The word lobbyist often has an unpleasant ring to it. However, when understood well enough, you will find that the world actually needs them. In this enlightening episode, host Jason Byrd talks with Jacob Smith, a lobbyist and a Principal of Longleaf Consulting, about the art of lobbying. Jacob sheds light on the importance of a lobbyist, most especially when it comes to educating legislators, staff, and people alike. He also touches on the future of internet, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, what happened during the legislative session and more. Be in the know of what’s happening in Congress as Jason and Jacob put in their thoughts on some of the current issues faced by the legislature, from bills to laws.
Listen to the podcast here:
Jacob Smith – The Art Of Lobby
We’ve got Jacob Smith in the house. It was an opportunity to sit down and talk to you, get to see you and try out this equipment. I’m trying to use this program and this new equipment. The equipment looks fancy. The original equipment I had, it was shitty. I wanted a little better, try and create a little better sound quality. I have a gym bag that’s got my computer. They’re sitting on the tables. I won’t let them be in the truck anymore unless it’s after September 1. That’s something you work on in your lobby career. Brass knuckles are legal now.
It’s not in my wheelhouse. I don’t usually lobby on brass knuckles.
What do you lobby on?
I lobby for the tech industry, safe auto repairs, good consumer–friendly legislation and things that are good for the world.
That’s what the evil giant AT&T has you doing?
It’s not an evil giant. It’s a wonderful tech firm providing probably your internet, coms, and they’re definitely working on 5G.
What is 5G? I’ve heard about it and I’ve heard it eats your brain? I don’t know. When someone says 5G, what does that mean?
It’s essentially the future of the internet, cellphone reception. It’s the next big thing. When they came out with DSL, it was like, “Look at this fast internet.” There’s fiber, which is fast. It has exploded in Beaumont, fiber optic cable. With the presence of 5G here in small cells, in the case of a hurricane or something like that where everyone is trying to use their cellphones including emergencies, 5G will make sure or help with the bandwidth and the usage that everyone needs to get their call through. It is good for businesses to come to towns where they probably wouldn’t look before. Now they have the infrastructure to go get those businesses. It’s good for the people here because there’s nothing like going somewhere and not being able to use your cellphone. Now that we’re so dependent on.
You make it sound like Beaumont, Texas is a complete backwoods. I can use my cellphone anywhere.
You couldn’t in Hurricane Rita.
That was many years ago too.
The infrastructure has been built out. That’s why it’s important to be leading like Beaumont is now with small cells.
That’s why I was asking what small cells are. I don’t know what any of that is. Is it not a cellphone tower?
It’s not a cellphone tower. It’s not a big invasive thing. It’s pretty small. It can fit on a pole. It’s shielded. You can’t tell when you see them in a lot of places unless you know what you’re looking for. They’re in a lot of dense populated areas.
Do they boost that already existing cellphone signal?
It’s boosted for the population density to provide the bandwidth that the people need.
If you’re at a football game with 100,000 people, your cellphone used not to work. Now they can put some of these small cells around it and everybody gets a cellphone signal. What are you doing with that?
I’m helping smooth out the process of getting it since it’s such a new thing that not a lot of people know about. I’m working with cities and political subdivisions on getting the ordinances written, making sure that it fits into the law as written two sessions ago when they passed the bill. I’m making sure that the cities are passing the right ordinances that work for them, the carriers and the people. I’m helping smooth the process and getting the right ordinances in place to assure that they can bring the infrastructure needed to these cities.
You’re a lobbyist.
I am a lobbyist, but I’m also a consultant.
I have to say it that way, but in a lot of ways, people generally will say lobbyists. They’ve been trained to think that as a bad word. You’re not a bad guy, are you?
No. The world needs lobbyists.
Why? What do you do?
What I do is I go and I educate legislators, staff and anyone who needs to know what the subject is I’m hired to educate on.
A lot of these things are incredibly technical. I don’t know what 5G small cell stuff is and I’d be willing to bet most of the people in the legislature, in this state, know even less.
