WASHINGTON, D.C., July 27—After the Clinton healthcare reform effort stalled eight years ago, the issue did not go away. Instead it devolved to the states, many of which came up with their own healthcare legislation, most notable in the form of patients’ rights laws that now form a patchwork quilt of regulatory red tape for the nation’s managed care companies—until the issue has finally returned to the top of the agenda in the nation’s capital.
Healthcare reform is just one of many issues causing corporate America to focus more attention than ever before on public policy activity in the state capitals. Says Bob Sommer, who heads the public affairs practice at The MWW Group, “The states’ influence began to grow under Reagan and Bush, and the process accelerated under Clinton, with welfare reform and other issues. It’s created a major challenge for companies, because now they have to monitor 25 bills instead of just one.”
Among the issues currently under consideration in state capitals: Internet privacy, telemarketing and other intrusive marketing techniques; liquor restrictions; minimum wage laws; and family leave issues. With all that activity, MWW has elected to introduce a new service, CapitolEdge, which will offer clients a customized state legislation monitoring and lobbying approach. 
Led by Ellona Wilner, government affairs specialist, CapitolEdge provides the firm’s clients with the capability to track legislation and employ a coordinated, full-service lobbying campaign in any or all of the 50 states. When a problem bill is introduced, CapitolEdge draws on its 50-state network, saving clients valuable time otherwise spent in hiring and managing lobbyists across the country.
“There are a lot of good monitoring services out there,” says Sommer. “But most of them will identify the problem and then suggest a lobbyist they can use in Des Moines or Sacramento, but the client is on his own when it comes to retaining those firms. What makes this service unique is that we will take responsibility for making sure the legislation is passed, amended, or defeated. Clients don’t need 50 contracts; they can enter into a single contract with MWW and be confident that we will take care of the issue for them.”
MWW will use its own offices in state capitals such as Albany, Springfield, Trenton, and Olympia and selected lobbyists in other markets.
Says Sommer, “We are too often seen as a regional firm. We have offices in multiple regions, from New Jersey to Washington State, but we are seen as multi-regional rather than national. This service shows we have national capabilities.”
Sommer says he expects the service to appeal to existing clients, but MWW is also marketing Capital Edge to trade associations, which often have multiple issues to monitor.
CapitolEdge adds to MWW’s proprietary public affairs capabilities, including DialogBuilder, a grassroots database that tailors the communication of a client’s message to a core audience; and SitingIQ, a real estate developer’s guide through the siting process that provides clients with accurate, up-to-the-minute information on local attitudes towards development.
Wilner, who will coordinate CapitolEdge from the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, has previously worked in both state and federal affairs for The National Conference of State Legislatures, the Department of Justice and in-state government affairs consulting.