BY TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB
“These are my concerns…” are words that are dreaded by citizen lobbyists (community members who are interested in influencing the policymaking process), especially when they come from a legislator whose support you need to move your bill forward.
Though this phrase can sometimes preface an immovable opinion, I find that more often when a legislator offers to discuss their concerns about a bill or an issue in general, they are doing a few things that can be incredibly helpful.
- By voicing their concerns, they’re opening up communication on the issue. This is a perfect opportunity to listen to their concerns, talk through any misconceptions you both may have about the issue, and think deeply about the middle ground that you may share.
- It can be difficult to know whether your bill will face opposition and if so, why. Listening to a legislator’s concerns can tell you about additional factors that you may not have been aware of. Perhaps your bill accidentally conflicts with other bills that are being worked on. You won’t know until you ask.
- Concerns can be suggestions for how to get a legislator’s support. Perhaps you need this legislator to put your bill on a committee agenda, or you’d like them to co-sponsor your bill. Whatever the case, if you’re able to find a change to your bill that addresses their concerns, while keeping the necessary function of the bill, you’ve just won a small victory.
- It gives you an opportunity to understand your legislators better. By articulating the things that concern them, you’ll start to learn where their areas of expertise are, which issues they care about most, which they are opposed to, and which issues they are flexible about.
There will be times when legislators choose to voice their concerns on a bill by voting no. But, when citizen lobbyists are able to discuss concerns with legislators, the possibilities for moving forward positive legislation go up exponentially.