What Really Makes a Difference in Tallahassee?
State lawmakers are entering the second half of the legislative session and watching protests almost every single day. But are those rallies more show than substance? What do experts say makes the difference?
The goal is to influence lawmakers and the policies they put in place. But which methods really work? And is the deck stacked against grass root movements?
UF Political Science Professor Daniel Smith said, "So if you have to wear a name tag and hang out on the fourth floor where the lobby is in the state capitol, you're probably not going to be very effective."
Smith says if you haven't been doing your homework, it's probably too late. Because even though protests, rallies, and lobbying can bring valuable attention to your issue...the opportunity to influence policy has already come and gone. He said, "For those folks who are going up and lobbying now, it's more for show. There's gonna be very little likelihood that they're going to be able to modify any of the existing legislation."
Smith says the agenda is set long before the session begins. To be effective, you have to build relationships early. Along with the other professional lobbyists at work year round in the capitol.
Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Chair Thomas Mcintosh says that's exactly what the chamber did, before taking 20 members up to meet with local representatives during session. He said, "It's a good thing. people deal with people. And that's just one of the truisms of life." McIntosh says this last push is only to reinforce what they've been working on non stop.
Alachua County Education Association teachers union President Karen McCann has also been working for months. Making the trip to Tallahassee last week, along with other state workers.
McCann says a face to face meeting holds representatives accountable for their vote. She said, "Our legislators need to remember that they're elected. They're in elected positions and they're responsible to the people who vote for them."
Smith says protests that don't make a difference this session could have an impact come the next election. He said, "There's an incredible amount of activity and excitement both in favor of the policies and against the policies that are being pushed through the Florida legislature."
Karen McCann said that while Republican Senator Steve Oelrich has listened to them, voting against pension reform. They expect Republican Representative Keith Perry will vote along party lines.
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