“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” – Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Few people realize the power and significance of state legislatures. Often focused on “The Hill” in Washington DC many forget “The Hill” down the street. State legislatures pass far more legislation than does the federal government and therefore can be much more intrusive and often face much less scrutiny.
Luckily, the Libertas institute, a state based policy organization, is seeking to change that perception and redirect America’s (or at least Utah’s) focus to a much less saturated political market. This past Saturday, January 17, Libertas launched their second annual “Citizen Sponsorship Program” with a Legislative Boot Camp held at the Utah State Capitol. Over 200 Utahans registered with a lengthy wait list beyond that. Attendees were treated to in-depth trainings by state legislators and professional lobbyists as to how they can most effectively influence public policy as a private citizen.
New Young Americans for Liberty Salt Lake Vice President George Chardaze was positively affected. “This event definitely reminded me that I have the right and the power as a citizen to effect what bills are passed and what laws are made. To really see the change that we desire we need to be involved in the legislative process from the very beginning and really show that we care. Because if we don’t care right now it could be too late to care later.”
Several leaders from Young Americans for Liberty, Salt Lake accompanied George to the 4-hour training. We got to hear from Representative Jake Anderegg as he told us how he has been able to effectively use the legislatures rules of order to pass as well as defeat key legislation. Speaker of the House Greg Hughes took us on a brief tour of the capitol while explaining the legislative process.
“I learned way more than I expected,” said Val Christensen, a YAL member. “I never realized how easy state legislators were to access. You can literally just look up their number on the internet and call them.”
That is one of the benefits of having a citizen, as opposed to a professional, legislature. The Utah legislature meets only 45 days out of the calendar year, including weekends. The rest of the year Utah lawmakers spend working a regular job. In addition to that, being a Representative or Senator in Utah only adds about $16,000 annually to your salary. Compare that to California’s legislators who work year round and make about $60,000 annually.
Of course, there are significant differences between California and Utah. However there is an even more drastic difference between lobbying any state legislature, regardless of size, and lobbying Congress. Depending on the size of your state, you can have much more influence in you own back yard than you can in Washington DC.
When examining the impact of local government vs. federal government, remember that the frailties of human nature are not any more pronounced in those in the national arena of politics than in the local, just more visible. As one revolutionary wartime loyalist remarked, “I would rather have one tyrant 3000 miles away than 3000 tyrants one mile away.”