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Legislative Getting Started

 Grassroots Lobbying: The Path to Political Power
Or Why you should become a “Legislative Warrior”

What do you think of when someone mentions lobbying the government, many think lobbying is something other people do — people who wear fancy clothes and buy politicians lunch at expensive restaurants. But lobbying, or more simply trying to influence those who make policies that affect our lives, is something anyone can do. And it is something we should do if we expect to keep our legislators informed about our issues. In order to be true representatives of the people, legislators need to know the thinking of their constituents on those issues upon which decisions will be made and the facts on which such thinking and conclusions are based. You can help ensure good legislation on state and national levels by communicating with your elected representative. The right to lobby is as old as the U.S. Constitution and is protected in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights which reads, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the right of the people … to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Lobbying has become an essential component of any successful SMRO program and, in fact, plays an essential role in the legislative process. Motorcyclists have a direct interest in legislation considered by Congress or the Florida Legislators. We make our interests known by electing motorcycle-friendly senators and representatives and by lobbying for or against specific legislation … a right guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Since Florida law prevents persons from lobbying legislators that they are not constituents of, ABATE of Florida, hired a registered lobbyist to spearhead our lobbying efforts.

Elected officials are particularly attentive to facts and viewpoints provided by their constituents. That’s why citizens, special-interest groups and corporate America have emerged as the most effective groups to seek to influence lawmakers’ decisions. Lobbyists have been at work from the earliest days of the Congress and lobbying has become the means by which wealthy and powerful interest groups have influenced decision-making in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures. Today thousands of lobbyists representing special-interest groups as varied as disabled veterans, children’s television, multinational corporations, workers’ rights and child welfare groups are a major force in government decision-making. Most estimates place the number of lobbyists in Washington, D.C., at close to 20,000; that’s more than 35 lobbyists for each of the 535 members of Congress. When political action committee money is counted, millions upon millions of dollars are spent on each Congress to influence federal legislation. States are seeing similar increases in lobbying.

Historically the motorcycle community has come under attack by state and federal laws that treat motorcyclists unfairly. Lobbying, therefore, for legislation favorable to motorcyclists becomes even more crucial. As a flood of bills intended to restrict the rights and protections of motorcyclists are introduced at the opening of each congressional session and state legislature, the critical job of lobbying becomes top priority once again. Citizens’ lobbyists are seen as a way of countering the power and influence of multinational and anti-motorcycle forces, and have emerged as a deciding factor in many legislative battles at all levels of government.

Motorcyclists make the best lobbyists to assure accountability because it is the motorcyclists whose votes put a legislator in office. Even motorcycle-friendly candidates need to hear the views on issues that impact motorcyclists. Two other factors come into play when motorcyclists lobby their representatives: The representative is kept informed of the motorcyclist’s point of view and legislators know their actions are being monitored closely by the folks back home.

Grassroots lobbying can involve a letter-writing or telephone campaign; it can mean visiting your representatives in person at their offices. Modern technology has given motorcyclists an opportunity to lobby via the Internet. Many lawmakers can now be reached through this method, and this is an ideal way to lobby when time is of the essence and many members must be reached quickly. While modern technology offers new ways to lobby, nothing can beat the time-tested way of visiting lawmakers at their office.

Why lobby?

  • Because you have a powerful voice that can be used to confer benefits on motorcyclists.
  • Because you and fellow motorcyclists can make a difference.
  • Because you have the power to change laws.
  • Because lobbying is a democratic tradition.

Lobbying can help find solutions we would not have thought of otherwise. Lobbying is easy when we work together in a committed effort to protect the welfare and security of all motorcyclists. Lobbying can determine an outcome favorable to motorcyclists. Even when politicians are hostile to the motorcyclists’ point of view, pressure through lobbying from their constituents may prevent them from taking an active role against a motorcycle friendly bill.

Every year, hundreds of ABATE of Florida, Inc. members converge on the steps of our State Capital building. Focusing on the issues concerning motorcyclists, “Legislative Warriors” visit and address our Senators and Representatives regarding the issues affecting ALL motorcyclists.  ABATE of Florida, Inc. urges any person, whether or not they are a member, to join them and become a “Legislative Warrior”.