Given the audience – and her politics – Colorado state Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, was undoubtedly seeking to inspire activists of the left when she spoke in April to the Creation Care Conference 2012, sponsored by Colorado Interfaith Power & Light.
But there’s no reason that citizens of the right can’t use her tips of political influence.
Carroll has written a book called, “Take Back Your Government, a Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Change.” At the conference, she told her friends how to more effectively lobby her co-workers.
Nothing necessarily wrong with that.
After all, as she points out, the 100 Colorado state legislators have to deal with up to 800 bills in four months, while the 1,100 lobbyists may have to master half a dozen. This likely exaggerates the numbers; many bills don’t make it out of committee, and many – if not most – lobbyists work for more than one organization. But the point stands: lobbyists have both numbers and experience on their side, and it’s one reason that so many former legislators find work back in the Capitol after they retire, willingly or otherwise.
So herewith, our paraphrasing of the highlights of Sen. Carroll’s citizen-lobbyist training, for the benefit of those who might not otherwise see it.
- The most impactful way for you to participate is to testify on bills. Every bill must have a public hearing, and you have a Constitutional right to testify. It doesn’t have to be intimidating. (Graduate-level tip: if there’s a bill coming up you’re interested in, find out what committee it’s assigned to, and meet with some of the legislators on the committee. Explain why, by virtue of your education, occupation, or experience, why you’re an expert that they should listen to. Eighty-five percent of bills are non-ideological, and you may be the only constituent they hear from on that bill.)
- Meet your legislators (or legislators who aren’t yours) for coffee sometime between June and December, and offer yourself as a resource on specific issues. While you may get five distracted minutes during a session, you could end up with an hour during the off-season.
- Create a fact sheet on a bill, with a few bullet points, some brief explanation, and your sources. Make sure legislators get it before the committee hearing; they’ll be grateful for the good information.
- There are some serious online resources you can use to track legislation, and to see who else is tracking it. You can follow the progress of bills, and see which lobbyists and their clients are monitoring, supporting, opposing, or working to amend bills. Just remember not to put people on the spot in committee. You’d be surprised how defensive they get when campaign contributions get mentioned.
- You thought that legislators wrote these bills? Ha! Lobbyists do. Well, often they do, but usually Legislative Council, which is the collective legislature’s staff, actually redrafts the language. But that can mean citizen lobbyists, too, and a legislator who agrees to carry your bill will have the professional drafters at Legislative Council actually write the bill, to make sure it does what you want it to do.
- Legislative Committees
- Bill Folders (2012)
- Colorado Channel video & audio archive
- Professional and Principal Lobbyist lists
- Look up lobbyists by bill