The Political Process: Get Involved & Get Results!
We all remember the song from Schoolhouse Rock, “I’m just a bill, just a lonely old bill…” (It’s OK to sing…quietly to yourself!) The song was remarkably accurate! Tis the season for legislators to gather under gold domes all over the United States to consider new laws and amendments to existing statutes. So as the lobbyists, special interest groups and everyone else puts in their two cents, I have to ask, “Are you involved in the process?”
There are many ways to get involved. You can suggest legislation to a legislator, speak for or against legislation or simply contact your state legislator asking her to vote for or against a piece of legislation. While this sounds simple, I am amazed at how many LEOs believe their views are ignored. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth! Legislators want to hear from all constituents. This is especially true of LEOs! Here are some tips to getting involved to maximize your efforts.
First, learn about the process.Type “legislative process in my state” into Google or Yahoo and you will see websites for nearly every state that describes how the process works from start to finish. Like anything else in life, the more you know about the process the more effective you will be!
Second, learn about your legislators! Type “how to find your state legislature” into Google or Yahoo and you will get a list of websites for nearly every state. You can find contact information for your representatives and senators and learn about them as well. It is always helpful to read the bio of a legislator prior to making contact. Remember, they are public servants. Many have served in other capacities. I’ve met several former service members and LEOs at the Georgia Capitol.
Third, find out what legislation is being considered. Every state has a procedure and it is important to track the legislation as it moves from “a lonely old bill” until it becomes a law! Type “bills pending in my state legislature” into a search engine and you will get websites that will allow you to track bills as they pass through the legislative process. This is important information. Each bill will be considered by a committee. The committees have hearings that are open to the public. This is a perfect time for you to go to the legislature to attend the meeting. You can sign up to speak or just show your support by appearing at the meeting. You can also speak directly to the legislators before and after the meeting. Make certain that you appear in civilian clothes, speak in your capacity as a citizen and make statements that are protected by the First Amendment. I will post more about this in the future.
Finally, get your friends, family and fellow LEOs involved! Use Facebook, email, LinkedIn and Twitter to ask them to speak for or against legislation that is important to you. Make no mistake about the degree to which legislators search social media looking for comments.
Before HR218, I asked a legislator to sponsor a bill to allow LEOs form other states and retired LEOs to carry firearms in Georgia. The law passed without opposition. I am currently following a bill that I asked a legislator to sponsor that would prevent a person who assaults a LEO from receiving First Offender status. Not only is it exciting to watch the process, this is an opportunity for you to make your voice heard!
It is so easy to sit by and get discouraged at the events that occur in your state legislature. However, you can make a difference. Remember that every law, for better or worse, started with an idea put into the form of a bill and introduced by a legislator. Lend your experience, ideas and influence to the process and next year you will see a statute with your fingerprints all over it!