Skip to Main Content
Resource · Blog

2023 State Sessions Pulse Check: Key Issues and How You Can Stay Ahead

by Adam Stone, FiscalNote

As the 2023 state legislative sessions start to wrap up, here are the takeaways and themes that have emerged — plus how government affairs professionals can take action.

State sessions

Back to resources listing

The 2023 State Legislative Sessions Calendar

Keep track of key dates in the 2023 state legislative sessions calendar across all 50 states with this free and handy download.

As the 2023 state legislative sessions start to wrap up, government affairs professionals say some common themes have emerged.

As associate Director of State Policy at the American Nurses Association, Jason Richie is tracking legislation around education, workplace violence, and the distribution of American Rescue Act plan funding. “Each of these plays into the overall theme of workforce development,” something many organizations are addressing, he says.

At the National Restaurant Association, vice president of state affairs and grassroots advocacy Mike Whatley is tracking labor-related legislation: issues around tip-based wages, as well as around the scheduling of hourly work. He’s also looking at efforts to extend pandemic-related practices, such as alcohol-to-go. Labor issues, of course, concern virtually every industry. And post-pandemic adjustments will be a concern across many states in 2023.

From restaurants to telehealth, and across diverse industries, “there are pandemic policy changes that are now becoming permanent or being extended,” Whatley says. Many in government affairs will want to weigh in on such issues before the end of the sessions.

Legislation on the environment and sustainability will be front-of-mind for both lawmakers and government affairs professionals. Lawmakers will be talking about gig work, as well as inflation, reproductive rights, and infrastructure spending.

“There's also a lot of social issues, just because of recent court actions, as well as states looking at issues around crime and safety, especially in some of the larger metro areas,” says Sean Keefer, head of state government affairs at Ecolab, a global company offering water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services.

We're seeing a lot of majorities and super-majorities in state legislatures that are not afraid to flex some muscle.

Joe Testa, Principal and founder
Joseph Testa and Associates

Political Winds Blowing

Overall, some big-picture political trends have meant that activity at the state level this year merited special attention from the government affairs community.

“We're seeing a lot of majorities and super-majorities in state legislatures that are not afraid to flex some muscle,” says Joe Testa, principal and founder of the government-affairs consultancy Joseph Testa and Associates. With Congress at a seeming deadlock, state lawmakers are picking up the pace, often with heightened partisanship.

“You're going to have a lot of issues popping up in states and the signal light is presumed to be green — not yellow, certainly not red,” Testa says. “If you have concerns, you have got to get in there and explain why they should stop doing what they're inclined to do, and you might need two sets of talking points: one for Republican majorities and one for Democrat majorities.”

All this puts increased pressure on government affairs professionals to keep up with state-level activity.

Tracking the Action

Amid a swirl of legislation that can amount to several thousand industry-relevant bills unfolding nationwide at any given time, several key strategies help advocacy professionals stay on top of the action.

  • Prioritize: During this 2023 legislative season, Keefer has been focused on getting his ducks in a row. “The government relations team needs to align with the business focus, where a company wants to go. Prioritizing that is critical,” he says. “That means having open conversations with the business teams and even the customers to understand what really matters. Alignment within the organization is mission-critical.”

  • Go local: At the National Restaurant Association, Whatley leans heavily into his local resources. “We have 52 state restaurant associations across the country who are great partners of ours. They are tracking and engaging, which is very beneficial for us,” he says. “I also like to subscribe to the local paper to get a sense of what's driving the conversation there. You'll get a really good sense for what's happening with the California legislature if you check out the Sacramento Bee every morning.”

  • Coordinate internally: Internal coordination helps ensure that government affairs is following the right legislation. “For each issue set — insurance, harm reduction, energy technology — we have policy directors that help set the agenda for what we’re going to be involved with at the state level,” says Robert Melvin, senior manager of northeast region state government affairs at R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public policy research organization. As the state government affairs team receives alerts, “we share them with those policy directors to see if it's something that they want to get involved with, to move forward on.”

  • Be consistent: In what will likely be a constantly shifting 2023 session, it will be more important than usual to maintain consistent communications. At the American Nurses Association, Richie has a call every other month with the association’s state executive directors, “and then we also touch base on a one-on-one basis with states, depending on what's going on,” he says. “They reach out to us, we reach out to them, depending on where their bills are in the legislative cycle.”

Ultimately, most bills don't go the distance. You don’t want to get caught up in chasing down legislation that has no chance.

Sean Keefer, Head of state government affairs

The Role of Technology

Technology helps government affairs professionals stay one step ahead. Whatley says tracking platforms and other tools specific to government affairs helps him know where he should be putting his focus. Where following legislation used to be a time- and labor-intensive activity, "the bill tracking industry has come a long way in terms of making it more user friendly, really helping us to figure out what bills actually do and giving us a sense for the likelihood of them moving forward,” he says.

FiscalNote State empowers government affairs professionals to move the needle on key issues. It makes it easy to track policy, manage interactions with stakeholders, and support maximum efficiency with collaboration and workflow tools so everyone is on the same page.

Richie uses FiscalNote State to ensure he’s tracking the right legislation in the right places. “I can have everything listed, broken up by subject matter, and then be able to dig in deeper on a bill if I think it is of particular interest to our state leadership,” he says.

At Ecolab, “FiscalNote has been very important,” Keefer adds, especially its ability to automatically track relevant bills. “There was a bill in Nevada, for example, that we would never have been able to find, because we have no staff, no trade associations there,” he says. “But because of FiscalNote flagging a keyword, it helped us build a relationship with the senator and we actually changed the outcome of a bill.”

With 30,000-plus bills in play across 50 states, “you need to be able to identify the relevant ones, and also to know the status of those,” Keefer says. “Ultimately, most bills don't go the distance. You don’t want to get caught up in chasing down legislation that has no chance.”

How are you staying on top of the 150,000+ bills introduced in the states this year?

FiscalNote State allows organizations to monitor state legislation and regulations. Learn how FiscalNote can help you manage your state-level issues.

Back to resources listing