Some do and some don’t, but with 7,200 bills filed a session, it’s hard to understand intimately every single bill that comes across your desk as legislators. You rely on folks to come in and educate you. You don’t just listen to one side. You hear from both sides of every issue, sometimes more.
All sides, it can be 40 sides of an issue.
Every stakeholder you listen to, you rely on lobbyists to come in because a lot of people don’t know who to talk to. They don’t know how government works. They hire someone who does. I can go to the proper channels, educate and ultimately explain why it’s good for those legislators’ districts. What they’re elected to do is represent their districts, do what’s best for their districts and ultimately what’s best for the state. If I can educate them and they come to the conclusion that’s what’s best for their district, I’ve done my job. Hopefully, they pass that legislation and we make the world a better place.
The Texas legislature only meets once every other year and it’s about five months long. In a state of 30 million people, the elected governing legislature meets for five months out of every 24 months. All of the business of the state has to be done during those five months.
That’s correct. During the interim, when they’re not in session, they do have interim studies.
They’re not passing crap. They’re looking at issues, but they’re not getting anything completed.
They’re setting the stage for the next session. They’re doing the research. They’re having committee hearings, hearing from people, and ultimately going back to their lives where they can work their full–time job. They make about $600 a month or something like that.
I can’t remember how much it is last time I looked at it. I want to say it’s $7,200 a year. It’s $14,000 something for every two-year term. You can’t retire on that.
No, it’s the way our system is set up. People have to go back home and do their jobs. It’s hard being a legislator because they have to try to balance personal life, kids and family and all that stuff as well as taking care of huge districts.
I’d agree with that. It’s a pretty significant commitment. For $600 a month, every other year you’re going to be gone for five months. It’s jam-packed, those five months. That makes it hard to run a real job. It can only be people who have some flexibility. I see doctors. You see lawyers. You see business owners.
I’ve seen some legislators struggle with that and not having the flexibility to leave a job for five months.
If you’re an engineer at Exxon, it isn’t happening.
There are some engineers that are legislators.
They have flexibility because they own a firm. If you’re an employee somewhere full–time, you could be a bright and talented person, but your employers don’t want you to be gone for five months. How did you get in that lobby game?
I got sucked into it. I started in the political world working on a campaign when I was in high school and I learned the ins and outs in Beaumont, Texas.
What campaign were you working on?
It was state representative race here between David Bernsen and Allan Ritter. I got to learn how to do field works, canvassing, knocking on doors, talking to people and doing what everything that needs to be done in a campaign. I worked about 70 hours while I was going to school working on this campaign.
Is it total or a week?
It’s for a week.
Was it while you’re going to high school?
In high school. I am talking about my entire weekends, nights, sometimes in the morning before school.
What got you involved in that campaign?
A friend of mine’s father was interested in the campaign and counted me as a contribution to the campaign.
For people out there, what does that mean?
They paid me to work for the campaign as an in-kind contribution.
What campaign are you working for?
I was working for David Bernsen. I got to know both David Bernsen and Allan Ritter very well. They’re both great guys with great families and have done a lot for the community here in Southeast Texas.
I know David a little better because we’re in the same profession. We’re both lawyers. I’ve dealt with him professionally a few times. I don’t know him personally. He lives close to me. Allan lives in another town but still close but not as close. He’s in the lumber business. I don’t deal with it.
He did a great job as state rep.
He’s retired from that now though. Was he there for ten, twelve years?
It’s something like that. He went back and worked for Straus, the previous Speaker of the House and was instrumental in that office as well. It’s interesting to learn and start there. Later on, I worked in various jobs and moved to Austin. When Hurricane Rita was happening, I came back to help out with everything going on here with my family and found out my grandfather had bone cancer. I moved back home to stay with him for his last remaining years. When I came back, a very well-known and great attorney here in Beaumont, Michael Ramsey, asked me to come work for him at a law firm instead of taking a welding job. I could focus on school and learn some things. It happened to be the Mostyn Law Firm. I got to meet Steve Mostyn. I met him at a Christmas party and we hit it off.
Was there some drinking going on at this Christmas party?
