|This is the fourth and last in a series of emails entitled how to influence Olympia. All I’ve done so far is to tell you how to get information. But how do you use that information most effectively? Two things – develop a network and communicate with specific action items. I’m going to tell you a couple of stories and list some bullet points that will give you details about how to accomplish your goal.|
Years ago, there was a group that got together to form a network to get out information to their community. Every Monday morning during session, they would meet for coffee and go over the particular bills that they were most concerned with. They would figure out when committee hearings were scheduled and which legislators needed to be targeted with messaging. Then they got on the phone and called the people in a phone tree. They were able to mobilize a great number of people using that method. Of course, it’s far easier today to communicate with email and social media (if they haven’t banned you yet – honestly, I’d do email. At least you know your recipient will see it!). You wouldn’t have to use a phone tree like they did back then, although a phone call is quicker. Today, many watchdog organizations use this technique. They usually have a lobbyist who watches legislation and sends out an email to activate their readership, sometimes even following up with a text if it is something that is time critical. Conservative groups are not as prolific when it comes to this technique. It may be that we tend to want government to leave us alone, so we are tempted to just ignore what goes on in Olympia. Unfortunately, while we are busy ignoring them, they are busy invading every little part of our lives. We need to get more people motivated to write, call, and show up.
Create a network of emails, set up a Facebook page for people to like and post info there, get a group of people willing to do phone calls, so word can be spread quickly. Find a few people willing to spend a couple hours one day a week from the 2nd week of January until the end of April who can monitor specific bills and get the word out. Assign 1-3 bill to each person, so nobody is overwhelmed. Then have an organized group who are willing to post and send out emails to their network quickly and effectively.
The effectiveness of motivating people to contact their legislators was shown clearly over the past few sessions. The Democrats targeted hairdressers who rent chairs at a salon but are not employees – they are independent contractors. A bill was introduced that would have forced them to become employees. In the space of about 4 days, hairdressers who had not previously been very politically involved got the word out on Facebook and on the phone. They showed up for the committee hearing and the line to the hearing room extended to outside of the building and around the block. They didn’t stop there – each office got phone calls and letters in opposition to the bill. Needless to say, the bill died a quick death. The unfortunate thing is that there are other bills that attack independent contractors, but since they don’t name a specific industry, it’s harder to get people to see the damage the bill will do. We need people who are willing to widely distribute such information. It is so devastating to find out after the fact that a horrible bill has passed, because once a bill has passed, it’s almost impossible to reverse it. It’s much better to do the work beforehand to stop it before it becomes law.
The last email I sent explained how to find out bill information on the leg.wa.gov website. If you enter a bill number there, you will see a link on the right side of the page that will allow you to get email notifications about the bill. You will get an email the minute a hearing is posted. Click on that link and get those email updates on every bill you want to target. Spread information quickly and widely, using multiple means. Not everyone has Facebook.
Get large crowds to the committee hearings. I’ve said it before – while emails and phone calls are good, you must get people to hearings. You do not have to testify – you can just sign up in support or opposition to the bill and then sit in the hearing room. It’s very effective for legislators to know they have the attention of the people. (Note: This year, the Democrats have shut down the Capitol building over the objections of all of the Republicans. It is the right of the people to have input into this process. It may be online this year, but you can at least sign in and support or object to a bill. I would say that it is more critical than ever to do so – and it’s easier, because you don’t have to actually go to Olympia. Make your voices heard!!)
A couple of final words on getting information and putting it to the most effective use.
I haven’t exhausted the types of searching you can do on the legislative website. I’ve barely touched the amount of information that is there, so don’t be afraid to click on links to get more info. You can do what is called “bill tracking” that will allow you to choose a list of bills you want to follow. There are searches you can do using phrases and words. Legislators are the representatives of the people of their district. Their own constituents are far more important to them than people in other parts of the state, so you need to get a network of people from all over the state, if possible. If you have friends in other districts, enlist their help to get the word out. One hundred letters from Seattle residents will influence the legislator from that district far more than a thousand from Eastern WA and vice versa. Do you want your legislator in Eastern Washington to pay more attention to the desires of those in Seattle or those in your community?
I will try to keep you posted on bills that come up that I see as very damaging and ones that would be good to support, but I only have the time to look into a small number of issues, and since I work in the Senate, I do not follow the House bills as much, so I could miss something. My point is that my emails to you will only show a small slice of what is going on. If you hear of a terrible bill that needs to be stopped, please shoot me an email, and I’ll try to look into it. Better yet, you research, get the word out, and just cc me on the email.
I’m going to chase a rabbit here – it seems like everyone is focused these days on things that don’t affect us nearly as much as the laws passed in Olympia. The issues that are taking the headlines are mostly of a federal nature. They are important, yes, but please do not let them overshadow the importance of the damage your state legislature can do to your life – you’ve seen that up close and personal with the Governor’s reaction to COVID. Because you need to be able to influence people who are of all walks of life, you need to tell people what is going on in factual terms – let them know how their state government is going to change their lives. Those hairdressers were not politically active. We need to be careful to communicate in a way that makes them want to take action – not roll their eyes because they are seeing another post addressing something that doesn’t really affect them.
I will probably send out my first update email in a week or so, but here are some rumors I’ve heard. Again, these are rumors, so until session begins, I won’t know for sure.
Vaccines and COVID will obviously be a big issue. Low Carbon Fuel Standards – this will increase gas prices even further without the benefit of having the money go to roads. The Governor and other Democrats have already put forth a bill that will institute an Income Tax. Hang on to your wallet! There is already a list of Firearms control bills that have been dropped. I’ll give you bill numbers in the next newsletter.
Those are a few of the issues I’m following. We’ll see more clearly what will be happening beginning on January 11th – the beginning of the Legislative Session.