By J. Matt Lea, City Lobbyist to the Tennessee General Assembly, Special Assistant to the Mayor, Office of Mayor Ron Littlefield
With January’s arrival, there are more things for you and your feathered friends to do than just try to follow through with your New Year’s resolutions. In most states, January marks the beginning of the legislative session, and state legislators throughout the United States slowly start to make their way to their respective state capitols for what will be the beginning of a long four to six months of stress, committee meetings, and headaches.
Exercise your right as a citizen of a democracy and let your voice be heard through lobbying.
Most state legislatures convene around the fourth week of January, and possible legislation topics start flowing in from constituents, businesses, special interest groups and other government entities. This is the time when the main lobbying season begins.
What Do Lobbyists Do?
Lobbyists are, by definition, individuals who meet with elected officials to try to influence them in favor of a specific cause or effort, generally pertaining to their client. Usually, lobbyists are lawyers or professionals by trade and paid by a specific organization to represent its interests on its behalf.
However, anyone can be a lobbyist. Any person concerned about an issue has the right to make his or her feelings known to elected officials. To find the specific requirements to lobby, simply contact your state legislators office.
Why Lobby for parrots?
As parrot owners and enthusiasts, we already realize we represent a small population in the larger world of typical cat and dog ownership. Because we are such a small, population, we must keep up with legislation that could affect our feathered companions.
At any time, a state legislature can make it illegal to own a specific animal by having just cause or, in some cases, a simple majority of both legislative houses. For instance, in Tennessee, it is illegal to own a quaker parrot, even though every state that surrounds Tennessee, with the exception of Georgia, allows them. If the Tennesse State Legislature were to pass a law making them legal, depending on how it was crafted, it is possible they could be either sold, bred, or both in that state. Some states allow you to own a specific parrot species, but not breed it for sale or vice versa.
To find out more about the legislative process, click here.
How to be an Effective Lobbyist
If there is legislation in your state that you feel you should actively pursue, either for or against, make your case quickly and effectively. The first thing to do is find the House bill and the Senate bill numbers. Visit your state legislature website and search under bill titles or indexes. Or call your representatives office and request the proper information.
Once you have the bill number, print copies of both bills. The website or office staff should be able to tell you where the bill is in the legislative process.
Once you have read the bill, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the bill accomplish what you think it should?
- Which parts of the bill are good and which parts are bad?
- How will it affect you and other members of your avian community?
Once you understand the legislation, meet with other people who have the same feelings you have, and compose a plan to fight either for or against the bill. Make sure everyone is on the same page with the issues at stake. Start a petition, a phone and letter campaign and, if needed, ask for outside assistance. Contact your local newspaper and/or media stations and ask them to do a story on how this negatively or positively affects you.
Petition and Letter Campaign
As a group, it is important for you and your supporters to write down your thoughts about why this legislation is good or bad. Always make it clear and concise, because most state legislators will have more than 3,000 bills per session to debate and discuss; their mail is usually read by staff members who put your information down into files either for or against. Have everyone you know legibly sign the petition. If your information does not make sense, is inaccurate or disrespectful, the petition and individual letters might not be taken seriously.