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Legislative Advocacy

Legislative lobbying means telling your stories 
to elected officials to help shape public policy

Legislative bodies (Congress, General Assembly, City Councils) do two kinds of work
  • Authorizing is what we normally think of as passing laws.  Passing the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law was an example of authorizing--creating the authority for government (courts, local governments) to handle landlord tenant relations. 
  • Spending public funds is the other legislative obligation.  Once a bill becomes a law, the legislature may spend public funds to give "teeth" to the law.  Example: Congress may appropriate funds to spend on fair housing enforcement under the provisions of the Fair Housing Act.
But's not that simple. 
  • Authorization is a long process which involves writing a bill, holding hearings in committees and voting by both chambers of the legislative body (eg.  US House of Reps and US Senate) before it is sent to the Chief Executive for a signature.
  • Spending Money is another long process that involves both budget (an overall plan for spending levels) and an appropriation (the actual amounts being spent). 
    • In Ohio budget and appropriations are handled in a single bill (the budget bill) which is proposed by the Governor in odd-number years.   Lately in even numbered years the Governors have asked the General Assembly to enact "budget revisions.:
    • Tom Suddes--an expert on Ohio politics says:
      "A budget really is a lie detector. What officeholders (of any party) say is one thing, but what they actually want to do? That's a budget. For instance, Sen. Gasbag or Rep. Blowhard may claim he or she is for, say, strong environmental protection. But if a budget doesn't adequately fund it, that's a lie. Likewise, conservative tub-thumpers may yammer on about personal freedom, the blessings of liberty, etc.
    • At the National (Federal) level, the Congress receives the President's Budget in early February of each year, debates and passes it's own version of the budget and then enacts 12 appropriations bills to direct expenditures through Federal Offices (like HUD).
Beware of the end of session rush

     Legislators took advantage of the closing day of the current Session of the General Assembly to load up special interest amendments on a bill that was designed to regulate foreclosure procedures. Columbus Dispatch reports: "House Bill 463 contained a laundry list of laws-to-be, but most attention focused on providing treatment for autism patients and a change in attorneys fees and damages accompanying housing discrimination cases before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission." 
     Democrats were split because they supported the autism changes and opposed the fair housing amendments. Last minute efforts by housing advocates to strip out the fair housing amendments were unsuccessful, even though advocates mounted a successful opposition to these same provisions last year when testimony was permitted. 
      End of the session bills that get loaded down with unrelated amendments are called "Christmas Trees." It's enough to make you say Bah Humbug.
      One bright spot: tenants' right to fly the Stars and Stripes was affirmed as an amendment to the bill. 
more on the flag bill here (page down to 9/15/2015)
posted December 10, 2016

 Advocating in Columbus: How to get my voice heard.
Let's suppose you are a victim of utility reselling, how can you share your story with your elected representatives in Columbus?  Here's some suggestions
1.  Contact your representative.  You can find your representatives by visiting Advocates for Ohio's Future or calling your local County Board of Elections.  At the state level you have a representative in the State House and a representative in the State Senate. 
2.  Tell your story through the news.  Sad to say that many state officials pay more attention to the newspapers than they do to letters or emails from constituents.  Here's a way to find local media contacts. 
3.  Join with other advocates. 
A good personal story ("This happened to me") can open the door to a legislator...but you still need the facts (data) to support your request.

Who are the legislators?
Getting elected to Congress is a fast track to the DC lobbying business
Why does this matter to you?  Well, one of the best things I learned in social work school was that politicians are mostly like the rest of the population--looking for the next job.  Sometimes that not in elected office.  A mentor then (Anschel Weiss) asked me:  "What would these councilpeople be doing if they weren't elected?  Elected office is career development."  If you keep that in mind, then maybe lobbying the "electeds" becomes a little less intimidating.  Think of them as businesspeople on the make.
Why is this a RHINO concern? RHINO priority 1 calls upon the network to protect tenants rights in GA, Congress.  Part of the workplan is to educate RHINO members (the action arm of RHINO) about how government works.

Taking your housing issues to the Hill
"Representative Michael Turner created the “Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act” as a direct result of meeting with Ohio foster care youth during their annual Three Days on the Hill trips to Washington, D.C."

Who are the Staffers?
Most of the time, know it or not, you will  be dealing with a legislative staff person who listens to your concerns, responds on behalf of the member, keeps the member informed about what she/he is hearing, and can help schedule appointments.  Most are NOT familiar with the member's local community.  Helping your staffer understand your local reality and your organization will be helpful in sending a message to your elected representative.  Hint-get to know a staffer.

Who are the voters?
pew study of participation

Who are the lobbyists?
citizen groups

Notes & Links

Lobbying Do's and Don't s
(appended at bottom of this page)

Spencer Wells,
Jul 19, 2014, 7:28 AM