Impacting the Legislative Process
The toolbox of a grassroots activist includes many useful tools such as acts of civil-disobedience, personal visits, letters, phone calls, emails, pre-written postcards or form letters, and petitions. Each has a different purpose and level of effectiveness. These items are listed in their approximate order of importance and impact.
Acts of civil-disobedience can and have been very effective in impacting the legislative process. ABATE of South Carolina and the MRA both used this tactic to change South Carolina's helmet law. Helmet protest runs and rallies were held and members were arrested and jailed for not wearing helmets while riding their motorcycles. Boycotts can be useful forms of civil-disobedience to impact organizationa and even local governments. The key is know when to resort to civil-disobedience.
Personal visits continue to be important in our continuing effort to preserve individual liberties such as our current helmet law. An organized lobby day is an example of personal visits; members of ABATE visit the General Assembly while in session dressed as bikers. Come as you are it makes a much better impact; even the legislators you don't visit will know you are there about biker issues. Remember long haired tattooed bikers got the South Carolina helemt law changed in 1980; let's stick with what works.
Letters when handwritten are best however politicians now realize many home know have computers with word processors so typed and signed letter are OK. Always state your complete name, voter registration number, and mailing address to make the greatest impact. Former Senator Hollings and others have simply ignored and thrown away letters when this information is not provided.
Phone calls are very effective when time is of the essence. Great tactic when a bill is due for a immediate vote. Remember to ask the staff member for his or her complete name; expressing thanks can help too. Legislators often do not have time to read bills and rely upon their staff for input. When making follow up calls or future calls ask for the staff member by name. Staff members are important points of contact.
Emails are also effective when time is of the essence. Much like a written letter it should include your complete name, voter registration number, and mailing address or it will likely be ignored and deleted. Representative Henry Brown responds to emails. Many politicians have changed their views towards emails following the anthrax scare.
Pre-written postcards or form letters are not very effective. Thousands of them will make an impact but hundreds of unique letters are better. ABATE could copy what has worked for SC Grassroots (concealed weapons rights group) by purchasing a list of motorcycle ownersin SC. Then ABATE could mail everyone on the list with an invitation to join ABATE and notice of important motorcycle issues.
Petitions are the least effective tool. Petitions should only be used to augment a greater effort.
Awareness of issues and legislative bills is very important. You cannot oppose a bill if you are unaware of its exisitence. Search for current bills before the General Assembly and join our email list to stay aware of threats to motorcyclists. Read the Bill of Rights, US Constitution and your state's constitution. I also strongly recommend reading Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged! Join ABATE of South Carolina if you are not yet a member and attend your local chapter's meetings. Stay aware and know the position on motorcycle issues of those running for office.
Vote! Register to vote. Vote for those who support motorcycle rights and against those who do not support biker rights. If you cannot register to vote participate anyway. Legislators and others do not have time to check if you are a registered voter or not during personal visits like Lobby Days; your presence will make a difference. Likewise they will not have time to check when you call on the phone. Your views and opinions matter even if you have lost your right to vote. Felons regain the right to vote in South Carolina after completing their sentence, probation, and parole.