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Schenker Russo and Clark LLP is a law firm on State Street in Albany. But that doesn’t really paid the complete picture of what they do at this important nexus of politics and law . Like many other similar firms Schenker Russo and Clark employs very smart attorneys who specialize in making the laws that are crafted here at the state Capitol work for their clients and sometimes they even helped influence the writing of those laws and there are dozens of firms like Schenker in Albany and today we’re going to get a behind the scenes look at how these law firms/lobbyists work with 2 guests we have Theresa Russo and Douglas Clark both our partners in the firm of Schenker Russo and Clark welcome . It’s good to see you guys , thank you for having us so lobbying is right up there with like Congress politicians lawyers on the oh my God we hate you scale . So how does that make you feel as a lobbyist , Doug .
Well you know if you’d rather Venn diagram of awful things who. And I think lobbyists it right at the center of that for a lot of people , but you know what you find out is that you know a lot of the folks if you’re advocating for the causes that they want and you’re well then you’re an advocate , you’re not a lobbyist . Lobbyists are the other people who do the things that you don’t like , but it’s a very necessary function . Our government does a lot of different things and has its fingers in a lot of different pies and there is no way that the folks who write these laws who implement these laws can truly know how it impacts everything that they do and what the function that we try to provide is giving them the knowledge about what things hurt what things help what things are good with things are bad , and you know try to give them some kind of picture of the things that they’re proposing how they impact the industries that they are regulating .
Government is a massive bureaucracy and you need someone who has the map. Okay and you’re sort of the guide with the map the navigator helping your clients moved through .
Colonel hallways. It’s like anything else you know if you want to build a house you get somebody who knows how to build a house . You need a general contractor . That’s right . And you know all of us I think to a person in our and our firm , for the most part have worked inside government in some capacity . I’m going .
Ask you about your background admitted because it definitely informs what your expertise is. But first , I want to ask Teresa . What do you think when people say , oh my God , you’re lobbying .
Well , one of the things that I do a lot of us I interact with cheap hope and I make sure that a lot of the lobbyists are in compliance with the rules.
Food so you , I mean that’s change every other day , I mean 15 minutes from now. Jacob might have different regulations . So .
Absolutely. So that’s one of the things that you know I go to their meetings and I speak with the staff frequently so that I can advise the clients of the most up to date information and when people you know say bad things about lobbyists . We can say , you know , we have a set of rules that we follow . I always advise my clients to stay under the radar screen and to do the best they can and complying . And they’ll be okay .
At my listeners should know that when the media , slams somebody for not following the rules that they might not have gotten good advice that advice comes from somebody like you.
That’s right. There are a lot of nuances in the lobbying law , and as you said that the rules change frequently J corporate recently did omnibus regulations so that the lobbyists can have a better idea of how to comply . So everything is constantly change .
And more people now under that guidance are considered lobbyists or at least should be you know should sign up to be a lobbyist or whatever. That’s all .
That’s correct. A few years ago . Well , it’s more than a few years now when they change the law to include procurement lobbying someone who sells Coca-Cola , the State of New York could potentially order municipality could potentially be a lobbyist . What really expanded the scope of who is considered to be lobbyists in New York .
So I teased about dogs background but you started in the Assembly and I guess you were like a graduate fellow were so I’ve just remember if you were a little younger than Morgan.
Just a bit. I had just graduated from law school and had come back up to New York and was looking for a job and in the meantime , I saw the graduate Fellowship so that I’ll do that for a while got put with the codes committee in the Assembly .
What is the codes committee because it’s pretty big deal , even though code sounds like the like it was.
A lot of the biggest things sound innocuous we means exactly another place where I have some experience barcodes is what they call a dual reference committee in the Assembly. So it has the ability to not only have bills sent to it as of right and that it would be you know criminal law changes any sort of change to . He kind of right or protection , but it also can take bills from other committees , so once they go through saving end committee but let’s say there is a penalty attached to that the codes committee then can take about Bill , it’s another step that bill has to go through to get through the process to look at the penalty provisions to see if there you know if they are in line with the other pervert is it out of line , is it appropriate for what they’re trying to do , humor and so on and so forth . So it’s another hurdle and you know it’s one of the things that a lot of you know , all of us in the lobbying community know and a lot of advocates . No , but if you’re just the person on the street , you don’t know realize it’s like , you know , why is this getting held up , why isn’t this going through . Why does it have to go through another committee because it does multiple things and now the process is set up so that these things do get at least some kind of scrutiny before they get to the floor for the vote . Right .
You also know how the flow goes.
Yes , because my next job was in the Assembly Majority Leader’s office in the Council to the majority I can sort of majority leader. And with that off , as it does is they help run the floor of the Assembly . So all of the bills that get to the floor and get voted on and all of that , there’s a whole process that goes along with that you know with the parliamentarian and rules and how things get brought up and voted on . It’s another language it is you know I used to like it . To reading the top of the box when your kid playing a board game , you know I’m one of the people who’s read the top of the box . You know , you know the rules of the game so it it helps in particular situations where you know like at the end of session when there is not much time you can figure out a path to get something done and the amount of time that you have left . And you have done that . Yes . Theresa and I had a client who came in at the end of session in this is actually a very good sort of illustrative example of , you know how the 2 sides work together and our office there you were a restaurant and a brewer who wanted to open up a facility in Troy , but there are rules and I’ll let Teresa talk about the alcohol rules can , that’s a whole world of its own .
Sure. They came to me for licensing and alcohol and I took a look at what they were doing and I identified that they had a bigger problem , which was called the tied house problem you can’t be in more the one tier of the alcohol system . What does this mean . What does that mean it more than one tier you can’t be in both the manufacturing and wholesale tear and the retail or retailer and a manufacturer could not enter into a business relationship together . You can’t have any interest direct or indirect and the other tier where did that come from it . That goes back to Prohibition and I hope that that’s a very fundamental part of that the Alcohol Beverage Control like .
We think about that when we are so into like craft brewing and you know sidelined up to the bar and trying the craft brew that was just there.
That’s right , and that’s one of the things that the state Liquor Authority has been trying to do is update some of their archaic alcohol laws. So one of the things that we do in there is a really nice synergy between our 2 practices as one that client came to me I said , I can help you with licensing but must bigger problem that you have a tied house problem and my partner Doug Clark can help you with that so we drafted legislation to exempt them from this specific provision of the law so that they would be able to move forward with their business venture because one of the things that the governor’s office wants to do is encourage the craft beverage industry and this is really , really good illustration of that .
It’s also an illustration of some of the myriad regulations that New York state has on the books that might not have any relevance anymore. Why can’t we just remove the tide house rule what standing in the way of that .
It’s really one of the foundations of the Alcohol Beverage Control law and I think that there has been a little bit of flexibility given on it , but it’s really one of those things that people are really going to fight to keep in place.
Is there anything else you guys want to say about about that situation I I don’t.