Yeah. That’s what they do, but not me. I didn’t drink because I wanted to set a good impression. We were at a resort–type ranch out of Waco. We were isolated. We had places to stay. People were cutting loose but responsibly. I was the only guy who had started a fire there. That was a big thing for him because he wanted a fire that night.
No one knew how to start a fire?
Apparently, it’s a lost art. We hit it off. We started talking and he exposed me to the political world a little more. Mike Ramsey is where I got my start in the political world. He has always been politically involved. He was a TTLA president and he was always involved locally, in the state and probably greater. I’ve watched him and he taught me a lot about taking care of people. A lot of attorneys that I’ve become friends with, you included, take seriously what they do in taking care of the voiceless. That’s something we all have in common. I wanted to do more of that, more advocating. I got to do that with Mostyn.Every stakeholder you listen to, you rely on lobbyist to come in because a lot of people don't know who to talk to. Click To Tweet
He let me loose on doing some community things, taking care of folks and working through his law firm. After the hurricanes, we were going out to people’s houses whose homes would be destroyed sometimes or badly damaged and making sure that they had what they needed from the law firm and that we were taking good care of them. It felt good, especially with my family going through the same things, going through houses getting torn up and stuff like that. I fell in love with it. After my grandfather passed, I wanted to move back to Austin. I approached Mr. Mostyn. I told him, “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.“ I enjoyed what he was doing. I got to meet senators and state representatives through him who were doing good things in their community. I liked it. I told him I’d love to work for him, but I had to move to Austin. He gave me a shot because he had an Austin office and a law firm there. He said, “Everybody wants to work in this office, but I’ll give you a shot because I like you. It’s sink or swim.”
The year he became TTLA president, I went up and became his guy. I would take care of anything he needed. I made sure he was getting fed and the trains were running. He had a lot on this plate. You were there as well. You are very instrumental. That’s where we got to know each other. I got bit by the bug and fell in love with politics. Seeing you all fight on the big stage, knowing it had an impact on my family back home, that the legislation was not meaningless and that could help or hurt a lot of people affected me. I remember the night that I found out and decided what I was going to do for a living. Mostyn was very upset. A bill was going through that he wasn’t going to be able to stop and it was going to hurt a lot of people. That night I decided and I sent him a message, “I know what I want to do now. I want to help you all fight.” I have a soft spot for consumer legislation, taking care of everyday people and that’s what I want to focus on.
At the same time, you got to pay the bills too. It’s not random consumers organized together where they can pay.
Not all legislation that’s not necessarily consumer–driven legislation is bad. There’s a lot of good stuff that needs to happen. There’s infrastructure in the state that needs to happen. Roads need to get built. We need small cells. We need internet. We need electricity. To be able to help with all of that as well, that’s another level that I enjoy because we have to help people share and I can do that on my own time as well. Not a lot of consumers have the money to hire a lobbyist, but also to work for companies like AT&T where we’re bringing out the internet to people who‘s never had it before or building roads or working on safe auto repairs where we can set a safety standard and save lives on the road. We’ve already had 2,700 people die in Texas on the roads already. If we can save some more lives, set some safety standards, we should do that. It’s things like that. I enjoy the political world.
You’ve got your own lobby firm now. When did you start that?
I started Longleaf Consulting in December 2018. I worked for a top lobby firm before that when I left Mostyn, when I left Texas Association of Consumer Lawyers, which you were president of and where you and the team taught me the insurance code backward and forward. I went to go work for a top lobby firm, Black Ridge, under Rusty Kelley who’s iconic.
They’re top shelf in Texas. He’s well respected.
I did that and I enjoyed it. I learned a lot while I was there. I feel a lot of gaps for me that were missing in my lobby game.
There’s only so much you could get from hanging out with Steve and me. Let’s face it.
There’s a lot.
We’ll teach you how to curse and drink beer, but there are other aspects to it than what our strong suits are.
I learned a lot about that. I always wanted to start my own shop and that was what I was thinking about whenever I went to go work there was “Do I do this or do I start now at a young age and start building my own shop?” Towards the end of the year, I started thinking more and more about it. I did what probably no one else would have done, which is to leave a top lobby firm and risk everything to go out on my own long list, which is really half a client.
