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A Genealogist's Call to Legislative Action - FGS Wiki

A Genealogist's Call to Legislative Action


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[[Category:Strategies for Societies]][[Category:King, Roberta "Bobbi"]][[Category:Advocacy]][[Category:Education]]
+
== INTRODUCTION ==
 +
 
 +
The recent years’ economic downturn has had an
 +
equally deleterious effect on public services. City,
 +
county, and state governments have cut back on
 +
services, most notably, the libraries and archives
 +
centers. These repositories and services directly
 +
affect the genealogists. It behooves the genealogical
 +
community to be knowledgeable about the local
 +
political inclinations toward cutbacks on public
 +
services, keep a tab on local representatives, attend
 +
local town meetings, and keep track of legislative
 +
activities in order to avoid last-minute surprises
 +
when it’s too late to counteract undesirable acts.
 +
 
 +
This paper outlines the experience of the Colorado
 +
genealogists in garnering the interest of the
 +
genealogical community for monitoring legislative
 +
activities.
 +
 
 +
 
 +
== GETTING ORGANIZED ==
 +
 
 +
It’s helpful to have an established group sponsor the
 +
original idea and beginning organizational activities.
 +
One society as a sponsoring society should be the
 +
springboard of activities. The individuals who
 +
are spearheading the movement will organize the
 +
steering committee.
 +
 
 +
'''Steering Committee'''
 +
 
 +
The primary organizers will get together and form
 +
a steering committee composed of a core group
 +
of interested and committed members. They will plan ahead: set the next meeting dates, formulate the
 +
mission statement, formulate the goals, outline the
 +
activities with deadline dates, and generally lay out a
 +
plan.
 +
 
 +
'''Organizational Meeting'''
 +
The steering committee will organize and put out a
 +
public call for all interested genealogists to attend an
 +
organizational meeting for the purpose of organizing
 +
persons interested in legislative activities to gather
 +
and plan.
 +
 
 +
At this meeting, interested genealogists will pledge
 +
to join the activist purposes of the group.
 +
 
 +
'''Invite a Legislator'''
 +
This first meeting is the best time to invite a
 +
legislator to address the group.
 +
At this initial meeting, understanding, from the
 +
beginning, how a legislator thinks, how a legislator
 +
listens to constituents, and how the legislative
 +
process works will get the effort off to the most
 +
effective start.
 +
 
 +
A member of the steering committee would be
 +
the best person to determine the choice of whom
 +
to invite. Most likely a member of your steering
 +
committee already is personally acquainted with a
 +
legislator, and feels comfortable making the phone
 +
call, emailing a request, or personally asking the legislator to come to speak to the group.
 +
Explain to the legislator the group’s purpose and
 +
what they want to learn from the guest. Most
 +
importantly, this might be the first time this
 +
legislator has heard the word “genealogist” and
 +
this will be the first time (of what will be many
 +
opportunities) to explain what a genealogist is to a
 +
lawmaker.
 +
 
 +
A legislator meets you and thinks, “this is a voter,
 +
I need to pay attention,” so when you point out
 +
that hundreds, maybe thousands, of genealogists
 +
live within the boundaries of his/her district, you
 +
immediately have a captive ear.
 +
 
 +
Now is your chance to explain what a genealogist
 +
is, and what the genealogists’ interests are in the
 +
local records. This legislator is going to meet you
 +
personally, talk to and listen to your group, and
 +
after the meeting, both parties will have formed an
 +
important relationship.
 +
 
 +
The committee needs to learn from the legislator
 +
his/her point of view, and learn the most effective
 +
modes of communication in bringing the
 +
genealogists’ concerns to the legislature.
 +
 
 +
Questions to the legislator might be:
 +
<ul>
 +
<li>“What is the most effective method of
 +
communication to you and your colleagues?”
 +
The answers might include a time frame of
 +
when to first email the legislator, whether
 +
handwritten letters might be more effective, if
 +
phone calls might be in order, and the best
 +
timing of communications in relation to a Lobby
 +
Day event.
 +
<li>“What information will capture a legislator’s
 +
attention?”
 +
</ul>
 +
 
 +
The answers will include the amount of information to give to the recipient, the salient points you want to get across, the timing of how much information to offer at a time, and the context of information that will gain a legislator’s (or the staff’s) attention. In these days of budgetary crisis, realizing that
 +
budget concerns are an overriding consideration
 +
to the congressional delegations will help you
 +
frame your expectations and wording of your press
 +
releases.
 +
 
 +
If your steering committee determines a course
 +
of action you’d like to present to a legislator for
 +
enactment, be mindful that couching the bill in terms
 +
of cost will determine its likely success or failure. Bills that require no cost will be considered with
 +
more seriousness than a bill that will incur costs.
 +
A costly measure might be the genealogists’ wish
 +
to build a new repository or upgrade an existing
 +
facility. These days, such an effort may be doomed.
 +
A measure such as “an act to open private cemeteries
 +
to public access” could be presented as a low cost/
 +
no cost measure and may well be considered with
 +
seriousness in your legislative community.
 +
The key point of this meeting between the legislator
 +
and the lobbyist genealogists is to learn about each
 +
other, come to an understanding of both sides’
 +
points of view, and undertake a cooperative effort to
 +
achieve the goals of both entities.
 +
 
 +
'''Match Talent to the Task'''
 +
The organizational meeting is the time to match
 +
talent to task. Individuals can offer to work in their main areas of
 +
interest and talent, such as writing versus meeting
 +
people, emailing versus writing, and monitoring
 +
legislative activities from home versus public
 +
speaking.
 +
 
