Good advice for state legislators

I was down at the capitol today for the Iowa Environmental Council’s annual “lobby day.” I am active with several groups that had tables there.

If you’ve never attended one of these events, I highly recommend the experience. It is easy to introduce yourself to legislators and talk about your group or the policies you’re supporting.

Some organizations, such as the Iowa Policy Project, had detailed reports to hand out today. Those are quite useful, and I hope they find a receptive audience at the statehouse, but you don’t always need that much detail for a conversation with a state representative or senator.

It helps to have a concise document (a page or two) making your case for specific policies or bills. These “wish lists” are not only for legislators, but also for anyone who wants to know more about your group.

The Iowa Environmental Council’s press release sums up the key points of that organization’s message today:

February 10, 2009

Iowa Environmental Council Asks Legislators for Burn Ban, More Energy Efficiency Programs

DES MOINES – Advocates for clean water and air, clean renewable energy, and sustainable funding for natural resources filled the Statehouse rotunda today to offer lawmakers suggestions for protecting Iowa’s precious natural resources in lean economic times.

Marian Riggs Gelb, executive director for the Iowa Environmental Council, encouraged legislators to act quickly to support policy options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as outlined in a recent report by the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council. Gelb, who served on the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council, stressed that the energy efficiency project options provide significant cost savings to energy consumers and expand upon the programs already provided by utilities. Another option Gelb pointed to in the report was land use planning that incorporates sustainable community design and reduces vehicle miles traveled and expanded passenger rail and transit choices.

Gelb also called for legislators to request a new comprehensive state water plan and accurate, up-to-date floodplain maps from the Department of Natural Resources.

“We need a better understanding of the hydrology of our state. The last time the state made a comprehensive assessment of its water resources was 1978,” said Gelb.

Amy Broadmoore, the Council’s air quality program director, said the Council supports proposed legislation that would enact a statewide ban on burning within city limits.

“Asthma, bronchitis and heart attacks are all linked to high levels of fine particulate matter concentrations. These concentrations, in much of Eastern Iowa, are near to or exceeding the Clean Air Act’s standards. A burn ban would help protect Iowans, especially young children and the elderly,” said Broadmoore.

Other speakers included Representative Paul Bell, from Newton, and Senator David Johnson, from Ocheyedan. Like Gelb, they called for legislators to pass the measure currently eligible for debate by the Iowa House and Senate, which would allow Iowans to vote, in 2010, on a constitutionally protected trust fund for programs to protect and enhance Iowa’s natural areas, farmland and sources of drinking water. Gelb noted that Iowa ranks near the bottom in spending for protection of its natural resources.

Iowa Environmental Council member organizations and partners represented at the Statehouse today included 1000 Friends of Iowa; American Institute of Architects-Iowa Chapter; Center for Energy and Environmental Education; Iowa Conservation Education Coalition; Iowa Farmers Union; Iowa Global Warming; Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation; Iowa Policy Project; Iowa Renewable Energy Association; Iowa Rivers Revival; Raccoon River Watershed Association; Trees Forever; University Hygienic Lab; Women, Food and Agriculture Network.


This is a great “wish list” because it advocates for both specific policies that would improve air and water quality as well as broader recommendations of the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council.

If you want to receive updates and action alerts from the Iowa Environmental Council during the legislative session, click here to sign up for their I-CALL list.

Please share your experiences lobbying state, local or federal officials in this thread.

  • You Lobbied Today???

    And you’re out already??  Did you post bond, or were you cited and released? I find that when I do any kind of lobbying at the Iowa Statehouse, the State Troopers there invariably book me into Polk County, and I don’t get out until I make an initial court appearance the next morning.  

  • Ok, I'll share

    A couple of my best lobbying stories.

    One time a bunch of us set up a meeting with Rep. Boswell to lobby for a change in his voting policies re the Iraq War.

    All we could get out of him was that he was on the House Select Intelligence Comittee, and if we knew what he knew, well! And HE got to go to meetings at the White House to be debriefed in person. After folks spent a bit trying to get him to open to any specifics, I tried to change tack a bit.  I mentioned that I understood how much moral courage it takes to buck the prevailing system, and old Leonard went off on me.  His face turned beet red and he started yelling, “COURAGE? COURAGE? How DARE you lecture ME about courage!!!” For all the world he sounded just like the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz.  It didn’t help that he had all of his medals for courageous military service plastered all over the walls of his office. At that point I kind of lost my temper as well, and flared back, “Fine, you’re just content to be a mushroom, then?” (Mushroom being Military Intelligence parlance for “kept in the dark and fed shit”)  It kind of got personal after that and does not bear repeating here…

    Another fun lobbying session involved me having received notice that I was on a Department of Defense Intelligence report, listed as being a “Credible Threat to National Security”. I guess that was for lobbying so intensely and often back in those dark days of the Bush regime. I wanted answers from Grassley’s folks, and was forwarded to an office adjacent to the Hart Senate office building.  By the time I arrived at that office, the folks were long gone, just a steaming cup of coffee sitting on a desk suggesting perhaps that I had missed them by mere moments.  I asked a secretary where the legislative aides had gone and she said that they were in a session of the Senate Judiciary Comittee.  I finally found where they hold the Senate Judiciary Comittee meetings, and tried to proceed through the door. A young earnest intern type stopped me and explained that I couldn’t go in, it was a closed session.  I asked if he could go in to get Senator Grassley’s legislative aides, as I had some business I wished to discuss with them immediately.  The intern asked what kind of business I had and I explained that I wanted to know why exactly in the hell I found myself listed in a Department of Defense Intelligence Report as a “Credible Threat To National Security”, and I wanted to know exactly why valuable tax payer dollars were being wasted following people like me around when there are actual and viable threats to national security.  I guess I must have attracted a bit of attention by then, because a familiar looking and kindly older gentleman came up to me and asked if he had heard me correctly. I explained that indeed he had, and asked if he could help me find Senator Grassley’s legislative aides. He asked if he could have a copy of the report in question, and I handed it to him.  He then told me, “I’m actually quite interested to know why the DoD is doing this myself.  I’ll make sure this comes to the attention of the comittee today, at this session. I can do that,” he added, “Since I am the chairman of this comittee. Thank you very much for taking the time to come to Washington to bring this to our attention.”  At which point I said, “And thank you for YOUR time, Senator Hatch.”  

    • did Orrin Hatch follow through?

      Interesting story.

      Incidentally, another person told me about that meeting in Boswell’s office years ago–his or her account is consistent with yours.

      • That's why I bothered to post it

        here, I recall you asking me about that experience. Aaawww, the good old days of Ashcroft and Rummie.  At least you knew who the bad guys were back in them days…

        You know, I did receive a letter from Hatch’s and Harkin’s offices when the DoD decided to “purge” the TALON intelligence database of all the activist names that had “accidentally” been placed on that list.  

        For all of you out there in blogland, yes, one determined and persistent person CAN get access to elected officials (with the exception of anybody in the Bush administration, of course) and make a difference.  Lobby with your body, it’s the American way. And trust me, it’s a whole lot cheaper to pay fines due to risking arrest to speak truth to power, than to hire somebody off of K Street to represent your interests.  

        • I was listening to Senator Patrick Leahy

          give a speech you can hear if you go sign his petition to create a truth commission for investigating Bush administration crimes:


          He talks about complaining to the DoD about their investigations of Quakers in Vermont protesting the war. Why are you wasting your time with that? he wanted to know.

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