Successful advocacy requires identifying the change or action you want (WHAT), understanding the person who can take that action (WHO), and then convincing them to do it (HOW). This section focuses on decision-makers working for government agencies; leaders in private corporations, including investors; and elected officials.
A. Comment Letters to Government Agencies
What is public comment?
One of the primary ways government affects our environment is through their review of pollution permits and the writing and enforcement of regulations. When permits or regulations are up for review, government agencies often seek public input by holding “public comment periods.” A public comment period is a length of time during which a government agency will accept feedback and input in the form of written comments and testimony from the public about a proposed permit or regulation. Different government agencies may set different lengths of time for the public comment period. Part 1 details how to get information on notices for public comment. Also, the public comment period establishes a record that you can later use to challenge an unfavorable decision. If considering litigation, it is beneficial and sometimes necessary to submit a public comment to establish standing. Litigation is further addressed in Part 5.
Comment Period Deadlines
The public notice usually states a deadline to receive comments. Public comments submitted before the deadline go into the administrative record. Late comments, although otherwise perfect, may become irrelevant if submitted after the deadline passes. In one recent case, an agency refused to consider comments that were 25 seconds late. Furthermore, some courts have decided that if concerned residents do not raise a particular issue during the comment period, then the particular issue cannot be used to challenge the agency’s final decision on the permit or the rule. Therefore, preserve your issue by submitting a comment before the deadline. Carefully note whether the deadline specifies if your comments needs to be “sent” or “received” by the deadline. Some agencies will accept public comments by e-mail or fax, but check with the agency before relying on that method of delivery. If you do e-mail your comments, it is best to send a follow-up copy by mail.
Even before the publication of a comment period for a permit, you are entitled to request a copy of the permit application from the agency or download a copy on the agency’s electronic data management system, if any.
Note that DNR often requires comments to be submitted by a particular time of day, usually 4:30 pm.
How to be alerted of proposed rule changes
You do not need to wait for MCE or another advocacy organization to inform you of a proposed rule change that you may care about. You can sign up to receive email notifications whenever a government agency issues a proposed rule, allowing you maximum time to review the rule, spread word to others, and draft a public comment.
For state level administrative rules, visit the Missouri Secretary of State’s notification webpage: Administrative Rules Notifications (mo.gov) and create an account. Once your account is set up, you can edit notification preferences to receive emails when state agencies issue proposed rules.
For federal level rules, visit www.federalregister.gov. Here you can subscribe to receive notifications for two things: 1) all proposed rules from a particular federal agency such as the “Department of Agriculture” and 2) all proposed rules containing a particular word or phrase, such as “commodity payments.” To subscribe to either of these, you first must make an account. Select the “Sign Up” link in the top right corner and progress through the steps to set up your account. Following account setup, you are ready to begin subscribing.
View our video for signing up for proposed rule notifications below:
Sign Up for Proposed Rules Notifications
Issues May Arise
As hard as you might try, sometimes you do not have enough time to prepare your comments or you may want to encourage others to support your cause. If so, ask the agency for an extension. It’s a good idea to ask for any extension early in the public comment period because the agency may not honor a last-minute request. In your request, make sure to give the agency reasons you need the extension. Showing there is a local interest in the issue may help persuade the agency that the time extension is justified. If possible, have a local elected official request the time extension. In general, you can request the extension by phone, letter, or in person at a public hearing. Regardless of the method, always get written confirmation of the extension.
Make sure that you plan for all deadlines that may apply to opportunities to influence the decision. For instance, if you are working on a written public comment to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about a Clean Air Act Title V air permit application, you may have an opportunity to petition EPA to object to that permit. There will probably be separate deadlines for commenting to DNR and submitting a petition to EPA. The deadline for filing the petition begins to run on the date of the EPA’s receipt of the proposed permit.
Normally, EPA Region 7 posts the dates it receives such permits (“EPA Review Start Date”) on its web page, along with the petition deadline.
If you have questions about a particular deadline, state or federal, contact the permitting agency for clarification. You can usually find the name of the contact person with information about the proposed action on the public notice.
Written Notice of a Final Decision
After you submit a comment, there are different methods and regulations regarding how to receive notice of a final decision. DNR notifies any person or organization submitting comments, but not all government agencies may do this. Instead, as a member of the public, you might have to call the agency or check its website.
