A Day in the Life of a Police Union Lobbyist

John Abel
Director of Governmental Affairs

The 82nd Nevada Legislative Session is my first session where I am in the legislative building every day. My day typically starts around 7 a.m. and ends around 5:30 p.m. I attend several committee meetings every day and spend my days walking the four floors, meeting with Nevada’s legislators and the many other lobbyists who occupy this building, all vying for time with elected officials attempting to get bills passed or have our opinions heard on bills we like or do not like. 

I learned very quickly that the job of a lobbyist is all about relationships, and like the halls of a high school, word travels very quickly and much tea is spilled in the halls of the Legislature. Any bills I am working on, such as our DROP bill, could be killed just based on my actions and how I treat other people in the building. 

Being a lobbyist is much like a game of chess, where the lobbyists are pawns and legislatures are the kings and queens for four months. Every move I make is calculated, and people I thought I could never work with are the ones I end up having good relationships with. I have been told that I am doing a good job for being a newer lobbyist because I have figured out how to play the game and that legislators who said they would never support our bills are suddenly asking me questions and seeking my advice on police-related matters. 

Legislators who used to ignore me in the hallways are suddenly cracking jokes and asking how my day is going. I also spend a lot of time after hours lobbying at several of the drinking establishments that legislators hang out at after they are done with their day in the legislative building. I have had many long conversations with legislators who turn P# 18860 into support for our causes over a few drinks. Those conversations have also given me a lot of insight into how I can use them to help get our DROP bill passed. My job is to be a sponge and develop as many relationships as I can with as many people as I can who I believe can either give me advice or help me get bills passed or killed. 

There has been a void of law enforcement voices in the Legislature, and I am quickly becoming one of the leading voices to advocate for us and our profession because I am seen as approachable, reasonable and someone who has common sense. As the days progress, I believe that I am cementing myself as one of the leading police union lobbyists in the state because I have firsthand experience as a police officer, so I can tell legislators how bills affect us firsthand. Our president, Steve Grammas, has done a really good job of empowering me to make decisions that are good for our officers and Association. I had some really big shoes to fill, but with Steve’s direction and empowerment, I believe I have us on the right track to be successful.