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Ideas on dealing with Legislatures, Game Departments and Game Commissions
Two Branches that a bill must pass through • Senate • House • Each branch has various committees through which each bill must pass prior to being voted on the floor or by all the members. • If the bill fails to pass out of committee, it will die • This is the best place to kill a bill or promote a bill • The bill may also be amended in Committee prior to reaching the floor for a vote. • This is where compromise or back door policies are introduced • Adding on amendments can be a way to sneak in a provision that may fall below normal monitoring radar and can happen quickly.
Monitor the legislature on you own • Takes a lot of time (travel, bill review ect.) • Involves making contacts with your legislators and or sportsman’s caucus • You must know how each bill is progressing on a given day • Internet is prime tool, Legislative web sites let you track bill and read the bill text, amendments and present form • EG. WWW.Leg.WA.Gov/Legislature/ • You must know when the key hearing dates are. • You must know who supports a bill and who does not. • You must know who the key committee members are.
Have a lobbyist work on your behalf • Expensive, however there are ways to share the cost • Tag on with other groups HOW???? • Form a special interest group. • HHC (Hunters Heritage Council), made up of 50 sportsman’s groups in Washington State is a political action group. • Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation ,WWC. is a fund raising group with an outdoor agenda and has a part time lobbyist to push HHC agenda items. • Partner with other organizations • SCI, Fisherman, Commercial Fisherman, ect.
What can you expect from this type of shared lobbing/oversight • Expect to pay yearly dues (HHC is 1500.00) • WWC is $250.00 per year • Expect weekly updates on legislative bills • Access by email or phone with the lobbyist to discuss various bills or topic that interests you • Emergency Email requesting your immediate action on legislation • Access to various legislators • The ability to introduce legislation through a sponsoring legislator
You will waste your money unless you are prepared to act quickly and decisively in a crises.
What can you do to influence a legislator, or committee? • Phone calls • A real voice (paid or volunteer) • Phone calling services (auto call and message) • Letters • Fine if you have a lot of time • More personal than Email • Emails • Reaction can be almost immediate • Can reach many inexpensively • Can tailor your message and requested response • Testimony • Personal, A strong impression, often coveys commitment • A must for committee hearings
Organize your members by district so that you can target specific legislators. (Important because a legislator will respond more to a constituent than a general state voter) • Have all your members phone numbers and emails ahead of time.
Have an effective Email tree(requires member emails and updating) • Must be quick, (within hours) we live in a rapid electronic society • Must have background info and contact info in the email message and it must be easy to use by the members of your organization • Must have a specific message to convey (do not just ask them to oppose or support something). You need to give them an example of what you want them to send and instruct them how to send this message and to whom the message should be sent. • Anti hunting groups are experts at this technique. • Must have all available links to committee members and for accessing information on the legislation in question.
Testifying in front of a legislative committee. • Introduce yourself and state who you represent • Keep your comments short, clear and to the point • You must know your subject matter, questions may be asked (If a question is asked, you are winning!) • End your testimony by requesting that they take a specific action (eg. “please vote no on this bill” • Dress professionally • Do not argue • Thank them for their time
Form a bowhunting coalition within your state. • It will give you more clout • It will give you a broader contact list • You will be better networked when a crises does arise • It will spread out the work load • Should be made up of archery groups in your state (modern, traditional, target)
Sportsman’s Caucus • Get to know the legislative members of your states sportsman’s caucus or work with other sportsman’s groups to try and form one. This is your information conduit into and out of the legislature. It will better enable you to introduce legislation, monitor legislation and defeat legislation. Working from the inside out rather than the outside in. Do not be afraid to schedule a meeting with the caucus or one of its members if you are dealing with a very important issue.
General organizational levels • Head of departments may be politically appointed. The rest are State employees • 3 Basic levels • Statewide Bureaucrats • Regional ½ and ½ • Local Biologist and field personnel / science • **recognize their different priorities
All 3 may have different agendas • Often best to start at the local level to get science on your side and then work your way up the policy ladder. Eliminates the “have to check with the bio” excuse • Try and make contact in person rather than by phone or email. • Put a face and personality with your requests.
Determine who the decision makers are at the top level. Get to know them. Personal contacts are everything.