You’d be surprised I did it. I left a white shoe place that paid me plenty of good money. I was in my twenties. I had one case that they didn’t want. That was an hourly probate dispute in Orange County, fighting over an ‘83 Cadillac in a single line, in a dream and no money. You’re not alone. There are other people who would do it too.
It felt real. It felt like the stupid thing to do. It was not a safe thing to do.
That’s what the most rewarding things are.
I didn’t get myself much of choice. That’s why I knew if I put my back against the wall, I’d be successful. I knew Steve would be proud of me.
What’s the worst that can happen? That’s what I always told my wife when we did this. I said, “What’s the worst that can happen? If it won’t work, I’ll go get a job somewhere.” It’s not going to make me any less intelligent. It’s not going to make me any less capable. I am employable by thousands of people. I don’t particularly want to work for them, but if I have to I will. I have to do that to provide for a family and myself. You were in the same spot. What’s the worst going to happen? It doesn’t work. Learn from it next time, but so far so good.
It’s been good.
You have good clients. It looks like you’re happy.
I’m very happy. The dark color is off. I get to work as hard as I want to. Luckily I don’t have a wife and kids now. I can go run around the state and do all the work that needs to be done. No one gets mad at me.
You’ve got a lot of personal flexibility.
It’s great. I’m enjoying it.
You probably make as much money too. You’re taking care of yourself. You’re having fun. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with a little financial reward. I’m not saying you’re going to get filthy rich doing it, but it’s okay to make it a little bit of money. For all of us that didn’t follow the session, which I would be included, in years past, I was probably pretty knowledgeable with everything going on. I purposely have stayed out of it. What happened in this session that regular people need to know about?
This session was a different session than we’ve had in a long time. They call it the Kumbaya session. It started with figuratively the top lieutenant governor and Speaker of the House holding hands and coming together on what was going to be the key issues of the session.
Did that stay intact throughout?
It did for the most part, which is also a big surprise. Finally, they started to address school finance in the state where for the first time they started looking at how to fund it and changing things that needed to be changed. They hadn’t changed in many years. They’re not relying on the Supreme Court to tell them that they had to do something and getting it done. They started doing that.
Which included a universal raise for teachers throughout the state?
It’s probably not enough, but you got to start somewhere. A lot of that has to do with the number of teachers who showed up to the polls last election cycle. The teachers came out and said that they needed to be taken seriously. That message was well received and some things got done this past session. Now there were over 100 bills that are trying to address hurricanes in the future and flood mitigation, everything based off of what happened with Hurricane Harvey here, one of the largest storms to ever hit the United States. A lot of focus was done there. There was a lot of focus on TWIA. This time, the focus was to get them not to raise their rates and they haven’t so that’s good. It was a very interesting session.
For those of you who don’t know what he means by TWIA, he’s referring to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which they call it a quasi-governmental entity. It’s an insurer of last resort for the thirteen coastal counties in the state of Texas. Effectively if you live in a coastal county and a regular insurance company won’t write your windstorm coverage, they have to.
You are required. A lot of work needs to be done there still in TWIA. There might be some provisions and Chapter 541, 542, the insurance code that needs to be reenacted and tweaked.
Certainly and to a large degree, TWIA was a disaster from the original set up. It had some fundamental faults to the way it was structured when it was established in the ‘60s. Fortunately though it never was tested to an extreme way for years. In 2005, it was tested to some degree, but they only had about 10,000 claims in Hurricane Rita, which sounds like a lot, but given that you had a pretty significant Category 3 storm doing a lot of wind–related damage to a coastal area, it wasn’t huge exposure and compared to what it could be.
The real nightmare situation for TWIA has been and continues to remain a large and heavy wind storm that effectively comes up the ship channel in Houston or maybe to some degree, one that hits directly hard in the Corpus Christi area. That’s significant down there, but the density is not there. What you saw in 2008 from my perspective, you had Hurricane Ike, which they had over 100,000 claims. That’s when it got tested for a real event and they were woefully unprepared. The reverberations of that remain now.
