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5 Things I Learned From Lobbying at the Capitol

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February 27, 2015

Yesterday I did something I wouldn’t have expected myself to do in a million years. I went to my Texas State Capitol and lobbied for a package of reproductive healthcare bills under the ‘Trust. Respect. Access.’ campaign. We had bills that addressed the need for comprehensive sex education in schools, to bills that addressed  the state-mandated 24-hour waiting period for abortions. But all the bills really simply fit into the platform of ‘Trust. Respect. Access.’ which means that we:

  • Trust Texans to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions
  • Respect the knowledge of healthcare professionals and their medical and ethical judgement about the care each patient needs.
  • guarantee that everyone in Texas, if so chooses, gets Access to a safe, compassionate, and timely abortion.

I learned so much from the training before I lobbied, and from the experience itself. Before I give more detail on what exactly took place, and bring in other people’s perspectives (look out for that in next week’s post!), I’d like to share with you the 5 things that I myself learned from lobbying.

  1. Don’t be nervous. I was told this over and over again throughout training and before lobbying. Of course, I didn’t realize its truth until after my meeting but everyone was right. Believe me. If you’ve never lobbied before, going to your capitol building and seeing everyone in suits rushing around looking so important can be totally intimidating. But everything that’s making you nervous, from forgetting your talking points to your sweaty palms, really isn’t the end of the world. The most important thing is to not miss your meeting.
  2. This is your time. They always say democracy is for the people and I’ve always taken that in, but not given it much weight. The only time I’ve seen democracy in action is through voting. But I learned that these representatives are here to listen to US. We represented the views and voices of thousands of Texans that couldn’t travel to the capitol yesterday to speak up. This is our time to tell them what these bills are and why they mean so much to us and no one can do that better than we can. Our personal connection is everything and can’t be taken away from us.
  3. You can’t mess up. This tip goes along with why you shouldn’t be nervous, because you literally can’t do much wrong. Your representatives are there to listen to YOU and that’s it. In most cases it’s just like having a casual conversation and explaining to someone why the issue your lobbying for is so important to you. So as long as you know your issue and why you’re passionate about it, you’ll be all set!
  4. But still have a plan beforehand. I’m someone who likes to have a plan, regardless of how prepared I am on the subject. When I lobbied I was in a group with other people, so we had to delegate duties to each person. There was someone to do the introductions, to introduce the bill, to give a personal story, to make a “hard ask” as to whether or not the Senator/Representative could back our particular bill, and lastly someone to close us out and leave behind a one page summary of our information. Following that simple plan gave us a roadmap that made the interaction a lot smoother.
  5. This is only the first step. To me, lobbying seemed like the ultimate step in government participation. But I learned that it’s not enough for just my fellow activists and I to make our voices heard this one time. Consistency is key. After you lobby make sure you get the contact information of your Senator/Representative to follow up with them in a week or two. And spread the information! Talk to friends and family and co-workers about your issue and why they should care as well. Don’t let the excuse of misinformation prevent someone from being engaged in the political process.

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