Federal, State, and Local Government Relations Practices
The influence of governmental decision-making on private business activities is more pervasive than ever. The perceptive senior corporate executive and in-house counsel should be aware of and understand the impact that regulatory or legislative action could have on a desired business undertaking or objective. Corporate management must be able to respond effectively and in time to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities. This need is even more acute when the company's business activity intersects regularly with complex and often contentious governmental, public policy or political issues.
Nothing in national or state capitals happens by accident. To the contrary, actions by Congress, state legislatures, and federal and state regulatory agencies are most often the result of deliberate efforts and advocacy by those whose interests are at stake. If your voice is not heard, competing interests that are contrary to your objectives, or that threaten your competitive advantage, may carry the day.
It is in this context that Winstead's Government Relations team serves as our clients' valuable advisor and partner. Our attorneys and other professionals have significant experience, relationships, and credibility in the legislative and regulatory arenas. We understand the critical intersection of business, government, and public policy and its increasing impact on our clients' business decisions as a result of the federal government's escalating involvement in private business activities.
Practice Scope, Services and Industries
In dealing with policy makers and regulators at all levels of government, success in this practice specialty depends on a combination of professional integrity and trustworthiness, persuasiveness, and a keen familiarity with the client’s business interests and public-policy objectives.
We are experienced in helping our clients craft solutions to challenges and seize opportunities arising from actions by Congress or federal agencies in Washington, D.C., the Texas Legislature and state regulatory bodies in Austin, and city councils and executive agencies at the local level. We help our clients navigate effectively through governmental channels to advance or protect their strategic interests or improve their competitive advantage.
Our comprehensive services include:
- Government Relations – at the federal, state and local levels
- Strategic Advice and Counsel
- Coalition-Building – consumer groups, industry associations, corporations and grass-roots organizations
- Political Research and Analysis – intelligence about issues, news, legislation and initiatives affecting our clients' strategic business interests
Our government-relations attorneys and other professionals counsel clients in a wide range of industries including:
- Financial Services
- Government Corporations
- Real Estate
- Sports Venues and Teams
- Venture Capital
Federal Government Relations
Our federal Government Relations Practice Group is known in Washington, D.C., for its effectiveness in crafting solutions to legislative or regulatory challenges confronting the firm’s clients and its credibility in dealing professionally with officials in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, and executive-branch departments and agencies.
Winstead’s federal Government Relations Practice Group is led by Jim Bayless, a native Houstonian with more than three decades of experience in Washington as an attorney and former U.S. government official. He served as legislative counsel to Senator John Tower of Texas, as associate director of the Office of Presidential Personnel in the Reagan White House, and as deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He is an expert in navigating Washington's regulatory and legislative shoals, including the federal government's oversight of, and intrusion into, the private sector of the U.S. economy. His experience encompasses such areas as federal taxation, real estate, insurance, homeland security, transportation, energy, environmental regulation, hospitality and tourism, health care, labor, telecommunications and international trade, among other areas.
Our federal government-relations attorneys and other professionals work in concert with Winstead’s legal teams in real estate, public finance, construction, energy, and other practice groups as needed. Using this approach, we are able to harness the firm’s collective know-how for the client’s greater good.
We have experience in three critical aspects of government relations:
- Crafting solutions to clients' challenges (or opportunities) arising from the confluence of business, government, and public policy. That is, when a client must deal with a regulatory threat (or opportunity) by a federal agency or a legislative threat (or opportunity) by Congress.
- Helping clients to navigate effectively through governmental channels to advance or protect their strategic business interests or improve their competitive advantage.
- Advocating before government agencies and officials to ensure that the client's voice is heard.
Representative Client Matters:
- Terrorism Risk Insurance Act – Securing approval of legislation providing a federal backstop to preserve the availability of adequate and affordable insurance against the risk of terrorist attack.
- Energy and Infrastructure – Representing a major utility in regard to various tax, energy, environmental, transportation, and public-safety issues before Congress and corresponding federal agencies that affect the client’s interstate natural gas pipelines.
- Real Estate – On behalf of a national leader in mixed-use development, the firm worked with congressional and industry allies to persuade the Federal Housing Finance Agency to narrow an overbroad proposed guidance that arbitrarily would have barred all private transfer fee covenants. As a result of these efforts, the agency ultimately adopted a more rational rule that permits private transfer fee covenants with end-uses that carry public benefits, thus sparing the real estate development industry and the fragile housing market needless disruption.
