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Relationship Building Critical During Busy Legislative Sessions

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by Ron Fong/CGA president and CEO

Special to The Shelby Report

The California Legislature is in full swing and despite talk of legislators taking it slow and not introducing a number of bills, this session is shaping up to be one of the busiest in quite some time.

California Grocers Association (CGA) staff is sifting through hundreds of introduced bills, closely analyzing each one to determine its potential impact on your business. It is a laborious undertaking but critical to the success of our government relations program.

Some of the key issues CGA will advocate on include the Beverage Container Recycling Act, a statewide plastic bag ban, WIC, CalFresh, soda taxes, food waste and more. Of course, there are always bills that impact the grocery industry, as well as other businesses generally. Some of those include a minimum wage proposal to adjust annually (AB 10), workers’ compensation changes for independent contractors (AB 360) and more.

In this column, I have talked a lot about grassroots advocacy. I have stressed that CGA members can play a major role in assisting the association in its advocacy efforts.

This was reaffirmed recently at CGA’s Grocers Day at the Capitol. This one-day lobbying event allowed state lawmakers to hear first-hand on key issues facing our industry. But more importantly it helped build relationships that will help CGA for years to come.

Relationship building is critical to a successful government relations program.

What’s great about relationship building is that it can occur at any time and in any place.

When I started lobbying in 1996, one of the first legislators I met and developed a professional relationship was a freshman Sen. John Burton. Years later Sen. Burton became the most powerful and influential leader in the state legislature and is now chairman of the California Democratic Party.

Similarly, when I first met California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, he was a city council member. Over the years we have maintained our friendship, meeting more so to listen than to lobby. In both cases, these relationships have helped CGA’s overall lobbying efforts.

CGA understands that engaging in government relations can be daunting to a grocer or supplier. To many the process is foreign and distant to the day-to-day operations of selling groceries, and yet what happens in the State Capitol, and in city halls statewide, has a dramatic financial impact on your company.

By understanding how the system works, our members will be more willing to develop these same types of relationships and engage dialogue with their elected officials. Developing relationships at the local level can benefit CGA years down the road. Quite often, state legislators cut their teeth at the local level. The relationship you develop now may one day open an important door in the State Capitol.

And remember, we’re here to help. If your company is interested in engaging in grassroot advocacy, I encourage you to contact our office in Sacramento and talk with our government relations team. We look forward to hearing from you.


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