One of the great opportunities afforded a lobbyist with The Family Foundation is the chance to work with members of the Conservative Caucus. There are many caucuses in the General Assembly, each with a certain purpose, and not all solely geared to legislation. Some are for fellowship or Bible study. However, the business of the legislature is legislation - passing good bills and defeating bad ones. "Con Caucus" is a bi-partisan group of delegates and senators who have in common core conservative and family-value-based principles. There are more than 50 members and its co-chairmen this year are Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst). A big thanks to them and all Con Caucus members. The Family Foundation helps facilitate the Conservative Caucus with weekly meeting reminders, bill profiles and legislative updates. As an example of the caucus' significant influence, one of last year's co-chairmen was Delegate Sam Nixon (R-27, Chesterfield) this year was elected House Republican Caucus chairman, a story first broken on this blog in December. Previous to that, a certain senator from Hanover County, Bill Bolling, was a caucus co-chairman. A very active member is Delegate Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights) who is a House budget conferee.

Working with the caucus allows a lobbyist to get to know the lawmakers personally and build great relationships with them and their staffs as well with allied groups such as the Virginia Catholic Conference, Americans For Prosperity, Virginia Association of Independent Baptists (whose long-time outstanding lobbyist Dr. Jack Knapp generously provides doughnuts at each weekly meeting), and many more. Meetings are attended by the legislators, some of their staff and lobbyists from like-minded groups. It's those relationships which ultimately make for an effective force in advancing our shared principles. This year was an especially productive year for Con Caucus, getting many priority bills passed and defeating some very bad bills, as well as putting in place more infrastructure, such as establishing a Conservative Caucus Web site. A goal this year has been to actively engage the public and the media as well as those directly involved in the legislative process.

So it was great to hear Delegate Cline, during his speech to the many assembled at the Americans For Prosperity lobby day yesterday, plug some con caucus members in attendance and its great work during session this year. It certainly is a privilege to work with such dedicated, principled people who share your values and vision as well as legislators who actually practice in session what they preach while campaigning, and upon whom you can rely on in good and rough times.

About the only negative is the 7:30 a.m. weekly meetings after long Monday nights of sub-committee hearings. But there also are a lot of great ideas and strategies discussed, inside information traded, and a lot of teamwork established. Not to mention: there are those doughnuts.