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Has Your State?

Has Your State Codified PRB-1?

If not, and you would like for it to, here are suggestions. (Note: PRB-1 does not cover covenant or private land use restrictions.) ARRL New England Vice Director Mike Raisbeck, K1TWF, put together a very good overview in 2004 called "Getting It Through the Legislature".

Before going to the legislature:

  • Publicize the initiative and build consensus among hams.
  • Ask for a specific but realistic provision regarding antenna height.
  • Attend committee hearings and legislative sessions to get a feel for the procedure.
  • Secure legislative sponsors in each house of the legislature. Your sponsors will be your advocates during floor debate, so take the time to carefully explain the issue to them. Legislators are under no obligation to sponsor every piece of legislation their constituents propose, so make sure to make your sponsors feel appreciated. Your effort may not succeed even with effective sponsors, but it will certainly fail without them.
  • Pay attention to Legislative support staff.
  • If you expect opposition, address them. Do not snub them. Opposition can be won over through artful compromise.
  • Network with fellow amateurs. Get as many people as possible on your side. This will take time and energy, and it needs to be done before going to the legislature.
  • Have a PR strategy. Prepare a list of selling points for the legislation and work them into your answers to any questions from the media. Meet with editors, provide background materials, ask to write guest columns, and conduct letter-to-the-editor campaigns.

Before the first committee hearing:

  • Check the agenda. If there is a public folder regarding your agenda item, check it as well. An agenda is usually available a few days before the hearing, and the agenda and public folder will indicate just what council action is being considered, the precise language of any draft legislation (often with a surprise change or two), and sometimes all letters received on the subject. Do not be inflexible with your prepared remarks; learn what issues are before the committee and be prepared to address them.
  • Talk to legislators the day before. They may tell you if they or another committee member have a specific issue in mind. Don't be caught by surprise.
  • If you find something you don't like in the draft legislation, provide alternative language in writing, in advance. This allows you to keep the agenda focused and minimizes the possibility of a fascinating amendment creatively added during a committee session that runs until 2 a.m.
  • Be willing to compromise. Sometimes your opposition will support your effort in return for a fairly minor compromise (such as an exception for historic districts) that the committee is likely to give them anyway. Even if the compromise only wins over an important part of your opposition, it is worth considering. "Divide and conquer" is an important and effective strategy.

At committee hearings:

  • Show up. Don't go alone--bring hams who are on your side, are good public speakers, and are particularly able to answer questions.
  • Dress for the occasion. You are attending a legislative hearing, not a hamfest. Leave the badges and baseball caps with call signs on them and the jackets with ARES and RACES patches at home.
  • Show up at the start of the hearing. Don't be late. Agendas can get shifted.
  • Talk to staff and legislators as you are able during recesses. Find out if any surprises are in the works by way of amendments. Don't be caught by surprise.
  • If media members are there--they're usually identifiable by the steno pads in their hands--take the opportunity to interface with them. Have your spokesperson approach them before the hearing, when they are bored and not on deadline. If any of them bite, be prepared to give them pithy quotes generously laden with selling points.

After the committee reports to the full house:

  • Find out when the item is on the calendar for consideration.
  • Lobby. Have a team of people talk up your item to as many members of the house as you can. Talk to their staffs. Find out about any further proposed amendments and address them. Don't be caught by surprise.
  • In most states, the general public is not allowed to be heard during full house consideration. Make sure your legislative sponsor is well prepared. Thank him or her profusely all throughout the process. After this is over, do your best to make sure he or she is re-elected, regardless of the result of your effort. By doing this, you win over an ally for the next battle.
  • Show up when your bill is being considered. Sit in the gallery. Have your sponsor point the group of hams out. Show the house that you care and you vote.

Upon passage by one house:

  • If you're not in Nebraska, you now get to shepherd your bill through the other chamber. Repeat the above process. In many states, you will need to shepherd the item through both chambers at the same time.
  • If you're in Nebraska, your item is now going to the Governor. Skip the next step.

Upon passage by both houses:

  • If the language of the passed bill is identical in both houses, your item is on its way to the Governor.
  • If, as is often the case, the language is slightly different, a conference committee will meet to resolve the differences. Find out who is on the committee. Talk to them and their staffs to see what the sticking points are. Suggest a compromise between the two bills that you can live with and the two houses can live with.
  • After the conference committee reports, both houses have to adopt the committee report. The same rules for dealing with a full house apply, except you have to lobby both houses at once.
  • If both houses adopt the conference report, your item is on its way to the Governor.

The last step--securing the Governor's signature:

  • Lobby the Governor and his or her staff. Have hams write letters to him or her. Find out from staff if the Governor has any reservations, and try to effectively address those reservations in the letter.

It didn't pass.

  • Was there a legislator or legislators who were instrumental in the defeat? Get hams in his or her district registered to vote. Find opposition for the next election. Do what you would do if the legislature raised your taxes by fifty percent for no good reason: do your best to vote the bums out.
  • Try again next session. A cardinal rule of lobbying is that one should always have a piece of legislation in the hopper. Legislators and their staffs get paid to consider bills. If you don't have a bill under consideration, you are unlikely to get any attention.


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