Lambert teaches citizens to be lobbyists for the people
by Jeff Switzer
Citizens need to be involved to counteract lobbyists, combat entrenched bureaucrats, and serve as the institutional memory when term limits kick in, Rep. Kathy Lambert told a group of area residents last week.
Rep. Lambert taught 41 would-be lobbyists the ins and outs of life in Olympia, giving them the tools they need if they have concerns about pending legislation or want to be heard.
"You are needed in Olympia," she told them. "It's very important that the voice of the people is there."
The group was guided through how bills start, how to interpret the various headings, and how to inform legislators if you like or don't like a bill. "We want to deal with real people with real problems that we can fix," she said.
Lambert says that the lobbyists and bureaucrats have become too powerful and believe they run the show. She believes that the more people become involved in the process, the more the laws will reflect the needs of the people and not special interests.
"I've heard some lobbyists say they plan to wait for two years because then term limits starts and then 'we'll get what we want from the freshmen,'" Lambert related. "The unintended consequences are not going to be good."
Lambert said that once the experienced lawmakers have left Olympia, it is up to the citizenry to provide institutional knowledge. She noted that a legislator who has been around longer would be able to recognize problem-solving legislation which may have not worked in the past.
Lambert outlined the different methods for learning about bills, including navigating bill books and legislative meeting schedules, and she touched on using the Internet. She also drew a map of the campus in Olympia, including where to park and what each building housed.
Kent resident Marla Kirkwood said the best piece of information she learned from the class was to call the bill's prime sponsor rather than her representative if she has concerns. "There was a lot of meaty information about how to be effective and who to call," she said.
Kirkland resident Kurt Wharton said a bill's process is tricky to navigate as a citizen, but learned good tips on what to do to get involved. "This type of information is valuable to people and I'm very grateful for her taking the time and making us more effective. (Lambert) gave good examples of what to expect, good working knowledge," he said.
"The time for ideas is now, not January," Lambert said, noting how her schedule is filling up with pre-session conventions and meetings with committees. "If you have any expertise, please let your legislator know."
Lambert was very excited about how many people attended the session and added that she hopes to have another class in the future for those who had expressed an interest but could not attend.
How to write a useful letter
According to Lambert, the best way to write a letter is to:
More useful than a letter is a call to the legislative hotline following similar advice as for a letter. All of the legislators check their messages from there and callers can leave the names of multiple recipients. The number is toll-free at 1-800-562-6000.
- Be direct--the more direct, the better.
- Be concise.
- Be specific, including the bill number, section, line, reason, and suggestion.
- Include a phone number and how late to call.
- Ask for a response if you want one.
- Be polite. Views differ and political realities and the story behind the story are sometimes not known by all.