Unfortunately, it took a storm like that to get the state to get prepared for the next one.
That’s true. You’re a little kid and you turn on a hot stove and the little kid touches it. It takes you touching it the first time to know not to touch it again. It’s the same type of analogy.
I am proud of the city of Beaumont for doing their flood mitigation plans before Hurricane Harvey hit. With the amount of water that this area got, the city of Beaumont did well.
The city and overall large portions of the county and the drainage district did a good job. I’ll give you an example. It was an unprecedented amount of rain. It was 50–some–odd–inches in a three–day period or something like that, four–day period. It’s unprecedented in the United States in the last 200 years. For example, at my house, it’s in the corner of a fairly busy intersection and the intersections are a little lower than the house and the yards and whatnot. That intersection on a Sunday was flooded. You couldn’t drive through it. It was over waist deep and still rained over 40 inches the next couple of days. I kept thinking, “Where’s this water going?” It would get up and it‘d get up to the level with the road in front of the house and it would cover my yard. It even got into the driveway and covered the entire driveway. I thought, “We can’t take this anymore.” I’d look out. It would all be gone, although it’s still raining and they had an alternating pumping station system going the details of which, I don’t know, but it saved me. It saved a lot of people in my area. It didn’t save everyone.
You can’t with that much rain.
Within the city of Beaumont, for the most part, we held up pretty well. There were some wind-related damage, not as extreme as other storms but still some. I’m with you. They overall did a good job. The prime example is going into Port Arthur. If you’re in Port Arthur, you got flooded. You’re the exception.
Those poor people have been hit hard over and over.
By a multitude of things, they’ve been hit hard by three storms, arguably four in the last several years. Economically, you’ve seen some real downturns in that city. I don’t know how it survives. It continues to and it‘s a cool place. It has lots of history. It was the number one city in America many years ago or whatever that award was, but there are parts of it that are a ghost town now. I don’t know if you’ve been downtown. It can be spooky downtown in Port Arthur. Interestingly, it’s better than it was several years ago. They’ve taken some proactive measures and people have spent some money in some investment. There are some things going on down there, but it’s still spooky. Several years ago, it was not somewhere you’d want to want to go. What else happened this session?
That was the main part. There were some other bills that we could touch on that went through. Overall there was a trend of consolidating power to the AG or Governor’s Office or things like that taken away from local control a little bit. That was a trend that was happening. Overall, there weren’t very many huge contingent issues. There was a Chick-fil-A bill.
Don’t be open on Sundays? I have no idea.
It’s a religious freedom bill. That died. They tried to resurrect it a couple of times. It wasn’t the huge contentious issues that you normally see.
I’ll try to explain to people who ask about the session. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there. The actual legislative session is this five–month period in a two-year stretch. It’s so condensed that that session period takes on a life of its own. They’re rarely ever the exact same or even similar. It’s almost like watching a play. Sometimes it’s Fiddler on the Roof and sometimes it’s Frankenstein. Maybe I should say Beauty and the Beast. Frankenstein is a book, not a play. There’s a huge divergence and you know what’s going on from session to session. It’s one of those things also too that you almost have to be there to fully appreciate that each time.
I try to impress them. We have 100,000 lawyers in the state and many of them rarely, if ever, pay attention to what’s going on with the session. They’re worried about handling whatever transactions they are working on with their transactional lawyers or whatever cases they have. Judges are dealing with preparing for jury trials perhaps and worrying about those issues or appellate issues within their practice. They don’t pay attention to what’s going on up there and it’s the short side. I’m not as involved as I used to be. I keep tabs on what’s going on generally. It’s important because that’s where the sausage is made. That’s where they’re making new laws that we got to deal with down here in the trenches.
If you’re not watching what’s going on and understand that the nuances of it, you can be doing yourself and potentially your clients an injustice. It works the other way too. I’ve sat there. I’ve listened to the stakeholders. I’ve been involved in the negotiation on the bill. I’ve been part of the legislative history. I understand the intent of the bill. The intent appears clear. That bill becomes law, it can be used in legal practice and it turns into something completely different. The appellate courts interpret it in a completely different way, if not infuriating, at least frustrating. I’ve seen this anti-SLAPP law that, in my opinion, is used inappropriately and the use of it is out of hand.
