Annual Post on Pending Georgia State Animal Legislation!

Folks, there are several bills in play in the Georgia State Legislature this year that you should know about. I’ve developed this blogpost to give you an overview of them, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to get your point of view known by YOUR state legislators – YOUR Georgia state senator and representative. This year’s General Session is slated to run through the end of March, but the day to get a bill passed on one side (House or Senate) and progressed to the other is March 12. NOW is the time to get your voice heard … and it’s EASY to do.

First, here’s a quick brief on each of the bills.

Bill: Grace’s bill, outlawing the remaining gas chambers in 15 Georgia counties. I can’t speak strongly enough about this one. These gas chambers are cruel and unnecessary, with animals’ lives ending in panic. The gas is dangerous to the workers, and bad for the environment. In addition, when pets are not euthanized individually, tracking of accurate statistics is impossible. Reference House Bill 606. This bill is NEW and has just been assigned a number. Ask for a co-sign and any help getting it out of committee.

Bill: Antifreeze Safety. This would mandate the addition of a bittering agent to make antifreeze (which is both poisonous and pleasant-tasting) less appealing to animals, who often find it spilled on the road. Reference House Bill 219. This bill is on its second reading, which basically means it is in committee. Ask for a co-sign and any help getting it out of committee.

Bill: Cockfighting. This would create similar restrictions on cockfighting as we currently have on dogfighting, making it illegal to attend a fight, or raise the birds for fighting. Since cockfighting is often atmosphere for other crimes (drugs and weapons especially), this will have a huge social impact. Believe it or not, there is a large opposition to this bill, with professional lobbyists fighting it. Reference House Bill 109. This bill is on its second reading, which basically means it is in committee. Ask for a co-sign and any help getting it out of committee.

Bill: Pet Protective Orders. This would include pets in restraining orders in domestic violence cases, preventing the abuser from using the pet as a threat to his/her victim. Reference House Bill 429. This bill is on its second reading, which basically means it is in committee. Ask for a co-sign and any help getting it out of committee.

Bill: Local Farm Animal Ordinances. This bill would prohibit cities and counties from regulating the production of agricultural or farm products on farms larger than 5 acres. Doesn’t sound like a big deal at first, but it would prevent local communities from making any laws dealing with animal welfare, food safety, or environmental protection in their own communities.  It is essentially a power grab by the Farm Bureau. Reference HB 529. Ask for a NO vote.  This vote has PASSED committee and will next go to the Rules committee to be scheduled for floor debate.

WHEW!  That’s five important bills!  Good news — It’s EASY to get your point of view heard by your state legislators. Citizen activism is a very influential type of lobbying for most legislators at the state level. They LOVE to meet their constituents, and it makes a big impression.  Remember, our Georgia state legislators are only “employed” about 40 days out of the year, so they are really just regular guys who live in our neighborhoods most of the time. They are not too busy to talk to you, and they are not too much of a big shot to talk to you. It is their job to talk to you, to understand your concerns and your wants as a constituent. And most of them take this very seriously. I have never met a legislator yet who wasn’t glad to sit down with someone from his or her district, even unannounced. Many of them will give time to people who are NOT even in their districts.

It takes only 3 contacts from constituents to wake up a Georgia state senator / representative about an issue and get it on their radar screen. I am often amazed when I hear a leglislator say that no one in the district has contacted them about an issue, when it’s something I hear people talk about all the time. People really do not take advantage of the accessibility of our state legislators – which means that everyone who DOES contact them really has a voice.

Step One. Know who (and where) your legislators are.

This is easy. Go to this site http://www.votesmart.org/ to figure out who your Georgia state senator and representative are. You need your zip +4 code. (If you don’t know the +4 part of your zip, use this site first — http://zip4.usps.com/zip4/welcome.jsp).

When your search results come up, scroll down to “State Legislative.” There should be 2 names – a senator and a house representative.

Now that you know who your guys / gals are, go to this site and look them up to get phone numbers, office locations, email addresses, or whatever you want. http://www.legis.state.ga.us/ (See “Fact Sheet” on each.)

Step Two. Understand the bills that are in play.

See my overviews above, and research the details on the Humane Society, ASPCA, and other animal welfare websites. If you want to see the actual bills, go to this site http://www.legis.state.ga.us/. Use the “Legislative Search” feature at the top right to search for keywords of interest or the bill numbers.  You can also attend the Humane Society grassroots event on Tuesday March 3 in Atlanta.  https://community.hsus.org/humane/upcoming-events.tcl

Step Three. Let your legislators know how you feel about the bills.  Three hints.