Methods for meeting the decision makers • Invite them to banquets, send them your newsletter • Personal visits to their office • Attend wildlife planning meetings and make it a point to testify and talk with game department personnel • Volunteer for hunting advisory committees • Emails • Offer to fund or provide labor for a project
Learn about the public resources that the department has available and prepare the facts that will back up your request. • You need to be on the department’s email and mailing list (this is a must!!!) • You need to read the reports (this is a must) • Harvest reports (your source for using their science) • Yearly game status reports (often contain conclusions and quotes that go beyond public data) • Game management plans (state wide and by herd) • Learn how to use the departments stats and reports to support your view. (draw your own conclusions) • You need to become the expert of your topic • Very valuable at a hearing, which may only be attended by the bureaucratic level. You may know more of the actual science than they will.
Go beyond department data by looking at what other states do or have published on the topic
Game departments are often not against change, they are against creatingmore work
It is important to create a solution rather than just asking for a solution. You are then giving them the answer rather than asking them to figure one out.
Eg. If you want deer opportunity in a unit you must present a solution and explain why that is the best solution. • Take into account all factors such as harvest, access, other user groups and the health of the game herd. Then make your recommendation.
Let the department know and publicly testify that you support an agenda that the department is pushing. They won’t forget and you may need a return favor.
The most successful and preferred method is to get the department to recommend your proposal as a regulation change. • Use your connections • Back up your request with science and data • Must be done far ahead of time (a year if poss.) (you may have to work from biologists on up) • Must be willing to anticipate opposition • It will often depend on personal relationships • You must provide them with a solution • Try and get other user groups on your side
Attend all public input meetings and make sure that your item is on the discussion agenda or survey.
If you have a game commission you may be able to have them mandate that the department act upon your recommendation.
Try forming a State Game Management Advisory Council (GMAC), made up of various user groups: hunting, forestry, range, conservation ect. that will review hunting related regulations and make policy recommendations to the game department. You should meet 4 times per year with the game department. You may have to get your game commission to mandate this type of program. • The GMAC should have various committees which work on such topics as harvest allocation, access onto private lands, and tribal issues.
If all else fails you can bypass the game department by; -going to the game commission -going to the legislature (most difficult)**Both may cause hard feeling with your game department so make sure it really matters!
Game Commissions Elected, Appointed, Hired
First priority • Get to know the members • Start immediately, do not wait for a crisis. Personal relationships mean everything!!
How? • Attend all meetings and testify, even if it is just to say they did a good job. Always identify yourself and what group you represent. Wear organization name tag at all meetings. • Talk with the members, especially non-hunters, during breaks and find out what they are interested in. If its ducks then talk ducks. It is often better not to talk bowhunting in the beginning. • Be non confrontational or you will be shut down • Try and organize a bow shoot prior to a meeting at a local range • ( In Washington we do a commission archery demonstration every couple of years).
Get to know the commission secretary (he or she will often control agenda items, agenda times and commissioner access) Late agenda items often fail simply because everyone wants to get home. You want your agenda item to be one of the first discussed! • Invite Commissioners to your banquet • Send them each issue of your newsletter • Be multi issued…not just bowhunting (be willing to testify about other hunting issues besides bowhunting, be a team player.
Build up your alliances • Try and unite all your state bowhunting groups into a coalition…why? • More members mean a louder voice. In Washington we have 3 groups: • WSB, TBW and WSAA • Try and meet the leaders of the other user groups ML, MF, Disabled. You may need their support. • Game management advisory council or like volunteer groups facilitates this. • Attend other user group Banquets to make contacts and wear your organization name tag!
The best chance of defeating or introducing something is before the decision-making meeting. • Use your connections to contact key players ahead of time • Figure out what the best argument forconvincing that individual member will be. Send a letter, send an email, make a phone call or make a visit in person. • For a non-hunting commission member the issue might be proper public process and not about hunting at all. ( You have to realize that what would convince you might very well have no importance to the other person)
Have numbers and information to back up your request • Go beyond Department information • Other game departments (near your state) • Internet searches • Personal experience • Use the department’s own data to reach a different conclusion This is a very important point. Most wildlife department data is presented in a way which supports their policy and program. You will have to pull out the harvest numbers and re present them in a way which will support your position. (this usually requires spread sheets and graphs)
Important to keep it simple….You may know more that the person making the decision…if you have time, educate them either in person or with simple bullet point information on your cover sheet. The details should follow. (realize that they may never get to them) Identify the decision makers, the leaders and the followers. On hunting issues, non hunting commission members usually defer to those that hunt so you need to concentrate on the hunters