Citizen lobbyist Rich Neumeister joined us this weekend on the Radio Hour (Photo: Steve Timmer)
by Aaron Klemz
Dec 3, 2012, 9:00 AM

How to become a citizen lobbyist

This weekend, we had Rich Neumeister on the LeftMN Radio Hour to talk about privacy and open government issues that were likely to come up in St. Paul this year. Rich knows a lot about these issues, as much as anybody who haunts the halls of the Capitol building. But he’s no ordinary lobbyist. He’s a citizen lobbyist who has developed the knowledge and expertise to influence legislation on his own, nobody pays him to do it.

We need about 1,000 more Rich Neumeisters at the Capitol. No, we don’t need 1,000 more people lobbying on this set of issues, we need more people who pay attention to what’s going on in St. Paul because they care, not because they’re getting paid for it. I don’t mean to sound like I’m on an anti-lobbyist tirade. I know many good people who are lobbyists, and the truth is that they play an important role in making legislation. But there is a space, nay, a vacuum to be filled with people who don’t represent an interest group but who care about policy and making their voice heard.

What Rich Neumeister shows me is that if you care, you know your stuff, and you put in the time, you can influence policy. This is a very old-fashioned notion, but we have desperate need for people who play this role on a whole host of issues. And you can do it too.

Here are a few videos that Rich shared with us that are a good introduction to the legislative process and the techniques for influencing legislation. These are a good start, and we’ll be spending more time this winter trying to demystify the legislative process and help everybody build their skills to shape it. As you watch them, you should note one common piece of advice – it takes grit and a long-term plan to get things done.

The first is a brief feature of Rich done by Senate Media Services in which he offers advice for folks who want to get involved.

The second is a hour-long program by Public Record Media that looks at how citizen advocates influenced legislation in the 2010 legislative session. It features a roundtable discussion moderated by Eric Black. There are six parts to it:

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