The POWER of Being a Citizen Lobbyist and Grassroots Lobbying
What is grassroots lobbying?
Lobbyist: Seeking to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of a politician or public official on an issue.
Lobbying encourages people to play an active role in their government and it’s protected by the First Amendment as our right “to petition the government.”
YOU can be a lobbyist! You have power in being a citizen lobbyist! It doesn’t matter how small or big your actions are – all steps matter!
How is grassroots lobbying different from traditional lobbying?
The term “lobbyist” harkens back to the days when people hung around in lobbies waiting to get a word in with legislators heading to vote.
There is nothing inherently wrong with lobbying, but in today’s world, words associated with lobbying or lobbyists like money, greed, and power, are incredibly negative because those who can’t afford to hire a lobbyist or make big campaign contributions used to be out of luck. But this is no longer the case.
(An image on the marble steps from THLN's 2023 Humane Lobby Day at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas)
How to Become a Citizen Lobbyist:
We are all lobbyists and we have been lobbying since we were kids. Perhaps you recall asking your parents to get you a dog or a cat when you were younger? This is a great example of lobbying!
You don’t have to be hired, professional, or a smooth-talking lobbyist know-it-all to participate in the legislative process. You are first and foremost a constituent who cares about the issue and your elected officials care what you think because YOU vote.
Just how powerful are citizens who lobby for animals?
Puppy mills, and people who commercially breed dogs and cats are lobbying for the continuation of commercial animal cruelty. Since the 2021 Legislative Session, Pet stores and breeders have had seven lobbyists. They are showing up to the Capitol, they are calling their legislators, and it is vital that we show up too. They are spending exorbitant amounts of money to fight our model of grassroots lobbying.
Does Lobbying Actually Work?
THLN has passed over 30 bills since 1975 AND we have killed many bad bills.
Sometimes, it can feel like an eternity when trying to lobby to pass a bill. We have many bills that have taken years to pass, a good example of this is the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which took over a decade to pass. By building a strong coalition to bring a policy goal to Texas, the wait is worth it.
We cannot pass our bills without our citizen lobbyists!
Why do we Lobby for Animals at the Texas Capitol?
Because Animal Laws MATTER!
Animal laws are important for many reasons:
Animal issues are non-partisan.
Republicans and Democrats both support animal welfare issues and common sense bills. It doesn’t matter if you are Republican or Democrat, our bills attract everyone from each side of the aisle. In some cases, it might be the only issue you agree upon with your elected official.
How to Pass Legislation in Texas
How do we pass humane Legislation?
Through YOU! Our coalitions and partnerships are built on strong, mutually respectful relationships with individuals, groups, and organizations across Texas.
- Junior Advocates
- THLN Ambassadors
- Local Area Chapter Networks
- Veterinarians, animal rescues, shelters, independent pet stores, animal disaster and response groups, animal law groups, and so many more!
Building Relationships at the Capitol
In order to be successful, you must work to develop relationships with your representatives and legislators.
There are three types of elected officials that represent you:
So there is a minimum of six people who represent you, but how do you find your elected officials?
How to Start Lobbying
"Hi Representative XXX – my name is XXX and I am a constituent in your district. I would like to be a resource when animal issues come up! Thank you!"
It is imperative that you do your research and that you work to become a resource for your representative to rely on regarding the issues you are passionate about, for us that is ANIMALS.
How to be Effective with Grassroots Lobbying
Here are some tips to ensure you develop an authentic relationship with your Representative.
Be polite and professional:
- Identify yourself and leave your contact information.
- If you are a constituent or represent an organization, be sure to say so.
- Bring multiple copies of materials for the legislator and staff to review.
Be a credible resource:
- Study the issue so you can confidently state the facts.
- Use a local angle to explain how a bill will impact the legislator’s district.
- Notify the legislator of any pending deadlines for making a decision.
Be respectful of the legislator’s time:
- Always show up on time for appointments and meetings.
- Be as brief as possible while including specifics. Keep letters to one page.
- Practice what you’ll say before meeting legislators, and always thank them for their time.
Be a friendly, familiar face:
- Stay connected with legislators year-round, not just during the legislative session.
- Get to know the staff, especially the staffer who handles animal welfare issues.
- Thank legislators for animal-friendly votes and invite them to celebrations, workshops, and other events.
- Realize that everyone thinks his or her issue is the most important one being considered.
- Prioritize issues. Decide from the start if an issue is worth risking a relationship with a legislator.
- Frame animal issues as nonpartisan, common-sense issues.
- Don’t be rude or threatening in any way. Rudeness will not help your cause.
- Don’t press for an answer on your first visit.
- Don’t assume legislators are crooked. With rare exceptions, they are honest, intelligent folks.
- Don’t distort the facts. Present your position honestly.
- Don’t guess at answers to legislator’s questions. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll find the information and get back to them as soon as possible.
- Don’t break a promise. If you tell a legislator, you will get back to them, and follow through.
- Don’t assume the legislator or staff has read or remembers something you sent.
- Don’t be offended if they forget who you are, even if it is just five minutes after your visit.
- Don’t send form letters.
- Don’t begin by saying, “As a citizen and taxpayer....”
- Don’t say, “I hope this gets by your secretary....”
- Don’t write to members of the House when the vote is in the Senate, and vice versa.
- Don’t complain or gossip about your legislator or their staff to others, especially on social media.
- Don’t blame legislators for all the things that go wrong in government.
Don’t become enemies when you disagree. Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally!
WEARING DOWN THE MARBLE STEPS!
Hundreds of thousands of people just like YOU helped us pass our landmark legislation at the Austin and federal Capitols since 1975. We are wearing down the steps at the capitol and those are your steps! YOU are changing the laws!