To request notice of a final decision in response to a verbal comment made at a hearing be sure to leave your contact information on the sign in sheet if there is one. You may have to follow up by phone or in writing to ensure you get a response back.
How to Prepare a Written Comment
Do not be intimidated about submitting public comments. As a potentially affected neighbor, you are uniquely qualified to speak about your experience and concerns about industrial activities in your area.
There is no right or wrong way to write comments, nor do they have to be perfect. A comment can vary in length — it can be as short as a couple paragraphs or as long as a multi-page technical report. Comments may include facts, opinions, questions, and supporting documents. You can raise as many issues as you’d like – fact-based and legal. It is a good idea to attach supporting material if you have it, so that your support becomes part of the agency record.
The only hard and fast rules are to submit comments by the deadline and to avoid rude language and insults to the agency that will be making the decision.
When drafting a written comment, we suggest focusing on two primary goals. First, convince the agency to do the right thing now, before a final decision has been made on the permit or rule. Second − in case the agency fails to do the right thing − use your comments to preserve your arguments for a potential appeal or petition to veto the agency’s decision. This includes making and supporting factual assertions, telling the agency exactly what you want it to do, and responding to your opponents’ points.
Commenting on Proposed Permits
Commenting on Proposed Rules
The following is a checklist of information and topics to include in your comments.
- Your name and address
- Name of group you are speaking on behalf of (if relevant)
- A statement explaining why you are interested or concerned, and how the proposed action might affect your interests.
- Name, address and location of permit applicant, facility or activity (refer to the public notice) or regulation number
- Any permit identification or reference number (refer to the public notice)
- Any other information required by the public notice
- A statement of what you want the agency to do regarding the proposed action
- For example, deny the permit, prepare an environmental impact statement, hold a public hearing locally, change the rule, etc.
- Support, reject, or amend a regulation
- Note: you can have multiple requests
- A request that the agency notify you in writing of the permit decision.
- Note: This is not applicable to rules. Instead, you have to keep checking the daily register for notice of the final rule. Refer to Part 1 for information about signing up for listservs.
- Date and Sign your comment
MAYBE bring up the following issues in your comment, especially if it is relevant:
- How will the aesthetics of the area considered for the project or rule be affected?
- What will be the impacts on air quality after the permit is granted or the rule goes into effect?
- Are there alternative methods or locations to conduct the activity?
- Do the economics of the activity make sense?
- Will the project harm endangered or threatened species?
- Will the proposed activity destroy important habitat?
- For federal actions, has an environmental impact statement been performed?
- Are there environmental justice issues involved? For example, will a particular community of people be disproportionately harmed?
- Are there historical or archeological sites that will be harmed by the proposed activity?
- Has the agency considered the applicant’s history of violations?
- Will groundwater, drinking or surface waters be threatened by the project or new rule?
- Will the activity lead to land or soil contamination?
- Are there legal reasons why this rule or permit must be denied?
- Are there problems with the proposed location?
- Has the agency considered the long-term effects?
- Will exposure to radiation be a likely result from the activity?
- What will be required to ensure safe operation?
- Have the risks in transporting substances to and from the facility been considered?
MAYBE include the following attachments to support your position:
- Photographs and/or videotapes
- Maps, charts, tables, graphs
- Copies of enforcement actions against the applicant
- Technical or scientific articles
- Government reports
- Signed and dated statements from former employees of the applicant or from others with special knowledge of problems with the facility.
Example Comment: General Template
The following template is from the Public Comment Project, and is a general example for what comments can look like. Remember, comments vary in length and can range from short summaries to long and technical comments. If your comments are lengthy you may wish to submit a cover letter, but it’s not necessary and the content of your comments can be included in the letter. MCE generally sends a cover letter with all federal comment letters.
Re: [Docket ID, Document Title]
To Whom It May Concern,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on [Document Title]. I am… 1-2 sentences introducing yourself and your credentials, as they relate to the comment you are writing.
I would like to… [raise concerns / inform you of new information / provide supporting evidence]regarding [Document Title]:
- [1 sentence describing first major point]
- [1 sentence describing second major point]
In summary, [1-2 sentences summarizing your comment]. Please see below for additional details and pertinent literature.
[Affiliations, Degree, Additional Qualifications]
Main Comment Text
[First major point]
Several short paragraphs supporting your first point. Include references to literature that is cited in the bibliography.
