By Jennie Drage Bowser, WashCo Dems Communications Committee Member
A great way to amplify your voice and find allies that support the causes you care about is to take part in a legislative lobby day. Legislative lobby days are sponsored by organizations and interest groups. They schedule a particular day and invite their members and others who care about their cause to visit the capitol, meet with legislators, and get to know one another.
Lobby days differ from one organization to another. Some offer training in the morning before sending people off to talk to their legislators. Some ask participants to wear something identifying them as advocates of the issue. For instance, the Oregon Coalition for Developmental Disabilities asks people to wear yellow if they participate in a lobby day. Some lobby days are high-energy, with a rally on the capitol steps or chants in the rotunda. There is often a meeting place somewhere in the capitol where you can stop by to pick up materials, ask questions, and network.
The many benefits of lobby days:
Organizations can show the strength of the support for their issues by rallying a large group of supporters (of course, this only works if lots of people show up, including you!)
You can focus your communication with your legislator. Sponsoring organizations often offer short summaries of their legislative priorities and talking points. Taking advantage of materials like this can help you stay on point when you have limited time to make your case.
You can meet like-minded folks. Sometimes groups reserve a space in the capitol where you can drop in during the day to network with other people who care about the issue.
You can make real change in the policy areas that are important to you. Legislators pay attention to lobby days. They want to hear your point of view, and this is a great opportunity to catch them when they’re focused on your issue.
How to make the most of a lobby day:
Schedule a meeting with your legislators. Call their offices in Salem and ask if you can have a few minutes of their time. Do this ahead of time — several days before the lobby day, at least.
Check with the sponsoring organization. Are there talking points or legislative priorities they can share? Is there a meeting place where you can network with others? Should you wear a certain color, or something else that helps identify you as part of the lobby day?
Be prepared. Gather your thoughts before you go. Consider preparing a letter you can hand to your legislators, and prepare a succinct summary (under a minute, if possible – if your legislator has more time than that, s/he will ask questions and you can be prepared to answer them) of the action(s) you want your legislators to take on this issue in case you get a chance to meet face-to-face.
Keep in mind that some groups require registration in advance of their lobbying day. Even if their program is full, don’t let that stop you from visiting the capitol that day. You can still meet with your legislators and discuss the policy issue of the day.
Our friends at Progressive Yamhill have posted a list of 2019 Lobby Days in Salem:
Check it out and start planning your trip to the capitol! Don’t see your favorite organization on the list? Give your org a call. They may have a lobby day planned that’s not on the list, or maybe they’d like your help in getting one planned.