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – Represent nearly all of the companies holding long-term firm contracts for transmission of natural gas on a New England pipeline in rate proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
State Government Relations
As at the federal level, Winstead operates a highly respected Government Relations Practice Group in Austin and throughout the state. Our team is led by our chief lobbyist, Janis Carter, a former staff director of the House Committee on Appropriations. Janis is skilled at working on a broad range of legislative issues including taxation, appropriations, licensing and regulation, higher education, public education, energy, technology, economic development, workers' compensation, banking, and insurance. Under her direction, our team operates adeptly to create opportunities and remove roadblocks to clients’ strategic plans, and to foster regional economic development.
Representative Client Matters:
- Sports Venues – Representing a major sports venue in Texas before the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts in obtaining a reconsideration of its audit. Also, advocating for a national sports team during a stadium improvements project involving the federal appropriations process.
- Marriott International Inc. – Crafting legislation before the Texas Legislature to create a taxing district that enabled the development of a PGA Tour resort in San Antonio.
- Austin Airport – Winning the bid for the master developer of Austin's airport.
- Texas Building Branch of the Association of General Contractors – Advocating for legislation to allow a statutory waiver of local government sovereign immunity when dealing with builders.
- Infrastructure – Assisted an international construction company with entering the Texas market for contracting with the Texas Department of Transportation and other local municipalities for construction of major roadways, bridges, streets and other infrastructures.
- Environmental – Representation in regard to an agency rulemaking and the passage of legislation relating to air-permitting requirements for upstream oil and gas sites and regulated rates for low-level radioactive waste disposal. These matters included ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission. Also, represented an industry group regarding legal and policy issues of the legislative Sunset Review of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
- Real Estate – On behalf of national and regional developers and builders, we have been actively involved with state legislation affecting community associations, residential real estate, and condominiums over the past several years. Also involved with federal legislation affecting condominiums and residential real estate, specifically as a member of the Federal Affairs Task Force of the Community Associates Institute.
Local Government Relations
Winstead is equally known for the caliber of our work and the professionalism of our team in communities throughout Texas. We help local government-relations clients develop issue-specific solutions to overcome challenges or seize opportunities presented in today's highly competitive markets. In Austin, Dallas, Houston, and elsewhere throughout the state, Winstead's name means quality and integrity in governmental sectors.
Our local government-relations practice group is led by dynamic, highly respected and experienced attorneys including:
Paul N. Wageman counsels clients on corporate and governmental matters. His political and governmental experience includes serving as finance chairman of a campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. Upon election, he served as the congressman's administrative assistant in Washington, D.C. He is also a former special assistant to a U.S. senator and deputy convention manager for a vice presidential nominee. Paul was the lieutenant governor's appointee to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission serving a two-year term commencing in 1991. He also served two consecutive terms as chairman of the board of directors of the North Texas Tollway Authority.
Firm founding shareholder Pete Winstead is renowned throughout the state for his visionary approach to business in creating opportunities for economic development and the betterment of the Austin and Central Texas region. Among the countless civic responsibilities he has undertaken at the behest of the state’s business and governmental leaders, he served as the first chair of the Texas Turnpike Authority (TTA), appointed by Governor George W. Bush.
From resolving contentious issues arising in clients' development projects to steering public-finance initiatives, our experience and services in local government relations include:
- Helping to establish, and currently representing, Houston's Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority (LARA), an urban land bank charged with creating affordable housing, in their real estate and finance projects.
- Representing a global hospitality and food service provider in numerous RFP processes. Among the governmental bodies and boards we appeared before were the city councils of Austin and Houston, their departments of aviation, and a major international airport's staff and board of directors.
- Advised a national urban air research center in collaborating with key city officials, corporate representatives and foundations to help the community become more familiar with and supportive of the center’s research work, including providing assistance in raising $1 million for the center’s research.
- Assisted a local recycling company by identifying opportunities to increase plastic recycling at the municipal level, including possible ordinances and policies.
- Assisting local governments in developing relationships with public officials and negotiating with other local government entities, the Texas Legislature and the U.S. Congress, private interests, regulatory agencies, and special districts as needed.
- Providing analysis of legislation and regulation.
- Identifying funding sources, opportunities and strategies for infrastructure and economic development.
- Assist companies that are considering establishing their business in Texas by providing them guidance to obtain appropriate state incentives through the Emerging Technology Fund and Enterprise Fund.