Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Adventures in Lobbying #2


SANTA FE � In my previous column, Santa Fe lobbyist Gary Kilpatric and I described the possible adventures of a first-time citizen lobbyist at the New Mexico Legislature.
It was a somewhat worst-case scenario, but we wanted everyone to understand that it isn�t normally as smooth an operation as it is usually described.
Our mythical lobbyist arrived at the Capitol in a snow storm and had to park halfway to Espanola. When he finally got inside the Round House, all legislators were in party caucuses. From there they went straight to the floor for a joint session and then into committee hearings. And things didn�t go well with the one lawmaker our citizen-lobbyist was able to talk with on the way to the committee hearing.
Adventure #7. We join our lobbyist as the committee finally assembles, long after the scheduled time. The good news is that your bill is first on the agenda. Unfortunately, however, an influential legislator has prevailed on the committee chairman to put his little non-controversial bill on first. And it turns out to be 100 pages long.
Adventure #8. After sitting several hours as each line of the bill is read, analyzed, debated and amended, you just have to take a restroom break. That�s exactly when the vote is taken and the chairman announces your bill is next.
Adventure #9. As you begin to testify, you realize the room full of sweet, little old ladies you thought were showing their grandchildren through the Capitol are actually there to testify against your bill.
Adventure #10. As you continue your testimony, you notice members of the audience and members of the committee are continuously coming and going from the committee room, whispering among themselves and passing notes. Someone opens the door to the committee room, sees it is only you talking and leaves, letting the door slam loudly behind him.
Adventure #11. Your testimony is followed by that of a distinguished gentleman, whom the committee obviously respects. He states that the concept of your bill is great, but that because of technical problems he will have to strenuously oppose it.
Adventure #12. Then a committee member says he has a friendly little amendment � to strike all the language after the title.
Adventure #13. That amendment dies, but when it comes time to vote, some of the committee members supporting your bill leave the room for another meeting, while the committee members opposing your bill suddenly reappear.
Adventure #14. Miraculously, your bill passes and you head to the nearest watering hole to celebrate. But a few hours later someone informs you that your bill was reconsidered later and killed.
Adventure #15. You throw on your coat and run back to the Capitol, knowing full well that you shouldn�t have left your poor little bill alone with all those legislators and lobbyists. Once there you learn your bill was only tabled and you immediately begin organizing your supporters to pull the bill from the table when the right committee members are present.
Adventure #16. By this time, it is late at night and the committee decides to adjourn. You�ve done what you can for the day and you didn�t plan to stay tomorrow. But you must. You never realized how long and hard legislators work and how many people are at the Capitol trying to get their ear, just as you are.
Adventure #17. You learn that no matter what happens to your bill tomorrow, there still are ways to try to revive it. The process is never easy, but for those willing to work hard, it can be successful. It also is fun and energizing to see democracy in action.
All of this will never happen to you in one day, the good or the bad. But the process of legislating and lobbying is grueling. Sometimes it is compared to flying an airplane � hours of boredom, punctuated by minutes of sheer terror. But we need people who enjoy doing it.


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