What it felt like to lobby for legislation
If you’ve never experienced it before, it’s not what you’d expect. We’ve of course all driven by our respective capitol buildings, gazing at the incredible architecture all the
while, at least for me, staring in somewhat frustrated awe at what actually takes place inside. Now, that mostly has to do with the fact that I only understand on a very general level how our legislation is crafted.
As an individual residing in Denver I chose to participate in a citizen lobby day to see what the process of pushing for true reform through legislation looked like. I went with my good friend, and fellow resident of Colorado, Nik Alexander to support Denver NORML in their effort to pass a bill that would further prevent employment discrimination. Initially my expectations were:
A series of very formal meetings based on availability
Heightened filtration with who, specifically, is able to speak with various legislators
Abundant dismissal of the action we were taking (like a sales pitch)
I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. Once past the security check inside, we made our way down the hall and into an environment that I quickly realized was just as much mine as it was these officials we were there to meet. We immediately started for the offices upstairs, where I thought we would be checked by an aid or at least another security detail before being told to wait for our representative. Instead, we walked right into the first office and introduced ourselves to the person we were there to see.
The filtering, the total dismissal, the perceived difficulty conversing I had imagined never once took place. Every staffer and representative we spoke with was willing to have a discussion, given a couple criteria. And we collectively visited nearly 100 offices through the course of the day.
A few key preparatory pieces of advice:
What they don’t want, what no one wants, is to listen to incessant rambling without a clear message. It helped that we were clear and to the point. Inquiries, as well as potential opposition, are not a queue to incite an argument. We stayed on message and stayed positive. It helps to have a well-researched plan of action and to be able to answer valid questions that come up.
Understand their position
These people are pragmatic. They are holding, above all else, the idea of re-election and inherently what they’re constituents want to see. So, many of them were open about their unwillingness to support our bill given their personal as well as their constituents’ beliefs. Yet, many of them were very receptive, with of course many questions.
However, every single one of them was willing to have a discussion of the topic at hand. What’s more, THEY HAVE TO! This is how our system was crafted and despite the near prevailing feeling of hopelessness in influencing change at the political level, everyone needs to ask themselves: have I made an effort?
If so, beautiful, but if you’re wondering where to start, it’s right here. If we want to be a part of influencing and articulating to others what we believe and what we want to see, then we need to start by conversing with them. We are all welcomed to participate in this process. This is about crafting the narrative of what impacts us all, not watching as that narrative unfolds in front of us.