March: In like a lion, out like a Legislature lobbyist

Carl Hendrickson

Healthy Living 
By Carl Hendrickson

March is in like a lion. It was named after Mars, the Roman god of war, and was viewed as the beginning of the season for warfare.

This is also the month of Mardi Gras (March 5), Ash Wednesday (March 6) and St. Patrick’s Day (March 17).

March also is Cerebral Palsy and Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, Irish-American Heritage Month and Women’s History Month.

The third month is the halfway point of the Missouri legislative session, which began on the Wednesday following the first Monday in January. Legislators finish on the Friday after the second Monday in May.

March is the point in the legislative session that many groups journey to Jefferson City to lobby the members of the General Assembly.

I have lobbied legislators and, as a state representative, have been lobbied in turn. So I believe I can speak with some authority on the importance of lobbying.

The right to lobby has been handed down by generations from the founding of our country. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution speaks of the right of the people “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” A similar right is found in the Missouri Constitution. This translates into modern lobbying.

The Founding Fathers provided us with a “republic, if you can keep it.” We elect men and women to represent us. But they can only truly represent us if they know what we want or don’t want.

Through lobbying, you have the opportunity to educate legislators on what you support and what you oppose. I often had to vote on issues outside my realm of expertise. Thus, I had to educate myself. I did this by speaking to more knowledgeable citizens, both paid and volunteers.

Lobbying, however it’s done, permits an individual to offer to his or her representatives solutions to problems. Many bills which have become law started with someone offering a suggestion to a representative.

As a volunteer lobbyist, the average person has a say. By joining with others, an ordinary individual can enable profound change in government.

Our government was founded on the concept of “we the people.” But if we remain silent, we have lost our voice in government. We will have no one to blame but ourselves if government of and by the people ceases to exist and warfare prevails.

Let’s not allow that to happen.

This March, let us lobby our representatives so they truly represent us.

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