The time is NOW, the person is YOU. Get involved and DO. What can I do to help children, Fathers and Families?
How to Grass Roots Lobby
1. REGISTER to VOTE including in a political party. Go to http://www.elections.ny.gov
2. VOTE in every election and primary.
3. BE ACTIVE but remember that it will take time, even years, so pace yourself accordingly.
4. LEARN the process, how laws are passed and who controls the parliamentary process. Find information on New York State here, http://www.ny.gov
The expression that all politics is local applies to grass roots lobbying. The most important contacts you can make are the people who are your representatives in your district. This includes local, county, state and national representatives. Additionally, advocates often focus their attention on the legislatures first and then the executive branch. Often forgotten it the judicial branch and the agencies operating under the executive branch. Find government information here, http://www.ny.gov.
What party do I register in?
The choice of a party to register in is a personal choice. However, if you want to maximize your impact as a grass roots lobbyist the party that is in power in your district is the best choice. Many representatives are voted in year after year and often when one retires the party in power will win the general election based upon party enrollment. In NYC and many larger NY Cities the party of power is the Democratic Party. In many upstate areas the party in power are the Republicans.
The more firmly entrenched a party is in a district the less they need your vote. Often, the party primary will have multiple people running and the winner of that will be virtually guaranteed to win the general election. Also, we most often send the incumbent back in the general elections, but this is not always true in primary elections where less people participate and it is easier to challenge an incumbent.
Right now the Democrats firmly control the NYS Assembly. The democrats control the Executive Branch and have a large advantage of registered voters over the republicans. The Republicans control the NYS Senate but not by much. Last session the republicans controlled but as both parties had an equal number of Senators an Independent Democrat and a Republican cut a deal and they are the co-leaders of the Senate. The Democrats are a few votes shy of controlling the Senate and so the leaders may change this next election and control go to the democrats.
Should I get active in party politics?
While it is not necessary to be active in party politics to achieve an end the fact is the more involved you are the better the chance that an elected representative will advocate for your issues. There are two things of equal importance in party politics. They are money and volunteers. So both contributing to a political candidate, whether it is time or money, will elevate your standing with them.
Why Vote in every election and primary?
It is important to vote in every primary and every election because the fact that you voted is recorded. While politicians don’t know who you voted for , they do check voter records to see if a person votes. So when you meet with a legislator they can see if you are an active voter. If you don’t vote they are less inclined to value your input as when they need a vote you can’t be counted on as you don’t show up.
OK, where do I find more information on what to lobby for?
There are many organizations, at both the state and national level, that you can affiliate with and advocate for their positions. Many people think that there needs to be one organization that takes a position forward, but in fact the more organizations you have advocating for an issue the stronger your position is. MORE IS BETTER, but you have to make sure that they are all working for the same thing.
Additionally, you might decide to not formally affiliate with an organization but that doesn’t stop you from using their information in support of legislation and/or policy that you agree with. Remember, the most important thing is THE PERSON WHO VOTES FOR THE POLITICIAN. Many legislators won’t even meet with an organization unless they can produce a person who votes in their district.
How do I learn how the process works? (Read on)
New York State Legislation
Lobbying includes not only having legislation passed but blocking legislation which is bad for you and your organization. The main way an organization supports or opposes a piece of legislation is by submitting a Memo in support of or a Memo in opposition to a piece of legislation. These memo’s become part of the official record of legislation and are placed in the “bill jacket”, the official record on that legislation.
Right now at the state level things are run by the “big three” (now 4) who are the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly (Democrat Sheldon Silver) and the Senate Majority Co-Leaders (Republican Dean Skelos and Independent Democrat Jeffrey Klein). No legislation is passed in NY without the approval of all three of these men. It is important to understand that each leader is looking to keep their majority in place so they can keep their position of power. So as you pressure your local legislator n an issue, they in turn pressure their conference to support legislation.
Any legislation in NYS must be passed by both the Assembly and the Senate and then it goes to the Governor for his signature or veto. If he does Veto a piece of legislation the Veto can be overridden by a super-majority override vote of both the Senate and Assembly. This does not happen that often. In most instances no legislation will pass either house unless there is some type of agreement on passage. Bills that stand the best chance of passage are those the have a “SAME AS” in each house. If a bill does have a same as and passes both houses and is vetoed by the Governor the vast majority of the time there is insufficient votes in both houses to override.
No legislation passes the Assembly without the approval of the Democratic Caucus and no bill passes the Senate without the approval of the Senate Co-leaders. There are numerous and multiple parliamentary tricks used to kill legislation, even highly popular legislation supported by a majority of voters.
Many pieces of legislation are passed by one house or the other. These “one house bills” just languish and never go anywhere. This is actually a strategy of members in both houses to make you think they support your position . A Democrat in the Assembly or Republican in the Senate can sign onto legislation they only marginally support, or don’t even like, if they know that the Senate will not pass it.
A piece of legislation has a sponsor, this is the person who authors the legislation (actually, bills are written by staff in each house). The sponsor will get multi-sponsors and Co-sponsors to sign onto the bill. Most often the Majority in either house will NOT let the minority co-sponsor their legislation. the ore Multi and Co-sponsors you have the better.
The minority party in either house can support a piece of legislation but they know it will not move forward without the support of the Majority in that house. The best you can hope for is that a majority member in a house likes the legislation and then puts in a very similar bill. So, while it is better to get a majority house sponsor on a bill it is not a total loss to have a minority bill.
To move a piece of legislation it is important to know both who supports it and who is opposed to it. It is easier to block apiece of legislation than it is to pass a piece of legislation. So yu have to learn who is in opposition to your bill and also, who are they pressuring to have the bill stopped.
NYS Executive Branch
The executive Branch includes the Governors Office and the agencies under his control. Each agency is headed by a Commissioner. The Agency which oversees child support is the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (ODTA) and within that the Division of Child Support Enforcement.
NYS Judicial Branch
Often overlooked for lobbying purposes, the Judicial Branch of government is the one we beat dead, dead broke, disenfranchised dads usually meet first. NYS has an outdated 9 tiered court system which is so commlicated even judges can’t explain it. WIthin this system we are usually in the NYS Family Courts (child custody and support) and the NYS Supreme Court (matrimonial matters). We are also subject to the criminal courts for violations of court orders and for (most often false) domestic violence charges. All courts are overseen the the Office of Court Administration, which wihtin it has a Matrimonial Commission (made up of Judges) who set the rules of (un) fair play.
The Federal Government:
The Executive Branch
The federal Executive Branch includes the President of the US and the Cabinets under him. Although protected by the 9th and 10 amendment to the US Constitution, and not authorized to meddle in these areas the executive branch has seen fit to do so.
Legislative Branch – Congress
Just like the Executive Branch, Congress is not authorized by the Consitution to meddle in family affairs. But that has been unlawfully done.
While we as disenfranchised dads are not often in the federal judiciary, much of what is occurring in unconstitutional. As of this date there has not been a valid case brought before the judiciary, not for lack of merit, but for lack of resources. This is possibly an avenue for us to pursue in the future.