How to in Annapolis
My hat is off to the throngs of citizens who traveled to Annapolis last week in support of Second Amendment rights. Your presence was remarkable; and you made a point – but did you really take it far enough?
Did you talk to a legislator or just stand in the cold holding a sign and chant? Clogging Lawyers Mall in support – or in opposition to – bills occurs six or seven times each session. Many legislators watch with passing interest, are aware of the group and then avoid the crowds, similar to when you or I take a different route to work when we hear the highway is jammed due to a traffic accident.
To be effective you have to go eyeball to eyeball. You have to educate, cajole, offer support and maybe even threaten to remove future support; and you have to mean it.
My personal experience is that most members of the General Assembly are amiable folks who love to talk, learn and share ideas. They like constituent visits.
Did you visit while you were there? After a long bus ride, did you passionately explain why you took your time during the middle of the day to travel on a chilly February day to support your issue? Or were you quietly lost in the crowd?
Before you bought your bus ticket and painted your sign, did you do your homework, finding out where your delegates and senator stood on the issue? If they support your view, did you thank them?
Delegates and senators like to be thanked, especially when it is a controversial issue leading to a close vote. They are comfortable and unwavering when they know the people back home have their backs. You could even go the extra mile and, after this session, thank them with a donation or volunteer to help their future campaigns.
If your legislator is not in agreement with you, did you call their office, email or write? Did you explain why you support the issue and educate them? Many votes in Annapolis are cast with limited education on a subject and many times are only along partisan lines. You must become their teacher. Did you make an appointment, take five minutes of their time, or go in a group and take 10 minutes.
I have found direct constituent visitation is typically limited. Visits from various lobbyists, however, are almost daily. Each legislator knows you are important unlike lobbyists; you can cast a vote for them!
The Maryland General Assembly has 141 members of the House of Delegates and 47 members of the Senate; each member in each chamber has one vote. Did you reach out to members outside of your district? Why not?
Likely most rural legislators are voting with the pro-gun visitors in Annapolis but they do not make up 50 percent of the vote. Did you educate anyone in the other 50 percent? If not, who do you think will, and how do you expect the gun legislation to be defeated? Think about it?
Become a citizen lobbyist visit all the legislators in your county and the neighboring counties. Call ahead. Make an appointment. Have a nice three-minute presentation. Thank them for listening. Make the most of your day.
If more people from the rural communities sat for just three minutes with legislators representing urban areas, perhaps votes would change – or maybe not; but Annapolis would be a much better place. Personal communication is important, and everyone would learn from the experience!
Seems somewhat silly to take a day off, bear the cold weather, and expect your presence outside of the building will change the needed vote of someone inside a nice warm office, who travels in the tunnels beneath Lawyers Mall, avoiding the traffic on their way to work in the State House.
If you are serious about defeating bills such as The Assault Weapons Ban (SB623/HB1191) and The Firearms Safety Act of 2013 (SB281/HB284), you must call the members of the House Judiciary Committee, too. Thank those who see things your way. Find out who needs to be educated to your position. Make a few appointments and have a chat, eyeball to eyeball before the early March hearings.
Your trip will be more interactive, warmer, more effective and – best of all – you might make some new friends and change a few votes!
Find your info here: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov.