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Two weeks ago, Joannie invited me to attend the Leg 101 Workshop, and I had my doubts. After all, the material to be covered was just a review of what I learned in Public Policy and Politics class, right? Nope. Far from it. Thankfully, my insatiable appetite of learning and grasping concepts from other perspectives got the best of me, and I attended.
What did I learn? A lot. For one thing, attendees were given an overview (or review, depending on how you familiar you were with it) of the Capitol http://capitol.hawaii.gov website, and the useful Public Access Room page http://hawaii.gov/lrb/par/ .An enhancement to the capitol.hawaii.gov website that everyone learned about was the ability to sign-up for hearing alerts! By visiting the Sign-up page http://capitol.hawaii.gov/signup/ , anyone can receive email notices of when their bill of interest gets scheduled for a hearing. This snazzy new feature is a great step-up in simplifying the bill-tracking process for community members.
What made this workshop unique was its angle. Attendees weren't given an in-depth look at the predictable "how-a-bill-is made" lesson, or what goes on in the Leg process (5 minutes max was spent on this, but we did walk away with helpful handouts to read at our leisure). Instead, this workshop focused on how to maximize your resources and time in order to get your voice heard.
Rep. Maile Shimabukuro and Sen. Les Ihara, Jr. gave a few pointers on how to write an effective testimony:
1. Personalizing is key!:
--As much as possible, defer from using pre-drafted templates. A personalized testimony will receive more attention because it stands out.
2. Include your mailing address:
--The significance of where you live is relevant to the district the legislature represents.
3. Share true and real stories:
--This makes a testimony more compelling: Why should this bill be passed,defeated, or amended? What are the consequences?
Jeff Mikulina contributed a few pragmatic words of advice:
1. If you're explaining, you're losing!
--Don't explain, tell a story (but make sure it's concise, because legislatures are short on time and attention-span!)
2. "Pursue the persuadables":
--Need more people to have your back and support you? Aim to those who are undecided or in the middle. They are much easier to influence than someone who is hard-headed and already heavily-opinionated.
"How to appeal to your legislature" was the underlying theme of this workshop, and was highlighted by Kapua Sproat sharing her "10 Tips for Impact":
1. Familiarize yourself with the capitol.hawaii.gov website:
--learn bills, their companion bills, and committees it was referred to.
2. Learn legislative process:
--The key to getting your voice heard and pushing your agenda is in the timing of the leg. process.
3. Do your research!:
--Learn both sides of the issue. Who is working on it, how long its been around, and how many revisions has been made to it.
4. Have an informed base of supportive people:
5. Make it easy for people to support you:
--Create action alerts; attach the bill's hyperlink to the email, create talking points and testimony templates, have multiple copies.
--When reaching out to people, keep it as SIMPLE as possible, and EMPHASIZE the need.
--Basically, the simpler and easier you make it for the people you're reaching out to, the more likely they will be to get involved and support you.
6. Be CLEAR and concise:
--Keep your testimony to 1 page or less.
--Address 3 key points: why the issue/bill is important, why it should be supported, what will happen if it isn't.
7. Get started early:
--Do your homework and start the fall or summer before leg. session.
--Ensure your testimonies are in by 24 hours before the hearing.
8."Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer":
--Know the pending bills and measure that could affect yours.
--Know both sides of the story!
9. Make personal connections:
--Take initiative to meet with the legislatures and committee members of your bill.
--When you meet with the legislatures, remember to ask them HOW YOU CAN HELP.
10. Respect and give:
--Focus on the issue, and not the individuals (i.e., legislatures).
...A great workshop for the island-style activism that Kanu Hawaii encourages (:
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