 +
There are a varied number of tasks that need to be
 +
done:
 +
<ul>
 +
<li>'''Publicity:''' in an immediate timeframe, getting the
 +
word out to local and regional groups to recruit
 +
more volunteers for the tasks ahead would be a
 +
role for the publicity people. This would include
 +
sending write-ups to local society newsletters,
 +
emailing notifications of the formation of the
 +
task force to area genealogists, and generally
 +
publicizing the purposes of the group and the
 +
need for more volunteers.
 +
<li>'''Writing:''' creative writers can volunteer to write the press releases to be sent to the publicity
 +
committee. Writers can create the email
 +
releases to go out, and compose the mission
 +
statement of the group for inclusion on
 +
stationery letterhead.
 +
<li>'''Legislative monitors:''' genealogists who wish to
 +
participate in the legislative contact activities
 +
can be of use here. This group will compile a
 +
list of all the legislators, their party affiliations,
 +
their mail addresses, their email addresses,
 +
their legislative district boundaries, and web
 +
page addresses. Members within this group can
 +
subdivide the work into their areas of interest.
 +
It’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet-style list
 +
of the members of the legislature.
 +
</ul>
 +
An important determination will be to select
 +
the person who will be the point person for
 +
monitoring the daily legislative activities during
 +
the session. Commonly, the Internet is the source
 +
of information on the daily activities of the
 +
congressional groups at the web page of the state
 +
government.
 +
 
 +
One person could monitor the Senate, another
 +
person could monitor the House. These monitors
 +
will review the bills as they are introduced,
 +
keeping an eye out for bills containing provisions
 +
which would impact genealogical records.
 +
Bills of concern to genealogists would include
 +
those that reduce research hours in a repository,
 +
close a repository, transfer records to another
 +
location, or otherwise limit access to a set of
 +
records by way of restricting the public access by
 +
requiring increased restrictive permissions or more
 +
stringent credentials.
 +
 
 +
Bills that dramatically alter the situation of a
 +
particular repository or set of records would
 +
certainly warrant drastic action, so a quick and
 +
strong response would be imperative. The monitors
 +
really need to be on their toes and commit to daily
 +
reviews of the introduced bills.
 +
 
 +
'''Talking Points'''
 +
You want to develop the important points you want
 +
to convey to the legislators by creating a ‘talking
 +
points’ style of script for volunteers to become
 +
familiar with.
 +
 
 +
Determine the three or four most important items
 +
of concern in your genealogical community, and
 +
develop two-sentence scripts using the active voice,
 +
straight to the point and clearly stated.
 +
For example, you might be considering the adverse
 +
ramifications of anticipated reduced closure hours of
 +
the library. A wordy, passive voice would read: “The
 +
genealogists of the city of _____ would like the
 +
legislative committee to know that the diminished
 +
hours for access to the library would be detrimental
 +
to our interest.” Instead, formulate an assertive, but
 +
polite, “Thousands of local genealogists oppose
 +
restricting library hours. The evening and weekend
 +
hours of research in the census, city directories, and
 +
newspaper archives are indispensable to our work.”
 +
 
 +
'''Assertive but Polite'''
 +
Be proud of your work and challenge your creative
 +
writers to express your concerns and wishes
 +
in strong, active-voice language with succinct
 +
sentences without being offensive, over-bearing
 +
or judgmental. The legislators are doing their jobs
 +
too, and you may not feel as if you’ve won any
 +
concessions in any of your arguments, but there
 +
will be another day to protect your interests, and
 +
by introducing yourselves, and creating bridges of
 +
communication and cooperation, the journey will be
 +
easier at the next go-round.
 +
 
 +
'''Lobby Day at the Capitol'''
 +
In Colorado, lobby interest groups can schedule a
 +
day dedicated to their opportunities. Senior citizen
 +
groups do this each year, and the genealogists can
 +
do this too.
 +
 
 +
It’s a good idea to meet at the beginning of the
 +
appointed day, before going out onto the capitol
 +
floors.
 +
 
 +
There are bound to be folks who had promised to
 +
appear and help, but who don’t show up. You may
 +
need to reassign some tasks. Make sure there are
 +
plenty of handouts. Review the assigned tasks and
 +
the routes of visitation, and make sure everyone is
 +
in concert as to the general points and wording of
 +
introductions.
 +
 
 +
Use the capitol maps and assign routes to specific
 +
people. You don’t want to appear foolish when
 +
one team introduces themselves in a legislator’s
 +
staff and another team appears to repeat the same
 +
essential conversation. The genealogists will appear
 +
disorganized.
 +
 
 +
You’re bound to come across legislators or staff who
 +
do know genealogy. This is your chance to maximize
 +
the oppportunity to establish a bond and thread of
 +
conversation that establishes familiarity and good
 +
relations.
 +
 
 +
After rounds have been made and the tasks completed,
 +
gather the team for a brief debriefing. Identify the
 +
offices which seemed especially receptive to the
 +
teams. Write down the names of strong contact
 +
possibilities while the conversations are fresh in
 +
everyone’s minds.
 +
 +
After the Lobby Day, gather the team for a debriefing
 +
to review the mistakes, the successes, and outline a
 +
plan for next year.
 +
 
 +
It’s interesting and beneficial to get to know the
 +
congressional representatives who are in a position
 +
to pass laws that may close or not close the doors to
 +
genealogical records.
 +
 
 +
Make friends at the capitol this year, and continue to
 +
lobby your interests and when the time comes when
 +
you need your voices to be heard, they will be.

Latest revision as of 07:49, 30 August 2013

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