From the Hill
PLANET Director of Government Affairs
PLANET’s grassroots network and you
Did you know that in any given legislative year 9–10,000 bills are introduced in the U.S. Congress and another 10,000 in the states? Although only a very small percentage actually become law, these laws govern every aspect of our lives, from communication to recreation, from transportation to the environment, and much more. Laws governing issues such as pesticides, fertilizers, immigration/H-2B, small businesses, safety in the work place, clean water and air emissions, and gasoline taxes are among the hundreds of decisions that our legislators make on our behalf every day.
But how do they know what we want or what is best for their local community? They depend on their constituents (the voters in their state or district) to let them know how [proposed] federal and state policy affects their local community. Knowing and being responsive to the needs and concerns of the voters is, in fact, their top priority; it is what got them elected and will help get them re-elected. In some instances, legislators making policy decisions are not fully experienced in certain areas. Therefore, they rely heavily on the expressed views of their constituents and information provided by experts—like you. Through constituent letters, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings, legislators learn what’s important to the “people back home.” As the legendary Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill often said, “All politics is local.”
In fact, knowing what’s really important to you, what your needs are, what’s happening in your local area or across the state, is what really counts on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and in your state capitol. Despite the cynicism surrounding politicians and politics—especially in an election year—most legislators go to work every day trying to make a difference for their district or state and the nation.
It may surprise you to know that they not only rely heavily on what the voters think about an issue; in many cases they reach out to constituents who have expertise or knowledge in particular area to ask them for their help. Has that ever happened to you? If so, that’s likely because you have been actively involved at the grass roots. They know they can reach out to you when they need some assistance with a particular piece of legislation or even in the development of a proposed new policy initiative. In short, legislators and their staff count on your letters and phone calls, your direct involvement, to help them know if they are on the right track.
However, no matter how involved you are as an individual, greater influence and impact is gained when large numbers of constituents speak with one voice. And how is this best accomplished? It is only possible through organized grassroots activities like PLANET’s Legislative Day on the Hill.
Grass roots is the foundation for any successful advocacy initiative. It is the No. 1 reason why legislators vote “for” or “against” pending or proposed bills. Thus, grass roots gives you an opportunity to help make a difference for the landscape industry, for your employees, and for your community. So, when PLANET or your state association asks you to write a letter, make a phone call, or visit with your legislators on an issue of great importance to the industry, just say “yes.” Join the Action Network and get notification about pressing issues by signing up now in the Legislative Center on the LandcareNetwork.org website under the Government Affairs tab.
Tom Delaney, PLANET director of government affairs, can be reached at TomDelaney@landcarenetwork.org or by calling the PLANET office at 800-395-2522.