New handbook shows Alaskans how to lobby lawmakers
In their next session, state lawmakers will be making decisions about things near and dear to all of us — like the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend and budget cuts. If you want them to know exactly where you stand on those issues, one expert recommends you reach out now before they head back to Juneau.
"If you start working on your issue during the session, you're just not going to get anywhere because people are busy," said Clive Thomas, a professor of political science for several decades.
In his new book "How to Lobby Alaska State Government," Thomas talks about the do's and don'ts of citizen lobbying. Most important, he says, is establishing a relationship. He recommends starting with a phone call.
"People tend to think of legislators as one big block of 60 people. They're all different like you and me. They have likes, they have dislikes. They have things they want to push, things they're opposed to," said Thomas. "You've really got to understand the individual legislators and understand where they're coming from."
A big don't, Thomas says, is falling in love with your issue.
"Some people are very passionate about their issue, and that's good. But they somehow believe that no one could disagree with them, and they want the whole issue. Well, politics is about compromise," Thomas said. "It's like falling in love with someone, sometimes you lose your judgement."
Perhaps the most power we have as individuals, Thomas says, is sharing our story by explaining how a particular issue affects us personally.
"Legislators like to hear first-hand accounts of what peoples' experience is," Thomas said.
Thomas also recommends doing your homework — study up on the political process, how the three branches of government operate and make sure you know who your representatives are.
In a live, on-air poll Wednesday, Daybreak asked viewers whether they know who their state representatives are, more than half of the respondents said "yes."
The Legislature's next session is slated to start in January.
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