They fixed that. They addressed that in this past session. It’s the first time I’ve seen Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, AT&T, Associated Press people, everyone was at the table and everyone agreed on the bill.
What was the fix there? What effective ways can they change? Do you remember?
It was addressing what you were talking about now where the SLAPP law was being used in court cases, left and right.
Where it was never intended, the original intent was to use for constitutional type claims, primarily speech–related defamation, slander and libel-type cases. That’s the people who proposed it, the newspaper and their lobbyists came in and that’s what it was all about. Now I see it in virtually every type of case, in a contract speech. This is violating my right to associate and it creates barriers to access to the court. It’s plain and simple.
It was being abused and now it’s cleared up. Everyone likes it.
They didn’t help me on the ones I’ve had to deal with already, but it’s something. That’s the other thing is laws, the interpretation, the meanings and all that, those things change over time. The keyword there is time. Our industry moves slower than the rest of the world. Some of that’s good. The deliberate judiciary in the legal system is probably overall a good thing. When you’re one of the specks in the ocean there, dealing with it at the very moment, it can be provided for injustice. What do you see coming as a result of the session? Where do you see it going? It was Kumbaya. Now there’s all this talk on what they call bonding gate or whatever. I haven’t followed what the story is on that.
There is a recording of a meeting held between the Speaker of the House, the Republican caucus chairman and Michael Quinn Sullivan, who is an activist. There was a list of legislators. Presumably, the Speaker of the House wanted Michael Quinn Sullivan to go after in the electoral process. There were members who for whatever reason were named who didn’t quite follow what the speaker wanted or the team or whatever. It’s unclear to me. I don’t have all the answers. It’s what I hear in the press. I don’t want to speak too much about it because I couldn’t tell you one way or another. That’s what I hear in the presses. These legislators were of their own party of the Republican Party. There was some self-eating of each other and two Democrats were named as well. It’s unclear what’s going to happen there. I know the Texas Rangers are supposed to be investigating it and we’ll see what happens.
I know it’s been the talk of the town for all the lobbyists and the real inside baseball time people, but to us regular people out here in Houston, Beaumont, Dallas who are part of the Capitol Complex, I don’t think anybody can follow it. It’s inside game stuff. I don’t think anybody cares or is watching it.
The press is heating up on it. There are a lot of grassroots people from the Republican Party that are calling for Bonnen to step down as speaker.
Are they doing that because they have an issue of what he said or are they doing that because they think he’s too willing to work with people who aren’t as strident as him? That’s what I hear, but what do I know?
That’s what I heard as well from the press. It’s not something I’m involved with.
I wanted to see your take because I’ve had a hard time following it. I can’t remember who it was, but I called some people, some mutual friends, some people in Austin. I sked, “What’s going on up there?” They act like I was dumb because that was all the talk. I said, “Yeah, I read about that.” It doesn’t seem as sexy to me or as flashy or ear–catching as the inside players see it.
What I didn’t mention is that allegedly on the tape, the Speaker of the House offers press credentials to Michael Quinn Sullivan to his group. They can go on the House floor as press interns. They would spend money against the named legislators. There’s a pro quo there. That’s the issue that a lot of people are having trouble with. I don’t know if any of it’s true. I don’t know anything. I haven’t heard the tape, but I know that there’s a lot of legislators on the Republican side and the Democrat side who want people held accountable for it. A lot of folks, including the speaker himself and some of the people named want this tape released for everyone to hear. It’s interesting, the whole thing. A lot of grassroots people are upset about what’s going on and that’s not what they elected someone to do. They’re asking for accountability, but who knows what’s on the tape. There’s a group of legislators, especially ones that were named of, Republican state representatives who are not backing down and they want to hold the speaker accountable. This a standoff on the Republican side and few Democrats have spoken out as well.Lobbyists advocate for the voiceless. Click To Tweet
We’ll see what happens. I haven’t dealt with or otherwise even talked to Dennis Bonnen since he became speaker, but I dealt with them many years in sessions before. I liked the guy. If you knew us both, you probably think we wouldn’t have a lot in common. I liked the guy a lot. I always got along with him. I didn’t always agree with him, but I agreed with him more than you would think, probably half the time.
