I recently had a discussion with one of my siblings regarding the evils of lobbying , or as I prefer to say advocacy. It’s an interesting phenomenon. People like to trash the idea of special interests groups, but without them, we would have a very un-balanced society. I was reading a WSJ article this past Wednesday, that brought it home for me.
In Utah they’re cracking down on a smog problem. Smog in Utah? Yup. Given the vast increase in population in the Wasatch Front (Salt Lake City), when cold air slides in during the winter, inversion layers get created and various pollutants (VOC, NOX, particulate matter) are trapped and quickly transform into smog. Needless to say dozens of new regulations are being passed and industry and small business are paying the price.
So, what does this have to do with advocacy? Some of these regulations would never have been passed if there were not advocates for health. Case in point, Brian Monech, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment stated to the Wall Street Journal, that smog constitutes a health emergency that claims up to 1,400 lives a year to pulmonary and other illnesses. He feels that the Utah regulations don’t go far enough as do many other health and social advocates. And of course there’s the auto problem. Many experts in Utah (and the other 49 states) feel strongly that “mobile sources” are a major contributor to smog (this is true in Kansas City and Dallas/Fort Worth). Yet, anytime states/metro areas attempt to modify air emissions for vehicles, the biggest advocacy group of them all (voters) voice their concern and nothing happens to cars. Thus, it’s small business who bears the brunt of the regulations.
And that leads me to advocacy which helped the printers in Utah.
Several years ago, when all of these smog rule discussions were starting, the industry was targeted as a major polluter. A serious polluter. Fortunately, one of the industry’s leaders, Randy Sparrow grew concerned and through his aggressive leadership and with assistance from the PIA regulatory team led by Gary Jones, they were able to provide factual and realistic data to the state’s regulatory community. What could have been extremely harmful regulations to Utah’s printing industry, based on erroneous data, was re-shaped to be less harmful to the industry – and still accomplish the goals of the state. That’s what advocacy is about.
In today’s world of special interests, advocacy plays an important role. Fortunately for the printers in Utah, they had Randy Sparrow and the Printing Industries of America team working on their behalf. Otherwise, it would have been the interests of the health community and motor vehicle drivers which would have been the only voices heard. There’s an adage I heard several years ago while I was in Austin (Texas’ state capitol) which says it all – “If you are not at the table, you will be on the table.”
So, next time you get a letter from Bob Murphy (PrintPAC chairman), or you’re wondering why should you be interested in what goes on in Jeff City , or Topeka, or Oklahoma City , or Austin, just remember where you want to be when our government gets hungry.