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What's Up Magazine

Civics 101

Jun 10, 2011 08:34PM ● By Anonymous
Yet understanding the basics of how laws are made – and shaped – is actually pretty easy – and one of my priorities for my clients. And in doing so, I try to instill the other important part of the legislative process – that each voice counts!

I have been a lobbyist for over 30 years now – and have always approached my work as being an advocate and supporter for those I represent.  In addition to advocating on behalf of my clients I have always pushed them to have confidence in their own voices.   Explaining the legislative process is not just a way to help people understand the different steps it takes for a bill to become a law but provides a foundation for those I work with to have an understanding of who is in the legislature and how our legislators make decisions. By understanding how the legislature works – both collectively as a body and individually with each State Delegate and Senator – it allows my clients to not only feel comfortable approaching their legislators but also understand how to interact with them.

That is why it makes a tremendous difference in how educated someone is on the legislature when I bring two parties together. And let me just say, being “educated” does not mean getting a degree in political science or knowing “Roberts Rules of Order” (or even what Roberts Rules of Order is). An important part of “being educated” is simply learning who your legislator is. What is his or her occupation outside of being an elected official? What do they do in the community where you both live? What are their hobbies or interests? Knowing whether someone is a farmer or a police officer or a businessman or a doctor or a teacher can help shape how you talk to your representative and allow you to connect to them.  

At the same time, connecting to your legislator allows them to connect to YOU and to the issue important to you. How someone votes on an issue really comes down to how much they understand it or feel comfortable with it. Legislators are faced with dozens and dozens of pending bills – most which they have just as little to no knowledge about than you or me. And so that is why it makes a significant difference for you, or my clients, to reach out to their legislators and educate THEM on the issue and its importance. It is very rare for any issue to be 100% right on one side or the other – there is always middle ground to be reached before any law is actually passed. That is why the more a legislator hears about an issue and its background and impact on people’s everyday lives, the more likely they are to vote in the way the constituent wants. The other thing I have always shared with my clients – which is really a simple practice to do in life in general – is to know that you never make a mistake by contacting a legislator. As long as someone listens and is not rude, it is never a mistake to take the time to talk to your legislator.

Over the years, I have worked with everyone from physicians to interior designers to rail road companies to book publishers to nonprofit organizations - and I work with them to secure the laws that give them the best support – and protection - in their work or lives. At the end of the day, my goal is always to succeed for my clients.  If I can help them engage in the process in a meaningful way and become stronger advocates then that is icing on the cake.