Lobbyists are not popular in America. If there’s a list of professions that we tend to look down on, they rank somewhere up there with door-to-door salesmen and IRS agents (my apologies to both groups). But when you boil it down, you discover that any politically engaged citizen is no less a lobbyist than the professionals whose job it is to inform and persuade legislators.
This year, the Oregon Legislature will meet until probably sometime in July. Each day, an anti-life majority could further endanger the innocent lives of the unborn or other vulnerable people. You may have heard about some bad legislation this year and wonder what you can do. I suggest three avenues of involvement, depending upon the resources you have.
First, you can financially support an association that represents your interests in the Oregon Legislature. If you’re reading this, you likely already contribute to Oregon Right to Life, making you an active part of our lobbying efforts. We pay professional lobbyists who work hard every day to defend life, and we depend on your support.
Second, for those who have busy lives and can’t show up to the capitol to do in-person lobbying, there are some easy ways to make a difference from our homes or work. Some passionate pro-lifers aren’t convinced that calling or emailing your legislator really matters. Does an anti-life majority really care what pro-lifers think? You may be surprised that it does.
The Oregon Legislature is made up of part-time, citizen legislators. They are paid a small salary, so they often work another full-time job. They usually have no more than two staff members (one may even be part-time) and inexperienced interns. State representatives each represent only 43,000 voters. They need a majority of those who vote to win re-election. In a competitive district, that’s often just 17,000 votes, or even less. Therefore, 50 engaged pro-lifers can have an outsized impact on a state legislator’s office. Fifty calls or emails in one day can completely overwhelm the staff and make the only message they clearly hear that day a pro-life one. It doesn’t take an overwhelming number to make a real impact.
The last way to help is to go directly to the state capitol to make your voices heard. This can involve meeting with representatives, showing up to rallies, or testifying about a bill in front of a committee. Most people have difficulty finding time for this kind of work. However, legislators get much of their information from well-informed lobbyists and, remember, you are a lobbyist too! If you are interested in learning how to be a citizen lobbyist, I encourage you to sign up and attend this year’s annual conference. It’s on April 22 and features a session that will give you some tools to get started.