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Advocacy Day Delegates Report Cordial, Respectful Conversations on Policy Issues

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May 17, 2018

It is an empowering experience – visiting the State Capitol and discussing with lawmakers the pros and cons of policy proposals.

Nearly 100 delegates from most dioceses in California learned that lessons during Catholic Advocacy Day last month when they travelled to Sacramento to discuss six crucial bills now before the legislature.  Almost all had cordial visits and respectful dialogue, even with legislators who disagreed with the Conference positions.

The legislature is in its busiest time of year right now yet many delegates were able to meet with their elected representatives or senior staff.   One Assembly Member (Anna Caballeros of Salinas, CA), visited by delegates from the Diocese of Monterey, even arranged for her staff to call her out of a hearing when the delegation arrived.

“Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva was very polite and she answered most [of] the questions to the best of her knowledge,” reported the delegation from Orange. 

It can be very hectic between committee hearings and other activities: “[Assembly Member] Reyes made a point to get back in time to see us.  This was very positive,” said the San Bernardino diocesan report.

“Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva was very polite and she answered most [of] the questions to the best of her knowledge,” reported the delegation from Orange. 

It can be very hectic between committee hearings and other activities: “[Assembly Member] Reyes made a point to get back in time to see us.  This was very positive,” said the San Bernardino diocesan report.

However, there are also offices that do not seem to appreciate the visits such as the one with Senate Pro-Tem Kevin de Leon:  “[The staffer] knew almost nothing about any of the bills we talked about.  Her specialty was transportation.  The office was ill prepared for our visit even though I had emailed.”  However, added the delegate, the staffer did the best she could and was cordial.

Nevertheless, 85 percent of the delegates said they felt welcomed, only 6 percent had negative experiences.

A common “complaint” in the reports is that the meeting takes place in cramped quarters or in a hallway.  Actually, this is not unusual since many of the legislative offices are small and do not have conference rooms able to handle even a small group.  This is not so much a “snub” as much as a practical reality.

By far, the most challenging aspect of any type of advocacy day is to get legislators to commit to a position.  About two-thirds of the delegates (65 percent) felt the legislator or staff explained the lawmakers position well.

Many legislators will not commit on a bill until it is before them in committee or the floor.  Some of this is just to avoid being held accountable and some is very practical – the nature of a bill can change many times as it is amended through the legislative process. 

Majorities of lawmakers in the report support the Conference’s position on every one of the six bills but that comes with the caveat that many lawmakers (or staff) failed to commit one way or another.  You can view each legislator’s position, if any, by viewing this report.  A summary of all the positions is also available in this group of charts.

In several cases, lawmakers committed to reviewing the bills and following up with the delegation.  Accountability and follow-up are essential aspects of Catholic Advocacy Day.  Delegation leaders have agreed to arrange subsequent meetings with legislators in their home districts.  You are strongly encouraged to attend one of these meetings – and bring the report with you – when they are scheduled in your area.

Despite the many challenges, 88 percent of the delegates felt the visits were useful.  Busy offices and harried staffers aside, becoming involved in the legislative process is both enlightening and beneficial for any member of a community. 

Being a prophetic voice for life and dignity in California may be hard sometimes but it is a witness to our Catholic values and our concern for our sisters and brothers in need.