[Second major point]
Several short paragraphs supporting your second point. Include references to literature that is cited in the bibliography.
List of your sources; include links or DOI when appropriate.
Example Comment: MCE’s Comment to DNR
The following example is a public comment submitted to Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources and Clean Water Commission by MCE regarding the renewal of a MO State Operating Permit. This comment refers to information gathered through a Sunshine Request to explain past permit violations and explain environmental concerns with the proposed permit renewal.
Example Comment: MCE Comment Template to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service
Here is a link to MCE’s comment letter template to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service regarding the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Interim Final Rule from February 2020. This comment letter is less technical than the one above, and allows space for commenters to include their personal stories and reasons for making changes to this program.
B. Corporate Decision Makers
Another area to direct your advocacy efforts is corporate decision-makers. The public can influence the behavior and values of companies and hold them accountable to improving their social and environmental impact.
Shareholder advocacy can be used to direct the decisions of corporate interests to address environmental and social issues as well as internal policies and issues of governance. Making connections and having dialogue with companies can influence their actions and accountability.
Below, Sr. Barbara Jennings, CSJ, of Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment shares the importance or shareholder advocacy, and gives advice specific to the process of engaging with companies to encourage change.
Do your investments match your values?
The Socially Responsible Investment Movement began in the 1970’s with companies who had banks or manufacturing sites and sales in South Africa; companies who were ignoring the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks of business in an apartheid state. Investors from many faith backgrounds engaged the leaderships of the companies and warned them of drastic social upheavals that would influence their business and asked the companies to make positive changes like education and just wages for their workers. This movement eventually became the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility located in NYC. Now members of religious institutions of all kinds are engaged in even more companies and in even more issues, such as ESG.
Locally in the Midwest, members in St. Louis and Milwaukee are dialoguing and filing shareholder resolutions with sectors like energy, manufacturing, and food and agriculture. These actions require that you hold a minimum number of shares in the company.
Here are steps for the basic process:
- Write a letter to a company in a chosen sector. Ask for accountability in emissions, water pollution, supply chain human rights, or executive pay (ESG).
- If the company responds, set up a dialogue. If the company does not respond, write once more, asking for a dialogue.
- After a dialogue, decide if you will file a shareholder resolution at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), asking the Company for very specific information and accountability that they have refused to give, but could give.
- Get other investors to support you by voting yes on your resolution. Wait for the Annual Meeting to see if you receive a 51% vote; if so, the company is obliged to respond to you in a better fashion.
It’s a great learning opportunity for everyone, and a great way to hold corporations responsible for their ‘nice words’ about environmental, social, and governance practices.
In St. Louis, we achieved a 53% vote with our local electric utility on coal ash pond pollution. The company subsequently made public visits in all counties where it does business regarding their “improvements.” We are still in dialogue with them about a more responsible way to close their ash ponds.
For more information, you may visit Seventh Generation Interfaith or Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility.
Petitions are another method to demonstrate public support for your project. Creating a petition and gathering signatures can show support or opposition to a measure of a project. Some petitions, such as those to place a person or an item on a ballot, require a formal petition that meets the requirements of the state constitution or city charter, depending on what ballot you hope to get on. Check with the appropriate governmental authority for those requirements, including deadlines for verifying signatures. Petitions to express public opinion can be useful to influence elected officials. At a minimum, these petitions should include a place for a name, address, and signature.
For more information on the petition-initiative process to place an issue on a ballot, the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office has a guide to Missouri’s Initiative Petition Process.
An advocacy tip about petitions from Linda Fenton, Open Space Council Board Member:
If collecting signatures for a petition, you should be on public land such as a sidewalk, or get advance approval from the land owner. Also, if you are going to be collecting signatures in the immediate area of the land in question, it helps to deliver the handouts first outlining the issues and include advanced notice that you will be returning between X and Y dates with a petition (you may also inform them about the content of the petition). Explain how including their signature would serve to help.
You can also influence corporations by voting with your wallet — your purchases reflect your values and you can send a signal to companies about the values you want them to adopt.
Case Study: You can practice consumer advocacy in the St. Louis region with MCE’s Known & Grown program, which supports our local food systems. This program supports local, sustainable farmers while also helping consumers choose environmentally-responsible food. Learn more about the Known & Grown program at the Known & Grown website.
C. The Missouri Legislature
State and local elected officials have varying degrees of power to improve the quality of the environment and public health. They may have authority over access to public lands, options for clean energy, monitoring requirements for air and water quality, as well as a host of other actions they can take.
