Legislative advocacy is one of our means of realizing justice on the issues we care about. Many of the issues we work on will have moral, social, fiscal and legal implications. For our purposes, “Legislative Advocacy” encompasses what takes place in the State legislature and Congress (initiatives, hearings and bills), the executive (executive action taken by the Governor or the POTUS), the regulatory (agency meetings, hearings, public activities) the municipal (ordinances, codes and mandates from city and county governing bodies) and the judicial (case law, hearings and decisions). Remember, the legislative creates the laws, the executive enforces the law and the judicial interprets the law.
Legislative advocacy is one good example that demonstrates the intersectionality of many issues. As an example, generally speaking, most laws and executive actions have fiscal requirements that are incorporated into, say, a governing body’s budget. Contained within the State (or Federal) Budget will be appropriations for programs and services that will impact racial equity, economic status, Tribal relations, criminal justice, environment and immigration issues among others. We expect to coordinate and collaborate with other advocacy groups such as UU organizations, environmental groups, the faith and wisdom communities, human rights groups and more.
If you would like to be more active in our sphere of legislative advocacy, you can sign up to work generally in any of our advocacy areas or sign up with any of our issue action teams as a legislative advocacy representative. You can also sign up to be a power lobbyist by clicking in the menu on the right and filling in the form. The Power Lobbyist page explains what is involved.
How to Comment on a Bill – WA State Legislature
UUs are notoriously varied in our opinions, and that’s a good thing. Some of us promote radical visions of revolution while others promote liberal approaches to reform. One thing we have in common is valuing electoral action. In 2020, our UU the Vote program enlisted radical and liberal UUs in a successful effort to drive up participation in our nation’s presidential election, with happy results. Ibram Kendi says that you’re not really an activist unless you have a track record of policy change. Promoting our state’s online bill-comment tool should appeal to a broad range of UUs. Even moderates can see the value in advocating for better laws.
My co-congregant Bill McPherson is something of a powerhouse on climate issues. He has talked to the legislative aides who compile constituent views for state legislators, and they have told him that the bill-comment tools are powerful. They’re like an inside track to the attention of your legislators. Personal letters can powerful; however, some legislators may read the letters or not, but they are most likely to check the summary of bill comments prepared by their legislative aides from the website.
You can coach other UUs on how to make the strongest impression with elected officials. Canned, rote, and copy/pasted comments carry less weight, so encourage your fellow congregants to speak personally. In “Justice on Earth“, Pamela Sparr advises UUs to present themselves to politicians as members of the UU faith tradition. This identity tells electeds that one is not just a lone voice but part of a community grounded in ultimate values and capable of organizing.
JUUstice Washington tracks important bills in our state legislature, and the bill-comment tool lets any UU easily turn JUUstice Washington’s positions into action. Other Washington activist groups also provide guidance on state-level issues. As a climate-action activist, I follow Earth Ministry of Seattle, which alerts people to legislative actions.
When you coach socially aware UUs to use the bill-comment tool, you know that other religious and secular activists are likewise pointing people to the same important legislative actions. While some religious traditions advise their believers to isolate themselves from secular society, UUism calls on us to engage on all levels with the larger society around us. The bill-comment process is an outstanding example of how we turn our values into action and how our UU values create connections with others rather than distancing us from our neighbors. Encourage your co-congregants to engage alongside faithful citizens from every faith tradition as well as secularists. Together we can make a real difference.
How to comment on a bill
Interested in National Issues? Get Your Message to DC Sooner!
JUUstice Washington is primarily concerned with state issues. For UUs interested in national issues, we have a sister action network,UUSJ.net, in Washington, DC. Security scrutiny of postal mail to Congress and executive agencies in Washington, DC results in a month-long delay of delivery. To avoid this delay, you can request a national advocacy toolkit by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. With this toolkit, you can frame messages to Congress and executive agencies, and activists in DC will hand-deliver them for you.