Becoming a Citizen Lobbyist, a How-to (Part 4 - Getting through committees)
Continuing our series on becoming an effective citizen lobbyist, we bring you part four in our series which will walk you through getting a bill through the committee process. (If you want a few refreshers, check out part 1 (Preparing to lobby), part 2 (Meeting with legislators), and part 3 (Getting a bill authored)).
Picking up where we left off in part three, you now have a bill that has an author, has been drafted and processed, and now has a number and is ready to be introduced and referred to a committee.
There are a variety of committees including policy committees, finance committees, and policy AND finance committees (we'll talk more about this in a future post). You'll want to ask your bill author to contact the chair of the committee to which your bill has been referred to a request a hearing. This is not always completed via a single email or conversation so keep on top of this! An author may need to follow up with the committee chair and the committee administrator more than once to get a hearing scheduled, especially when session is underway and asks are coming from every direction.
Before your bill's hearing
Take some time to look up who is on the committee and meet with those legislators to ask for their support and provide them with information. Go back to our second post for some thoughts on how to have effective conversations.
When your hearing is scheduled
Once the bill has been scheduled for a hearing, you'll want to start planning how you'll effectively use that time. Reach out to the committee administrator to ask how much time will be allotted for testifiers to the bill during the committee hearing.
Testifiers are exactly what they sound like -- individuals who come and show support for the bill. They range from experts in a field to regular citizens impacted by the proposed legislation. Choose wisely and tailor your testifiers for the committee.
Once settled, let the committee administrator know who will testify (name and contact info is helpful). If you have handouts or letters of support, email them to the committee administrator at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing and ask that they be copied and included in the committee members' packets. You can also submit written testimony which is great if you have a testifier who can't make it.
There is almost always an opportunity for public testimony on a bill, so ask the committee administrator if there is time set aside for which you can line up additional speakers.
At the hearing
Finally, the committee will hear the bill! Usually, one of two things happens next: they will either vote to refer the bill to the next committee or they will lay the bill over for inclusion in the committee's omnibus bill.
If it's referred to the next committee, repeat this process.
If it's laid over, it may end up in the committee's omnibus bill as the session come closer to its end. Consult with your author for their guidance on how to shepherd the bill from here.
In our next posts, we'll talk about what to do if you don't get a hearing or if your bill gets stuck somewhere along the way. Happy lobbying!