Overview of the Missouri General Assembly
The General Assembly is made up of two chambers, the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. Members of each can introduce legislation, called bills. This legislation is assigned to committee for debate and must be approved by the members before going to a vote of the entire House or Senate. Once it passes one chamber, it then goes to the other for review by a committee and ultimate vote by the full body. Only bills that have been approved by both bodies go to the governor’s desk for signature or a veto.
Photo by RebelAt from English Wikimedia
The House of Representatives consists of 163 members, elected at each general election for two-year terms. The Senate consists of 34 members, who are elected for four-year terms.
There are many committees in the state House of Representatives and state Senate which discuss legislation related to the environment.
Learn more about all of the House of Representatives committees here, or find more information about committees that often receive environmentally-focused legislation below.
- Agriculture Policy
- Conservation and Natural Resources
- Economic Development
- Local Government
- Subcommittee on Appropriations – Agriculture, Conservation, Natural Resources, and Economic Development
- Ways and Means
Learn more about all of the Senate committees here, or find more information about committees that often receive environmentally-focused legislation below.
- Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources
- Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment
- Local Government and Elections
- Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety
- Ways and Means
State budget and appropriations – One of the only constitutionally required duties of the General Assembly is to create and approve a budget for state departments and all state spending. Each session, members will spend a significant amount of time debating, negotiating, and working on the budget. Many organizations pay careful and close attention to the budget process and focus much of their advocacy and lobbying on the budget.
Important features of the Missouri Legislature to keep in mind:
- No bill (except general appropriations bills) may contain more than one subject, which must be expressed clearly in its title. This is helpfully referred to as the “one subject rule” and violation of the one subject rule can lead to a bill being ruled unconstitutional.
- Legislators can pre-file bills beginning on Dec. 1 preceding the opening of the legislative session year; legislators can then only introduce bills through the 60th legislative day of the session. The deadline to file bills can be either very helpful or harmful for your purposes, so it is important to remember as the session moves along.
- The Missouri Legislature, like dozens of other state legislatures throughout the country, is a part-time legislature; in practice, the “MO Leg” meets from January to mid-May, and in many years conducts a special session sometime during late summer or early fall.
- Session is, by law, concluded on May 30th, but there can be no further consideration of bills after 6:00 p.m. on the first Friday following the second Monday in May. Yes, that’s confusing, but the takeaway is that if a bill has not been truly agreed and passed by 6 pm of the established final day of Session, it is dead for the time being. In the next Session, that bill will need to be filed again to be considered.
*Always know which House and Senate Districts are competitive and you may see a contested race in an election year. This will affect Member behavior in the Legislature and outside of it, in their campaigns. For more on campaigns and political advocacy, see Part 7 of the advocacy guide.
Talking to Legislators
Speaking directly with elected members of the Missouri Legislature is an important part of the legislative advocacy process. This can happen over the phone or by email, which is easiest and most frequently how lawmakers can be reached, or through an in-person meeting. Whatever the medium of your interaction with lawmakers, there are some best practices and general tips to follow to make the strongest case for your concerns.
- When applicable, refer to the bill number of specific legislation
- If communicating about a broader policy position rather than a particular bill, be sure to include a specific ask or request for them to take action/ways to support
- Ask questions
- State where you stand and why—make a compelling argument without being argumentative
- It’s good to probe a legislator’s stance on legislation if you have an audience
- Information that is tailored to a legislator’s district is always more powerful than information that is generic
In making a pitch to a legislator or their staff, aim for…
- Using facts and figures to illustrate your point—but never make data the sole basis of your argument (most people do not respond to numbers the same way they respond to stories, narrative, and personalization, especially politicians who communicate to the public in broad themes, taglines, emotional content, and slogans);
- Sharing emotion and personal stories—try to humanize your point; personal stories help prevent a position or argument from becoming too abstract or forgettable;
- Presenting support from key authorities or influencers, such as past electeds, heads of corporations and other nonprofits, and even religious leaders;
- Demonstrating the positive impact that the legislation or policy you are advocating for would have specifically on this legislator’s district;
- Explaining, if possible, how your position could/would/should align with the legislator’s politics, the political dynamics on the ground in their district, or how your position could possibly benefit the legislator politically.
