Go Face to Face With Your Legislators

It’s so easy to click on links to email your representatives, or even send them (yikes!) snail mail, as long as there’s no white powder in it.  But you can be intellectually and emotionally stimulated by taking an active part in the legislative process in person. Look them in the face! It’s powerful, and they need to see AAUW, the advocates for women and girls who are civil, informed and educated.

There are two ways to do it. First, you can contact your local representatives both state and national while they are in their home districts. Take some AAUW material with you and just tell them what we are advocating for, and then listen. It really helps to hear what they think. Even if they don’t share our priorities, it helps to learn why. Compromise may yet be possible, and sometimes you can overcome their reservations with facts. AAUW is all about research and facts. What about taking them a seasonal greeting card signed by branch members too?

Florida legislators are home right now, and there is another committee week in Tallahassee December 5-8. They should be returning home after that. The legislative session starts January 9, 2018.

The second way is, of course, our Lobby Days in Tallahassee, January 24 and 25 with a training evening January 23 in the hotel. There’s nothing like sampling the atmosphere at the Capitol. See how the sausage is made! Gauge the allegedly sexually charged atmosphere! See what other groups are there! More importantly, visit your representatives. Rep. Lori Berman, one of AAUW’s best friends in the House (also running for Florida Senate next year), says nothing counts more than these in-person visits. You will need to schedule them ahead of time to be (relatively) sure of seeing the representative, but if you can’t do that, you can probably talk with staff.

Other things you can do during Lobby Days include sitting in the House or Senate gallery if they are in session. You are only allowed to stay 15 minutes or so, and it can be hard to find a seat. Also, they are often boring, with ceremonial processes going on that have little to do with actual legislation. If there is a committee meeting you’re interested in, that can be better because that is really where the sausage is made. You may fill out a form when entering the room if you wish to make your views known. There are two ways to do that: you can “waive” in favor or opposed to the bill they’re considering (yes, I spelled that correctly), or you can apply to speak on the bill. If you apply to speak, you may have to wait quite a while, and you should be brief and to the point, but it is really worth doing.

A list of Florida AAUW’s legislative priorities for this year will be out very soon—watch for it! But don’t be surprised if it changes by January 24. It’s a roller coaster ride up in Tally!

Author: Pat DeWitt

I am a retired institutional researcher, a musician and musicologist, and support AAUW as well as several environmental causes.

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