Last year, as part of the Sierra Club team, I took part in my very first Environmental Lobby Day in Springfield, Illinois. The purpose of the event was to discuss priority environmental legislation with state representatives and senators. It was an educational experience, which I blogged about here.
This past Thursday, I attended my second ELD. This year, the procedure was somewhat different than last year’s. Instead of being grouped with citizen lobbyists from a number of districts, I was teamed with several folks from my own district and an adjoining one. This greatly simplified our task, for instead of darting back and forth between the House and Senate buildings in efforts to track down as many legislators as possible, we just had to meet with three: our state representatives and our shared senator.
I arrived on Wednesday afternoon, and attended a reception-slash-training session that evening. This was important because we had six bills to discuss, including two recent additions that replaced bills that had not moved out of committee. Most of the other members of my team also attended, and we were able to meet afterwards and discuss our plans for the next day.
The next morning at 8:15, we arrived at the Stratton Office Building to track down our representatives. I learned from more experienced team members that 8-9am is the best time to find legislators in their offices. After that, they have left to attend committee meetings followed by legislative session, and while there is a system for calling them off the floor, there’s no guarantee that they will be able to get away. In addition, we weren’t the only visitors scrambling for their attention that day. Members of several unions and 4-H clubs were also present—by mid-morning, the Rotunda was noisy and crowded.
Well, we tried, but found our reps and senator were already in meetings by the time we arrived, which led to a lot of hiking from Stratton to the Senate Office Building and back again. At times, we wondered if we would be able to find anyone, but over the course of the morning we were able to meet with all our legislators. By the end of the morning, my pedometer app reported that I had walked almost three miles (including the 0.6 mile walk from the B&B where we stayed).
Meetings completed, I decided to skip lunch and the afternoon rally and head home since it’s nearly a 4-hour drive and I wanted to avoid the Chicago-area evening rush. The day was sunny and the weather pleasant. I was tired, but felt good about what we were able to accomplish. The bills we discussed could take several years to become law, assuming they don’t die in committee or get voted down. Patience is required. It’s a long game.