“I need to hear from people in my district,” the Senator said to me as we concluded our conversation on the merits of raising the minimum wage. I also hear these words when I’m advocating for legislation that will seal non-violent felony records, pay down the state’s debt, or put stronger anti-gun trafficking laws in place. While this may be a ploy to get me out of their offices, I think that this is actually good news. Legislators should want to hear from their constituents.
The not-so-good news is that many legislators report hearing from under 20% of the voters in their districts over the course of the year. Yes, we live busy lives and juggle complicated work, family, and church schedules. But, under 20%? Surely we can do better than that.
The mid-point of the 98th Session of the IL General Assembly is fast approaching, and legislators are considering hundreds of bills. This is a crucial time for faith-rooted advocates to put our discipleship into action and help to build positive public policy by adding our voices to the political process.
Most of us recognize that the legislative scales are not balanced. And, we know that the imbalance dis-favors those without power, i.e., those who have limited wealth, position, influence. It takes sustained effort and substantial numbers to challenge this status quo and, thus, balance the scales. We must be advocates. That means that we put the power of our convictions and relationships into action with and on behalf of those who live on the margins of our communities.
Shifting the legislative scales can be a daunting task, but—together—we can make a difference. Workshops and training sessions prepare us for our work as advocates.
We hope you’ll join us at our advocacy workshops this spring – April 8th at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago and April 13th at Glencoe Union Church. Bring a friend! We’ll network with other advocates, learn about current Springfield legislation, and strengthen and/or refresh our advocacy skills.
A Better Illinois (the fair tax campaign) has scheduled a series of Train the Trainer events at the end of March and in early April. These sessions are geographically distributed across the state and will help to lay the ground work for a significant tax reform initiative. Trainers like you are needed to present the fair tax campaign to others.
Phone calls, e-mails, and in-person legislative visits are also ways we demonstrate our strength as advocates for just policies and new opportunities.
For example, thanks to advocates who sent e-mails or called their Senators just a few weeks ago, the new Medicaid legislation passed the Senate. Now members of the House need to hear from us about this opportunity to offer health insurance for single, uninsured, low-income adults. Send an email now.
For those ready for more direct involvement, advocates can participate with us in Springfield. The Community Renewal Society’s Faith-in-Action Day at the Capitol is April 16th for sealing nonviolent felony records and anti-gun trafficking. We will also collaborate with our colleagues in the environmental community on May 2nd to advocate for important environmental issues related to the costs of natural gas and coal extraction, and their impacts on land, water, and people.
I hope that you can make it to one of these events – our shared advocacy will be stronger for it.
Finally, join the Advocacy Network and download PCG’s Advocacy Toolkit to stay up-to-date on opportunities to put your faith into action. Together we can shift the balance of the scales for the sake of the common good.