Every year in the spring, a coalition of Christian family policy groups come together to sponsor Ohio Family Lobby Day (OFLD). This year it took place on Wednesday April 25. More than 60 people participated in this year’s event including my wife and two of my three children. Sponsoring groups included The Institute For Principled Policy, Pro-Family Network, Ohio Christian Alliance, Family First, Homemakers For America, Citizens For Community Values, Center For Bio-Ethical Reform and many others.
The purpose of OFLD is really four-fold. First, the participants get practical experience in meeting and speaking with their elected representatives. This is absolutely necessary if Christians are to have influence in making state and national policy. Second, the participants learn the best way to be persuasive in speaking with lawmakers. It is imperative that Christians develop cordial working relationships with lawmakers coming from a variety of perspectives and political parties. Third, Christians learn the details of bills which impact their families, churches, jobs and lives. Being aware of what legislators are working on is necessary for all families, if they are to have the impact on the culture that the Christian faith mandates. Fourth, important information is returned to Christian policy groups regarding where representatives stand on legislation that they believe to be crucial to their efforts.
The OFLD participants were divided into teams of four or 5 members. Several teams had whole families as members. My own team consisted of my wife and youngest daughter, two delightful pro-life Christian activists and me. I was appointed a team leader. My oldest daughter was placed on another team. The OFLD organizers made appointments for each team with legislators. Registration began at 8:00 AM and the group opened with prayer slightly behind schedule, a little after 9:00 AM. Following this was a short instruction on lobbying followed by briefings on several bills that the group would be concentrating on.
Among the bills the group was working for were SB-16, the Community Defense Act (CDA) already passed by the Ohio Senate and now pending in the Ohio House, a continuation of abstinence education which Governor Strickland has stated he will not continue; SB-20, the Adoption Tax Credit Increase already passed by the Ohio Senate and now pending in the Ohio House; continuation of the Ed Choice Scholarship program in the budget process and charter schools, which Governor Strickland wants to end or seriously curtail; HB-47 and HB-123, two bills which would end the attempts to tax churches in the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District and prevent this from occurring in the future. The group also was instructed on opposition to HB-81, The Mandatory Gardasil Vaccination Bill, support for the Covenant Marriage Bill (not yet numbered), seeking co-sponsors for the Personhood bill and opposition to the Prevention First Act.
Our team met with two state Senators and had appointments with three state Representatives. Due to the State of the Judiciary speech followed immediately by House session, we met mostly with aides of the lawmakers and unfortunately, one of the representative’s aides was taken ill and so our team’s appointment was canceled. Appointments lasted about 15 minutes and each team leader tried to make sure that any team member who had something to contribute to the lobbying efforts was given the opportunity to speak. I have had some limited experience and did most of the talking, but all of my team-mates also made important contributions to the effort. Only my daughter Stephanie had very little to say, she’s only 12, but she did manage to charm her way into a tour of the Capitol and she was very attentive to what was being said and done by the adults.
A fine lunch was provided as part of the cost of registration. The lobbyists-in-training were treated by a talk from Representative Bill Batchelder who asked us to not let our lobbying efforts be a once-a-year event but that we continue our work throughout the legislative session. We also were treated to a surprise speaker- former Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, who gave a very inspirational talk on our efforts to have an influence in policymaking.
Between meetings some team members took advantage of the opportunity to watch the legislative process in action from the galleries while others took the time to explore the Capitol’s many historical displays, or to study legislative talking points.
At the end of the day, the teams were asked to fill out a de-briefing form which asked important questions regarding how the lobbying efforts were received, what legislative efforts the lawmakers supported and which ones they opposed. Thus invaluable information was gathered about which representatives support or oppose important bills and give insight on their approachability on future efforts.
My family’s OFLD experience was very positive. As a homeschooling parent, we believe our children gained a priceless lesson on how policy-related things are done, they got to see their parents in action trying to make Ohio a better place to live and they got experience in how to do the job themselves in the future. My oldest daughter thinks she might like to work in the state legislature, something she had never thought about before. This was well worth the registration fee. Come join us next spring and bring the kids!