  1. Clearly reference the bills. Say the bill’s number and some key words about it.
  2. Create your story, to reflect why this is important to you.
  3. Be specific about what you want the legislator to do.

Always be professional and courteous. Never threaten in any way, not to withhold your vote, or anything. Speak from your own experience. Tell your story and how the issue has affected you. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, and offer to find out and get back to them later.

So, a sample conversation might go like this.  “Hi David, thanks for meeting with me.  I want to talk to you about the Gas Chamber bill, HB 606.  New gas chambers are already illegal, but 15 counties still use it because existing ones were grandfathered in.  This is such a cruel practice, with animals’ lives ending in panic, and I really hope you’ll help to end the practice.  The gas is also poisonous to the workers, and of course gets released into the environment when they open the chamber.  In my rescue experience, I am also very frustrated by this “mass killing” of animals because it also means that we cannot accurately track how many animals are euthanized, making the true extent of our animal overpopulation problem difficult to quantify.  Please vote YES on this bill, and consider cosigning it.

I’d also like to mention the Antifreeze bill.  I really hope you’ll support that, and my understanding is that even the antifreeze manufacturers aren’t against it.  It will add only pennies to the cost of a gallon.  My neighbor’s cat died last year from drinking antifreeze he found in their driveway.  It was horrible.  This bill would make the antifreeze taste bad so cats and dogs wouldn’t be attracted to it.  That’s HB 219.  Please consider cosigning this bill, and vote YES for it.

In Person

The most effective way to contact your representative / senator is in person. This is amazingly easy to do, and makes a huge impression. These guys WANT to see you and meet you. They LOVE IT when constituents come see them. You can call and ask for an appointment, but it’s easy to just go down to the Capitol — it’s simple on MARTA — or find the office in the district itself. If the senate or house is actually in session, you can go to the desk and ask them to go into the chamber to get your guy / gal. They send a page in (kids!) and the rep comes out to see you in the hall. Yes, they come out of the session just to talk to little old YOU. Introduce yourself as someone in their district and say your piece about the bills. If possible, tell a story about your personal experience and why this is important. (For example, I told my senator yesterday about puppies I have gotten from people after they found out they had birth defects that couldn’t be seen at the young age they got them. And he was shocked to find out that I have dogfighting in my neighborhood. That really woke him up). Make sure you mention the bill number and key words from the bill’s name. If possible, leave a card with a little note on it, with the bill numbers. If you get there and your senator / rep is away, ask to talk to his / her staff person. Then send a thank you note or email reiterating your conversation.

By Phone.

The second best way is by phone. Call and leave a message with the bill numbers and names, and your request to support them.

Email or Letters

It is also effective to send an email or snail mail letter or card, to tell your story. Same deal, make sure the bill numbers are in the subject line. The staffers who check the email keep a running tally of “for / against” based on the email / letters /calls they get.

Step 4: Sonny.

Lastly, contact the governor’s office (ideally by phone, but email is ok) and ask Sonny Perdue to rally his people around for / against your pieces of legislation. If you like a bill, request him to sign it when it gets to his desk. 404-656-1776, or you can go to the website and fill out a little form. http://gov.georgia.gov/00/gov/contact_us/0,2657,78006749_94820188,00.html . Or you can write a note and fax it to 404 657 7332.

Want Extra Credit?

For bills that you really like, write a note to the originators and sponsors of the bill and the cosigners to thank them for their leadership. That may keep their commitment going if things get controversial.

Let’s do it!

Look at your calendar. Is there a day between now and the end of the session that you could go to the Capitol? Book it! Then call your senator and rep and make an appointment to see them or their staff, or just go hang out during the session itself and have a page sent in to get them.

Get your laptop out and write and email right now.

The ideal situation is that every senator / rep hears from 3 people in his/her district about your issue. Think of ways you could find people in each district to make the same contacts you did for yours.

Forward this post to every person you know who is interested in your issue. Ideally, copy and paste it into your own email message and add your own spin. (This is why they say organization is so important.)

Remember — It takes only 3 contacts from constituents to wake up a senator / representative about an issue and get it on his / her radar screen. Imagine what an effect we would have if all of us made a phone call or went down to the Capitol this session.  If anyone wants to go, I’ll happily go with you — it’s a rush!  Viva democracy!

Helpful Links at a Glance

Finding your legislators (requires zip + 4) http://www.votesmart.org/

Finding your zip + 4: http://zip4.usps.com/zip4/welcome.jsp

http://www.legis.state.ga.us/

http://gov.georgia.gov/00/gov/contact_us/0,2657,78006749_94820188,00.html

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: