Up until today, my advocacy efforts were mainly done in front of my computer or through various calls placed to legislators.
In speaking with Scott Golden, Deputy Chief of Staff for Congressman Marsha Blackburn (TN-R 7th), I found out there would be a town hall meeting in Lexington, TN mainly focusing on the current health care reform bill.
Even though I am not in her district (though as the Tennessee Advocacy Chair, I represent her constituents), I made the hour drive past right past I-40 to Sparky's Pizzeria and Grill.
This was a whole new experience for me. I was taking my commitment to this piece of legislation and going out into the political realm.
I arrived about 25 minutes early and found several other folks waiting in the back meeting room. We all exchanged pleasantries as we waited for the guest of honor to arrive. A staff member informed us that Representative Blackburn would be around 10 minutes late because of a previous engagement earlier in the morning.
Around 11:15am, Congressman Blackburn entered the meeting room and greeted everyone in attendance personally. Being somewhat new to this whole process I was taken in by her presence as she shook my hand, "Hello, my name is Brent Hinson...it's an honor to meet you," I said as an amateur lobbyist.
For a majority of the meeting, I sat and listened to her viewpoints in regards to the current health care reform bill. She made a lot of interesting points as I remained objective. I did interject once by raising my hand, "Is there no middle ground...I mean, is everything black and white...is there no compromise?" On this particular issue, the congressman illustrated how polarizing this bill (H.R. 3200) is between the political parties.
As she finished answering questions and took a few pictures, I introduced myself to Scott Golden and thank him for inviting me to this meeting. I presented him with a copy of the summary of the IBD bill. He asked me to follow him and asked that I wait while the congressman finished greeting her constituents as she exited.
"We'll do a walk and talk...you can make your pitch to her as she leaves," Golden explained to me.
You have to remember, going into this meeting, there was no guarantee that I would even be able to speak with her.
As she prepared for her exit, I introduced myself again, clarified which bill I wanted to discuss, explained that this bill was very similar to one she had previous co-sponsored and specifically asked her to co-sponsored this bill.
Now, I realize this isn't the best way to go about discussing this piece of legislation, but I had to make the most out of my one-on-one face time.
I thanked her for her time, asked that she research the bill and sign on to it. I also managed to give her a CCFA "Got Guts" bracelet.
She was headed back to Nashville, so I hope she was able to look over the bill summary and give it careful consideration. Health care (along with unemployment) seem to be at the top of the pile for our legislators. I know there are other aspects that she must give her attention to, but I did my best to bring "inflammatory bowel disease" to the forefront of her mind.
Keep those calls, emails and letters going into her office so that it remains a priority and she co-sponsors the IBD bill!