It can help to explain to a lawmaker why you think their support or opposition could benefit them politically. What is meant by “benefit politically” is not some crude sense of who is up or who is down: rather, think of it as how this person (yes, person! A human being who has desires, goals, and motivations all of their own that are relevant to the interaction) can explain their support for your legislation or otherwise use their action to make a favorable impression on key voters in their district.
You can’t win them all, but you can certainly try. Redefine “success”: a sophisticated, strategic, and relationship-based approach to speaking with lawmakers about a bill or policy may not guarantee the result an advocate wants, but it will do a lot of work in building support, gaining allies, or neutralizing potential opposition to your goals. Discouraging opposition is as important as encouraging support for getting a bill across the finish line, or at least getting it into the race to begin with.
Coordinating with and Talking to Legislative Staff
Staff are a key gateway to any legislator. At every level of government, staff serve as the gatekeepers for elected officials; the analysts and advisors; and usually the first point of contact between advocates, lobbyists, and constituents seeking help.
Working with legislative staff is especially important for participating in or organizing Legislative Lobby Days. Know the protocol, best practices, and procedures for engaging with members and legislative staff; and prepare for what is likely a new experience for many citizen-advocates.
During lobbying visits to Jefferson City (or Capitol Hill, if your legislative advocacy happens to take you to the federal level), be prepared and make a favorable impression of yourself as a leader and advocate for your cause.
- Attire in the Legislature is most often professional/business. Staff and Members will likely be dressed somewhat formally.
- Come prepared with concise, shareable handouts; “one pagers” are fact sheets that do not exceed one printed out, double-sided page containing neatly-organized information for staff and lawmakers to keep handy.
- Try to vary the type of information included on your one-pager: blend significant data points, a summary of one or two personal stories, visual aids like graphs or charts, and, if possible, include some color to make the factsheet visually appealing. If you are meeting to discuss a specific bill, include the bill number on the factsheet.
- Confirm your meeting day and time within two days of your scheduled visit
- Arrive 5 minutes before your meeting, but probably not too much earlier.
- Most legislative days, lawmakers and staff are constantly juggling their legislative duties and responsibilities with constituent work, meetings, phone calls, and events. Their office entrance is most likely full of people waiting for their meetings, or leaving a meeting that just concluded.
- To the extent you can show lawmakers and staff that you understand what they deal with on a daily basis, you will come that much closer to forming durable, friendly relationships with them that could be useful later.
Treat staff like they could be your most important allies, because they can make your experience with the Legislature infinitely easier or much more difficult.
In each new session, legislators are allowed to pre-file bills before legislative business officially begins.
When a new bill is introduced, it is given an initial oral reading on the floor in a process called being “first read.” It is usually then read a second time (“second read”) and referred to the proper committee(s) of jurisdiction where it will be handled by that committee’s Chair.
All legislation introduced in a given session must receive a public hearing in a committee of jurisdiction before advancing to either the House or Senate floor. However, the committee chairperson is in charge of deciding which bills receive a hearing and when. Anyone from the public—including lobbyists and advocates—are given time to testify for or against the merits of a bill to lawmakers during a committee hearing.
Hearings must be publicly posted a minimum of 24 hours before the hearing is held, which is often what happens, providing little time for members of the public to make arrangements to testify. Additionally, it is at the chair’s discretion to decide who gets to speak on a bill in committee, and for how long; often, this discretion is used to shut out unfavorable testimony on a bill and to close the public input period however it suits the chair or the majority party.
How to track weekly hearings during Session:
The House offers a live video feed of floor proceedings, as well as links to view open committee hearings. The best way to track what happens to legislation as it’s being considered in committees is to tune in, if possible. Otherwise, you can check the daily journal once it’s approved and published online, or you can look for recent votes on the chambers’ websites. Eventually, all bill actions will be updated on that bill’s specific webpage and votes, amendments offered/approved, and any summaries or reports associated with the legislation will be available there.
The Senate offers live video as well as live audio of floor proceedings, and likewise also has bill summary pages that serve as portals of information relating to those individual bills.
Resources for tracking legislation:
- Hearings schedule for the MO Senate
- Hearings schedule for the MO House of Representatives
- MO Scout, a paid political and legislative news service that sends weekly rundowns of insider rumors, updates on political campaigns and the raising and spending of money by both campaigns and outside groups, and important information on legislation, both proposed and conceptual.
