by Anna Timmer
Normally the term “lobbying” has a negative connotation. We think of big industries and corporations paying high-priced establishment types to try and influence and pressure politicians to enact legislation that benefits them. But as a citizen lobbyist, it really just means making your voice heard in an effective way to influence legislation, advocate for laws that benefit yourself, your values/liberty and your community, and try to block legislation that harms those things. You may not be able to have a major impact on federal legislation without a large movement behind you, but each of us can make an impact, have our voices heard and even influence outcomes at the local level.
How do I get started as a citizen lobbyist?
We encourage you to make a list (with contact information) of all your representatives at every level and take time each month to connect with at least one of them. This could be as simple as an email, phone call, or you can further that connection by following them on social media or signing up for their email list to learn of their next “community coffee hour.” You can also follow us on social media as we share this information periodically as well.
Unsure of who your legislators are? Here are links where you can find this information:
City and township leadership can be found on your local government websites, and school board members on your school district’s site.
Attend meetings and sessions
A key way to understand and influence what is happening at the local level is to watch it in action. You can attend county commission, township or school board meetings regularly, as well as attend legislative sessions either in person or remotely. Attending these meetings is also a great way to meet and connect with like-minded individuals in the county! The websites above will share meeting information, as we also share this information regularly on social media and by email.
Become familiar with the legislative process
When you connect with them, you want to be able to advocate for or against specific legislation, and to do that it’s a good idea to understand a little about the legislative process. First, not all bills that are introduced get voted on by the legislature, they have to make it out of sub-committee first. This is where bills are discussed and amended by members of that committee, and the majority of that committee has to agree to refer it out to the full body for a vote. Sometimes they take no action at all, which is how a bill “dies.”
Find upcoming bills that matter to you
You can visit legislature.mi.gov, click on “bills” and search by keyword to find legislation that matters to you. Once you locate a bill that is of interest, you can see its current status in committee, click on that committee to see its members. Next, you can contact these members directly to ask them to either refer the bill favorably or advocate against it. Members that are not on that sub-committee do not have any power over the bill at this early stage.
What if you don’t see any bills that address an issue that’s important to you?
Its time for your representative to hear from you. Any representative can introduce a bill. Its important to understand what is legally possible because legislation cannot violate the Michigan Constitution. That is why, for example, the legislature cannot ban mail-in voting without a constitutional amendment (a much more difficult process). GopHouse.org is a great resource to learn what legislation is currently being introduced by House Republicans. Remember, hundreds of bills are being considered at any given time, legislation that gets prioritized will often be items that the public demands. So politely push your state senator and rep in the right direction.
Remember, the Democrats control all three branches of Michigan state government and are unlikely to pass legislation that Republicans support, but staying connected to what is taking place in Lansing is a great way to inform friends and family ahead of the 2024 election, so we can FLIP the state house and stop Whitmer’s radical agenda. Be certain you are signed up on our email list, we do our best to keep Kent County voters up-to-date with the latest legislative happenings in Lansing and at the county level.