On a Thursday evening in May, my fellow ACE Fellows and I started planning meticulously for our upcoming Lobby Day on June 7th. Lobbying means working to influence the actions of our politicians. A Lobby Day is simply a day dedicated to having meetings with our legislators in order to share our perspectives and priorities with them. During that planning meeting in May, along with the NC WARN Youth Organizing Team, we brainstormed our goals for lobbying. We took the age-old phrase, “practice makes perfect” to heart by pretending to lobby, and then giving each other constructive criticism. After practicing, we were ready to lobby through anything.
We learned that the fossil fuel industry has a strong grip on the people in office. This instilled a greater focus on voter engagement...because we need candidates who will fight for better policies and a better future.
Lobby Day started with going to the North Carolina Legislative Building in Raleigh. Outside the building, we waited for the team to get together and then prepared our materials. Our asks for the legislators were simple:
- Don’t accept money from the fossil fuel industry.
- Incentivize renewable energy for both businesses and citizens.
- Make sure all new buildings are ready for installing solar energy.
- Make sure there are policies protecting solar users.
- Stop Senate Bill 781.
- A just and equitable transition to renewable energy!
All the Fellows were split into one of two lobby groups. As I was with my group, the energy I felt was a combination of stress, nervousness, excitedness, and a touch of disorientation. This was my first time lobbying, and while it seemed self-explanatory on paper, it was starting to seem a lot tougher in real life. My group was supportive and helped each other along the bumps of Lobby Day, which helped me pull myself together.
As our two lobby groups walked into the building together, I knew that I could and would have a spectacular Lobby Day. While in the security check to get inside, simply observing the place and the people in it, I felt like we belonged there. We went directly to our first scheduled meeting, but the Senate was in session all day passing a bill known as the “Farm Bill”, and the House had 16 committee meetings after the morning session. Due to being in session or committee, many of the legislators we had appointments with were no longer available to meet with us. This messed our schedule up, but we persevered. We talked with legislative aides, who were willing to lend a listening ear and a helping hand. We also left many packets of information for all of the senators and representatives who weren’t able to hear us lobby.
In the office of Senator Tamara Barringer, we discussed our asks with her legislative clerk, Devon Karst. She was very open to our ideas and supportive of Lobby Day. It was excellent practice, and it definitely settled any remaining nerves I had.
At the end of the day, we sat down with Graig Meyer, who listened to our accounts of Lobby Day. Looking into the window of NC legislature, we learned that the fossil fuel industry has a strong grip on the people in office. This instilled a greater focus on voter engagement for ACE Fellows, because we need candidates who will fight for better policies and a better future. After that, we took plenty of fun pictures together, which ended the exceptional day we had together. Lobby Day gave me confidence in knowing that it is possible to bring awareness to issues I care about, with others who believe and care about the same things. Especially being a youth, it inspired me and showed me that my work really mattered. I learned skills that can be applied to real life, and I sincerely hope that everyone gets to have an experience as beneficial as Lobby Day.