(Part I of a 3 Part Series)
According to the national average, the majority of you reading this are not politically active and probably don’t even know who your legislators are. My name is Stump and I’m hoping to change that. I’m the Legislative Affairs Officer for ABATE of Colorado (ABATE), a State Motorcycle Rights Organization (SMRO) whose mission is to preserve freedom of the road, to unite motorcyclists, to promote fair legislation, safety and rider education, and to provide a network for communication on issues affecting motorcyclists.
As a volunteer lobbyist for over 25 years, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t when dealing with legislators. Since I’ve done most of my lobbying in Colorado and Washington DC, my references to the political process might differ from your state, but these strategies on lobbying can be used everywhere.
Lobbying, per Wikipedia, means to try to influence the actions of public officials, especially legislators. Lobbying is also simple math.
“The squeaky wheel gets the oil” + “strength in numbers”
= “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
The truth is, your voice, along with your friends, can help keep rider freedoms intact. If every biker joined the AMA, the MRF, or a SMRO, motorcyclists could become a political force.
What are some “winning” strategies of lobbying? Before we get into the how-to, let’s look at who we’re influencing — city/county commissioners, state legislators, U.S. Congressmen, or even the President. It’s important to understand the structure of your government in order to know how best to sway it.
Every state has some form of a General Assembly/Legislative branch in their government and their own ideas of how it should be run. Although the legislatures are configured differently, the law-making process is similar and lobbying is basically the same in every state.
It’s easy and interesting to find out how your state compares to other states in several categories that affect lobbying tactics. Some fun facts:
- Not all states have a Senate and a House, known as a two-chamber (bicameral) legislature. Forty-nine states do, but Nebraska only has one (unicameral) chamber called Senators.
- Not all states meet annually. Some states only meet in odd-numbered years — Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas. The other 46 meet every year but have various lengths of sessions.
- Ten states have full time (all year long) sessions — Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
- Number of days in session vary a lot. Virginia meets for just 30 calendar days in odd-numbered years and 60 calendar days in even-numbered years. Alabama meets for 30 legislative days in 105 calendar days.
- 15 states have term limits for their legislators, while others do not.
- There are a total of 1972 State Senators and 5411 State Representatives in the 50 states. Colorado has 35 Senate seats and 65 House seats while Alaska has just 20 senators and 40 representatives. The state with the largest number of senators is Minnesota with 67 and the state with the largest number of representatives is New Hampshire with 400 (that’s not a misprint!). Nebraska has the smallest total number of legislators with a mere 49 senators.
How does your state compare in salaries for your elected lawmakers? Obviously, full-time versus part-time legislative sessions play a role in salaries as well as per diem, which vary greatly from state to state. According to 2017 statistics:
- California legislators were paid a salary of $104,118 and per diem costs to cover lodging, meals, and incidentals.
- New Hampshire legislators earn just $200 per two-year term without per diem.
- New Mexico is the only state that does not pay any salary, but legislators do earn per diem.
Some states are known as “trifecta” states– 34 to be exact. A “trifecta” state is one that has a majority of members–in the Senate and the House and the Governor–all in the same political party. Of the 34 “trifecta” states, 26 are Republican and 8 are Democrat.
It’s easy and interesting to find out how your state compares to other states in the above-mentioned categories; you can read more at www.ballotpedia.org. In Part 1 we’ve compared some characteristics of the 50 State Legislatures and why lobbying is important. In my next piece, Part II will discuss developing a lobbying strategy to get a bill introduced into legislation.