GT Dems Host Civic Engagement Workshop
Jon Hoadley is the member of the House of Representatives from Kalamazoo’s 60th district. As Rep. Hoadley says, he is the blue dot in the red sea of Western Michigan. This is his second term and he plans on running again before he is “term limited”. He is on several subcommittees for the Appropriations committee: Agriculture and Rural Development, Higher Education and Environmental Quality.
We spent most of our time looking at the Michigan Legislature page (www.legilature.mi.gov). He explained how to use the page to track our own legislators as well as any legislation in which you are interested. He did acknowledge that the best place to influence legislation is as it is being written, which is not a public process, before it is enrolled as a possible bill. To find out what is happening you need to watch the public interest groups involved such as an environmental group. They will know about bills as they are being developed.
The second-best time to influence bills is when the bill is assigned to committee. This is the
time when a committee chairman can move a bill along or simply never consider it. It can be embarrassing for a legislator to vote against a bill, and they will ask the chairman not to bring it up for hearings. Most committee meeting are recorded and currently are archived for 2 weeks. Rep. Hoadley said the video tapes can be powerful for explaining why some bills move forward and others do not.
We asked about calling a representative who is on a committee considering a bill that you are interested in but who is not your own representative. He said that they will refer you to your own representative, but they do pay attention to hearing from citizens of this state.
Anyone can attend committee meetings. Representative Hoadley stressed it is important that citizens attend and be ready to testify. If you do not want to speak, you can fill out a card and your testimony becomes part of the committee’s record. Speeches are limited to three minutes.
Representative Hoadley told us that you can register on state representative’s websites to receive news about what is happening. However, they cannot use these emails for fundraising or vigorous advocacy. A “little” politics is considered OK. He did recommend that you “follow” a representative on their Facebook page. It does not mean that you support their ideas but does inform you of them.
We also heard that Lansing legislators, politicians and lobbyists live in a “bubble”. Your story or your testimony to a committee helps to pierce that bubble and let them think about the real world of making ends meet and worrying about how to pay for health care. We need to keep reminding them that their decisions affect real people and their children.
One of Rep. Hoadley’s final comments sums up how many of us feel after the November elections, repealing and not replacing the ACA and Charlottesville. “When the dragons attack, they unleash the heroes”.
We want to thank Jon Hoadley for coming and helping us learn the skills to influence legislation and legislators. I also appreciate that he influenced how we should feel about our legislators. They are hard-working, principled and people we can be proud to have as our representatives.