It was awesome. It was inspiring. We learned the process that a bill goes through to become a law, we learned about social media and all the great ways activists can use it, and so much more.
One of the most important and valuable lesson for me was the bit on how to communicate effectively with our state legislators. It was some of the best advice I've ever heard on this matter. Simple and logical, but for some reason never occurred to me.
Another important lesson: we must start getting involved by testifying at committee hearings. Committees are where bills go to die, so if you want a bill to see the light of day, you must find a way to get to Olympia and testify. If you need any more motivation, just know that SEIU and ACORN regularly send people to testify at all the important hearings, and our side never sends anyone. Scary, eh? If you want to testify, contact your legislator, or if he or she is a rabid lefty, try contacting one of the more conservative committee members or legislators and they should be able to help you.
And another really important part of the day was learning more about the Washington Policy Center and their Washington Votes service. A long time ago I linked to Washington Votes, but back then I didn't understand just how powerful their service is, and I can't believe that it is not used more. That's about to change.
Let's begin with communicating with your legislator. In a nutshell, you must build a rapport with your own state Reps and Senators. The guy who spoke about this reminded us that politicians are people too, which I know is easy to forget. How would you like it if the first time you ever met someone they were getting in your face and demanding things from you angrily? Granted, it's their job, but that doesn't matter. They are human first and most humans do not respond well to that kind of stimulation.
The speaker's advice was to make sure your first meeting with your legislator - and this should really be in person - should be friendly, low key, and just a simple introductory conversation. No demands, no anger. He said to compliment them, which will be hard to do with many of the straight up hard leftists in our state legislature, but he had a great suggestion for this as well. One fantastic method of complimenting, especially a politician, is to ask them questions. This serves two purposes. First, you make them feel good because you are deferring to them and asking for their wisdom (yuck), and second, you are now in a position to hear how they think in general, and what they think about specific issues. It really is brilliant. So even if you know everything, just go in with your sweetest smile, introduce yourself and your family (if you bring them), tell them something you are concerned about, and ask them to explain the issue or the proposed solutions to you.
Oh, and if you have kids, bring them! Ask for a tour and introduce your kids. This is great because it will not only be a great civics lesson for your children, but they provide a nice cover for you to pretend like you're only there for that reason. Sorry if that sounds cynical, but it's a pretty good idea.
Basically, you want to make sure that you are building a relationship with the legislator and his or her staff. The staff are the gatekeepers and if they don't like you, you may have little to no impact on that legislator. That seems unfair, but that's life and we must learn to roll with it. So maybe the first few times you don't demand anything. You just get to know the whole office. Find out when their birthdays are and send birthday cards. Seriously. And you don't have to pretend to agree with them, that's the best part. As your conversations wear on, feel free to let them know you are conservative or whatever, but as you are so sweet and nice and have yet to angrily demand something from them, they will begin to see you as the "rational" or "normal" conservative (because constituents telling their legislators how they feel about important issues is now considered irrational by the left.) This is important as when it comes time for you to finally ask them to do something (i.e. vote a certain way, put forth an amendment, etc.) they will be much more inclined to listen to you because you were their friend first, and you're obviously not a wingnut like all those other anonymous angry conservatives that call and yell at the staff...
Make sense? Good. If you have any questions or suggestions on this, leave them in the comments and we can have a good discussion about it. Yes, this is basically manipulation, but if that is the only way that the politicians will listen to us, then I'm willing to do it. It also makes a lot of sense. The pols and their staff are just people too, and after getting yelled at all day by anonymous constituents, I would probably stop listening to them as well. So, are you in?
Next up is the Washington Policy Center and Washington Votes. The policy center's mission is to improve lives with market solutions. They are a think tank and research outfit and they do amazing work. With all of the focus shifting (as I rightly think it should) to state's rights and the 10th Amendment, we need to start paying attention to what's happening in Olympia, not just D.C. Put the policy center's website on your favorites and check out their reports. You can also get on the mailing list and you will receive press releases on important issues. For instance, this morning I received information about the results of a study that just came out about jobs in WA. It was specifically about the potential loss of jobs from the taxes that the Democrats' are thinking of implementing (now that they've run the budget into the ground year after year.) Depending on the extent of the new taxes proposed by Gregiore and company, we could be looking at anywhere from 15,000 to almost 40,000 job losses in Washington State.
Check them out and get on their mailing list. We need to take Olympia back as well as D.C.
Lastly, let's look at Washington Votes. From their website:
WashingtonVotes.org provides plain-English analysis for all bills, substitutes and amendments proposed in the Washington Legislature.
The speaker from Washington Policy Center/Washington Votes demoed the Washington Votes website and it's incredible. I seriously can't believe that, though I have linked to it before, I never understood how powerful it is. He showed us how difficult the state government's website is to use to search for bills because half the time we don't know what the bill number is yet, and if you don't know, it's pretty impossible to find it. And most annoying is that the state's website only searches by title, not the text of the bill. The speaker highlighted this shortcoming by searching for the keyword, "taxes," and only 28 out of over 3,000 bills came back in the search. Do you really believe that a bunch of liberals only submitted 28 bills that have to do with taxes? No.
Washington Votes is for real people, not lawyers. The staff there comb through every single bill that gets submitted every year, and provide analysis that everyone can understand. They figure out the keywords that would most likely get people to that bill and so when he searched "taxes" again at the Washington Votes site, he got over 300 bills. That still seems low, but at least you can see now that it is much more honest and comprehensive than the government website. The best thing about the WA Votes is that you can set up email alerts on specific bills and you will only get an email if the bill is moving through the process. For instance, if you want to follow the progress of the state sovereignty resolution, you would set up the email alert, and you would know if a committee hearing had been scheduled and you would be able to actually go testify in support of it!
I hope all of this helps you. I know it has helped me greatly. The three main points, in summary, are:
1. Build rapport with your state legislators and their staff (and federal for that matter)
2. Find out how to testify at committee hearings
3. Check out Washington Votes to learn about all the bills these people want to impose on you