That’s what a lot of people find out when they isolate themselves with the legislature and have a conversation with them. That’s why most people need to pursue that at some point to try to meet with their legislator, their staff, and have a conversation with them and create a relationship so you know the people that you’re electing.
Try to go into that conversation without hostility from the get–go. You see that too.
You do, but they may come out like you said and saying, “They’re not a bad guy.“
His brother, I’m not a real fan of. I’ve had some situations dealing with him that I thought he was gratuitously a jerk when he could be and I didn’t appreciate it. I don’t think very highly of him. His little brother who’s the speaker, there’s a reason he’s a speaker and the big brother is not. His little brother can treat people with respect and talk to people and disagree with them at the same time, but still have a respectful conversation. That’s why that guy won’t be anything other than a state rep out of Lake City and run his little clinic. You should’ve called me a few years ago when he pissed me off.
I’m a lobbyist.
Is that what you see yourself doing?
I’m here on it until I die.
Are you still enjoying it?
You’re young. Do you see that plan?
The plan is to make enough money doing it. When I’m an old man, I can still go up there and advocate for the voiceless. The goal is to take care of my family and go advocate for the voiceless. That’s perfect.
You hear on the news, read and there’s no shortage of information. All these states have made weed legal. Where does that stand in Texas?
In Texas, they’ve taken steps every session. A bill has been filed in the past three or four sessions. It’s moved up. Everyone thinks it’s not going to go anywhere. It gets a hearing. It gets a vote from the committee. It was next to the floor. It made it to the floor this past session, the House floor. If they get a chance for all the legislators to vote on it, things like that move. The Decrim Bill makes a lot of sense to a lot of folks from a lot of different aspects. Unfortunately, when he left the House, the lieutenant governor, maybe while it was getting voted on, said, “That’s a nonstarter over here. That’s dead on arrival.” I understand, but we’re getting there. With making marijuana illegal, you look at places like Colorado who are fully funding their public education and have no issue paying for public education. Texas is a huge state. It takes a lot of revenue to do that. If you look at what Colorado has done, it’s hard to sit there and balance the budget and try to find new sources of funding and struggle to fund public education or roads or anything.
We’ve got a lot more oil than Colorado has got weed. There’s no reason education can’t be funded here regardless of criminalization of marijuana or not. We’ve got revenue sources that other places don’t have because they don’t have the population base and natural resources.
They’re from another aspect. Most every state has done something regarding marijuana law.
Has Texas done anything?
Yeah. They passed in 2017 the Compassionate Use Act. Everything runs together. In the Compassionate Use Act, there is a specific strand with low traces of THC. It is medical marijuana for people with intractable epilepsy. It’s a slim margin of people. They passed a law where three dispensaries could open in the state. You have to go through two doctors to get a license. You have to be able to afford it because insurance companies won’t cover it. It is very narrow what Texas has done, but this past session, it’s not marijuana, but it’s hemp. It’s derived from the same plant, cannabis. They legalize the farming and distribution of hemp, which is a huge cash crop, it always has been for America until they made it a Schedule 1 drug. There are all kinds of possibilities with hemp. You can make building materials, concrete block, sheetrock, all kinds of things with higher burn ratings than regular sheetrock. You can farm it for the high CBD yield for medical–grade type products. You can do CBD oils, isolates, you name it. CBD is huge right now. CBD attaches to the same nerve receptors as opioids do without any addictive traits like opioids. It also allows us to start the science on what the rest of this plant does.
This hemp law that was passed, it’s conforming with Congress to try to pass federal law legalizing hemp production. I‘ve read what a number of district attorneys and some of the larger counties are saying. I may be butchering with how they’re putting this out there, but they’re saying for relatively small amounts of marijuana, they’re no longer prosecuting people because of this hemp law. They’re using it to say, “We can’t distinguish or don’t have the scientific capability in our office to distinguish between hemp and marijuana. If it’s small amounts, we can’t prosecute it anymore.” Personally, that argument’s bullshit. The capability is pretty easily available to them and to the police forces. Politically, these DAs are making them. That’s my opinion. It’s politically–driven.
They said they didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t know what was going on the bill, that hat would be in there, that this was going to happen. I believe that their lobbyists are more capable than that. They didn’t know.
It’s nonsense. It’s one of the top officials in the county. They’re well-educated. They’ve been through college. They’ve been through law school. They’ve practiced law. They can read the bill. That doesn’t preclude them in any way from prosecuting. I’m not saying that people with small amounts of marijuana should or shouldn’t be prosecuted. That’s not my deal. I don’t care, but don’t try and say, “The legislature has made it impossible for me to prosecute. Say, “I choose not to prosecute these people because it’s crap that they should be charged for a joint.” I’ll be honest about it.
They don’t want to deal with that, the small amounts. They don’t want to ruin some sixteen years old’s life for being in possession of a quarter of a joint. Some kid made the wrong decision and now has to pay for it for the rest of their life. They don’t want to do stuff like that.
They use this bill as cover.
They can also use this bill to say, “We need funding for new lab equipment and stuff like that.” If we can plan about it, we’ll get that funding. The tests that they do have now and the same with the police that does testing as well, the issue was that the test picks up if there’s THC in it or not, not the amount of THC. This bill allows for 0.3%. Like Willie Nelson said, “A bell of it would fall on you and kill you before smoking it.” You’d never get high off of that. I read a bunch of studies on it that said it’s going to be around or a little over 10%. I don’t know enough about the issue to make a factual statement.
I’ve found it interesting. There’s a number of large cities. I don’t remember exactly the one. I want to say the DA in Harris County. I want to say the DA in Bear County where San Antonio is located. I want to say Austin, Dallas, counties where millions of people live, the district attorneys have said, “We’re going to use this as a basis for not prosecuting people with an ounce or less,” which I’m fine with. Don’t confuse it. This bill didn’t make it confusing.
The issue for them is that hemp is the same plant.
It’s a different chemical composition.
The levels there are different. It’s hard to tell.
What’s coming in the next session? What do you predict?
On what issue?
On anything big. What are they set up for the interim? What are they forecasting?
They’ll have to go back in and look at the school finance again, probably some higher ed stuff as well. They’re going to have to address some transportation issues. There is some imminent domain stuff that didn’t go anywhere. That’s always an issue every session. There are issues like that never go away, big contentious issues.
They have to pass a budget.
The budget is always going to be big, but the biggest is going to be redistricting. Next session they’re going to do redistricting that is always a fight.
I appreciate you sitting down. I know you’re in town for the official business and I coaxed you to sit down with me. I’m proud of you. I’ve watched you grow in several years. You’re a real true grown professional operator, someone who any client can count on to be a good representative, an honest combatant and an overall good person to have on your side. I’m proud to see you come into your own, to launch Longleaf, to be so successful in such a short period of time. I look forward to seeing how you grow and watch you flourish.
I appreciate that. It’s been a pleasure.
ABOUT Jacob Smith
John Jacob Charles William Smith was born in Monrovia, California on January 21, 1990. He has appeared in many hit films such as Hansel & Gretel (2002), Cheaper by the Dozen(2003), and much more. He has played several other roles for television shows, commercials, and movies. He is very active, and loves to skateboard. Along with skateboarding, he likes baseball, basketball, swimming, and much more.
Besides being an active kid, he likes to hang out with friends, and likes to talk. His parents are divorced, and he currently resides in the Los Angeles area. He’s friends with Blake Woodruff, his co-star, and a lot more. His favorite color is blue, while his favorite animal is the panda. He has one dog, and one cat. His favorite food is pizza, while his drink is chocolate shake. He’s very active, and he just wants to be a normal boy. He has a great ear for music, since his favorite band is Blink-182.