The Vernon Parish Retired Teachers’ Association (VPRTA) recently held its quarterly meeting. The speaker was Daniel Ford, son of Judge John Ford and Beryl Ford, president of VPRTA.
Speaking about his job as a lobbyist in Baton Rouge, Ford began his talk by saying that lobbyists are protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. According to the amendment people have the right to petition the government, meaning they have the right to appeal to government in favor of or against policies that affect them or in which they feel strongly. This freedom includes the right to lobby legislative bodies for or against legislation, A simpler definition of the right to petition is the right to present requests to the government. This right, of course, carries over to the states.
Lobbyists in Louisiana generally try to influence legislators and/or regulatory agencies.
For example, when the legislature was considering last year’s teacher pay raise, several education lobbying groups worked to sway the legislators’ opinion in favor of the pay raise.
Another example of lobbying is that maybe a company wants to build a facility in Louisiana, but in order to do so the company must adhere to many state regulations. The company could hire lobbyists to approach the members of the regulatory boards in order to educate them about the company’s practices. At the same time other lobbyists might have an interest in keeping the facility out and will be lobbying the same boards against granting licenses.
Ford said three main issues will likely be considered at the upcoming legislative session: another pay raise for teachers, tort reform and the cost of insurance; and sports betting. He thinks the sports betting issue will not be controversial at the state level because most likely each parish will get to vote on whether or not to have it in the parish.
When asked how he decided to become a lobbyist, Ford said he had participated in a few local campaigns which were successful and enjoyable. Then he made a list of possible careers and, because he thought he was good with people and could speak persuasively, lobbying went to the top of the list. He emphasized, however, that lobbying also involves research. One has to know everything about the industry he is urging a legislator to vote for.
The next VPRTA meeting will be on May 21 at the Vernon Parish Library at 10:00 a.m. All retired teachers are encouraged to attend.