- Tipsheets and daily or weekly rundowns of Capitol happenings—most major state media outlets have something like this, of varying quality and utility. See: The Missouri Times coverage of campaigns and MO Leg; St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Political Fix email newsletter; and the Columbia Tribune political analysis.
- Follow and engage with reporters assigned to cover the MO Leg on social media
- Twitter is a great platform for the public and concerned advocates to stay informed about the many twists and turns that can occur during Session.
As advocates, it is your job to show up, to provide the information and the input necessary to support legislation and policy that would improve the environment and serve the mission of environmental advocacy organizations. But this is not easy, and there are many political and logistical roadblocks that one may encounter when attempting to do something as seemingly straightforward as offer a valuable, informed opinion on a particular piece of legislation. Don’t be surprised if you travel to Jefferson City to speak for or against a bill only to learn later that the bill was pulled from consideration, the hearing cut prematurely short, or that you will not be allowed to speak before committee members. This happens in today’s polarized political environment.
Tracking legislation is a helpful tool for monitoring any possible substantive changes to bills that might happen in committee or as amendments on the floor. However, advocates should aspire to build relationships with staff, lobbyists, and Members (from both Parties) so that they can track lawmakers’ sentiment about policies favorable to your mission. This will allow you and other advocates to avoid potential problems before it’s too late, if possible, and to build consensus and support for legislation before the crucial committee hearing and amendment process. Aim to track legislation behind the scenes, and on the front end of the legislative process, as much as possible.
Out of Committees (reported): “Out of the fire and into the frying pan”
- What happens to a bill after a committee hearing?
- Following a hearing in which the bill sponsor is allowed to speak on the legislation, and Members both in favor and against have been heard, the committee may vote to:
- 1. Report the bill to the House with the recommendation that it “do pass.”
- 2. Report the bill to the House with the recommendation that it “do pass” with committee amendments.
- 3. Report the bill to the House with the recommendation that a committee substitute for the bill “do pass.”
- 4. Report the bill with the recommendation that it “do not pass.” (Such a bill will not be taken up by the House unless 82 members vote to take it up.)
- 5. Report the bill to the House without recommendation. [source:https://house.mo.gov/billtracking/info/howbill.htm]
- Following a hearing in which the bill sponsor is allowed to speak on the legislation, and Members both in favor and against have been heard, the committee may vote to:
On the Floor
- Where does a bill reported out of committee go?
- Once a bill is reported favorably out of committee, the bill or committee substitute is placed on the “perfection calendar.” The perfection of a bill is the process by which amendments from committees and from floor debate are added or rejected, and a near-final “perfected” version of the amended bill is ordered to be printed and will be ready for final consideration later.
- Any Member can offer an amendment, but the presiding Speaker must recognize that Member before debate is moved to be cut off.
- How does the reported bill see action on the floor for passage by the House?
- After perfection and printing, a bill goes on the calendar for Third Reading.
- This process is substantively similar to what happens in the Senate, except rules for debate are different and each Senator has more power to amend and discuss a bill being considered for perfection and for final passage.
Once considered for debate on the House floor, a bill sponsor can call for a third and final reading of the bill (“third read”) that, if permitted, will lead to a vote on final passage.
Calling the “Previous Question,” or PQing a bill
Calling the Previous Question (PQ) on a bill is a move to end debate and the offering of amendments and move to final passage.
Zealous advocacy requires perseverance, patience, and some political savvy. The key to remember is that in addition to understanding the legislative and political process, successful advocacy is about relationships.
Heather Navarro, past Executive Director of MCE and St. Louis City alderwoman: shares,
“No change, whether it’s legislative or otherwise, happens in a vacuum. Every person that you interact with, including elected officials, legislative staff, lobbyists, allies, opponents, building security and maintenance staff, are also somebody’s neighbor, constituent, family member, colleague, and on and on. Fostering respect for those relationships, especially when you disagree, will contribute to healthier, more productive, and increasingly civil debate. This approach will advance your cause because one, you are a trusted and respected source. Two, your cause will be made stronger by listening authentically to others and incorporating their stories and questions into your own thinking and advocacy.”
Access and participation are values inherent in our democratic process, but securing such goods in real life is harder than it seems. For better or worse, lawmaking is injected with politics (and not in the “dirty word” sense that most people use it); savvy advocates understand this, and seek to use that fact to better navigate the process to best champion their ideas and causes.