JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gary Burton, his fellow partners, and associates might not be lobbyists today if it weren’t for term limits.
Burton, Chris Liese and Jim Foley — partners of Burton & Liese Government Relations LLC — were all once on the government payroll.
Burton and Liese decided to partner up at the end of the 2002 session because their combined 24 years of House experience could be put to good use, Burton said.
“We all have areas where we might have some expertise,” Burton said. “Chris was banking chair, so he handles a lot of financial issues for us. I worked in the insurance business at one time, so I can handle a lot of those issues. We each bring our individual expertise to the table in dealing with clients.”
With more than 40 clients, Burton said the firm members do not consider themselves to have one area or specialty, but that the wide experience of the partners and their three full-time associates allows them to tackle many areas of lawmaking.
“I can tell you we don’t take on an issue if we don’t believe in it,” Burton said. “We’ve turned down contracts because we didn’t believe in what they wanted, or what they wanted us to do. But if that barrier doesn’t exist, we’ll represent someone on any issue.”
Apart from representing the city of Joplin, Burton’s home city, the firm also represents the Missouri Association of School Administrators, which has been “right in the heart” of the education legislation during the 2013 session.
The firm was closely involved in the defeat of a bill backed by House Republican leadership, which made changes to teacher evaluations. The recent changes to the membership of the Fiscal Review Committee, where the bill is being reviewed, were hardly unnoticed by Burton.
“We’re very, very closely watching that issue,” Burton said. “Over 100 bills were filed dealing with public education this session, so we’ve been very busy on that issue, but of course this bill is something that we are watching, because in its current form we do not support it.”
Burton joins other lobbyists in the Capitol in opposing term limits, saying the institutional knowledge has slimmed in the legislature, and that “lobbyists and bureaucrats” now have much of the power, and more importantly, the institutional memory.
“We have to be an educational tool for legislators now because they just don’t have the experience they used to,” Burton said. “So the first thing we do is state our case on an issue and then we tell them what the opposition is going to say. I think they respect our firm and our people because they know that we went through the same things as them, and we once had to deal with the tough decisions too, so we approach them knowing what is going to be the most helpful.”
To contact Collin Reischman, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter at @Collin_MOTimes.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.