to help us in the transition. John Knapp says "mentoring" is not too strong a word. Mike leaves not simply with great respect in the Legislature, but also with just a ton of institutional history. You don't replace that.
Q: How do approach lobbying so as to build and maintain good standing for a client like the MSBA?
A: Ideally, it's a consensus-building process You build a good relationship with legislators by understanding what they're looking for. Be prepared, be reliable, be someone they can turn to to get a question answered. And be respectful because you don't always end up on the same side of every issue A short journey can turn into a very long trip. Be persistent; show a willingness to stay the course and build a consensus.
Q: What do you enjoy about lobbying, and what troubles you?
A: I like that it involves public policy, and being involved in issues as they're happening. There's a pace to it, a sort of instant response to your issues and sessions have a beginning and an end to them. A problem is that it does become consuming during some portions of every session It's been a learning process about how to cope with the peaks and valleys; every session is unique. It takes very understanding people to help you make it through the process. I'm very fortunate in that my wife and 11-year-old son are very understanding. Also, I live in St. Paul, so I'm within easy striking distance of home every day.
One real struggle, given the volume of legislation, is to track everything that's going on so that you can identify what's out there, in terms of potential conflicts between your lobbying clients, and in terms of matters that should interest them.
"[Lobbying] involves public
policy, and being involved in issues as they're happening. There's
a pace to it, a sort of instant response to your issues
and sessions have a beginning and an end to them."