WDC Annapolis Day 2018

WDC 2018 Annapolis Day (and more!): From the Perspective of Laura Stewart

WDC Annapolis Day was a true gift to an advocacy newbie!! I took full advantage of all the planned activities and even added a few “extras” to make the fullest use of my day in Annapolis.  Not knowing exactly what to expect on this day, I was pleased that Advocacy Committee co-chairs Ginger Macomber and Emily Shetty were there to sign us in and get us situated. It was nice to see their friendly faces.  

We started the day attending the Women’s Legislators Caucus meeting, where we heard about the priorities of the caucus including bills related to gun safety. It was fascinating to sit in and hear these women consolidate their voices in order to make a positive difference for all of Maryland.  We had a planned activity at our “home base,” but it was hard to leave such an engaging conversation.

At the Baltimore County Delegation room, Fran Rothstein, WDC’s venerable [VENERABLE?  REALLY??] leader, welcomed us all. Alice Wilkerson then gave us top tips in advocating for WDC priorities. This reminds me that I have a few thank you’s to send! She also schooled us in the Maryland version of “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” There are many steps to follow, but handouts were given out so we could follow along.

I was sorry to have to miss part of the presentation, but I had a meeting with a key senator on the issues I am following as part of the Children and Youth Advocacy Committee and my role in Montgomery County Council of PTA’s.  I met with Senator Nancy King who sits on two important commissions for school funding, the Kirwan and the Knott Commissions. I had never been to an office in Annapolis, but the staff was very helpful. Senator King had wonderful insights into school funding and the visit was invaluable. I highly recommend you all to make an appointment and meet with a lead Senator or Delegate in regards to issues important to you, your community, and WDC.

At this point, I was starting to learn how to get from building to building efficiently, but soon I’d get to experience the tunnel maze underneath the legislative buildings. I made it back in time to take the trip to the State House while the General Assembly was in session. My son’s gerbil would be impressed with our navigation, thanks to our fearless leaders! We soon found our way to the beautiful State House. We could see all our representatives on the floor.  It was clear that Montgomery County has a large delegation, which made me ponder how WDC can make a huge difference in Maryland by helping to consolidate that power.

The next stops were the highlight of the day. We split up into our districts and went to visit our respective delegations. Armed with packets, with all of WDC’s priorities, we advocated with our Senators and Delegates. The legislators were open to hearing our concerns and gave insights based on their participation on committees.  Directly after our visits, the entire delegation met us for a nice lunch. They all had a chance to speak about their top priorities. Seeing one after another speak about all the issues we care about made me realize the political power Montgomery County has and can harness, in the Maryland General Assembly. We are lucky to have such amazing talent represent us.

Next on the agenda was the opportunity to attend committee meetings, which typically start at 1:00 pm.  I believe the Judiciary Committee was the “hot ticket” with Firearm Crimes addressing “bump stocks.” Moms Demand Action was in Annapolis that day advocating for gun control laws. I decided to go to the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee in order to hear about education laws being addressed that day. It was nice to see children there, asking for state dollars to help with terrific robotic clubs, which can be very expensive.  These kids did a terrific job testifying and will be the innovators for the future. We also heard students advocating for HBCUs, including one student that I’m pretty sure will be in the halls of Maryland’s State House not too far in the future. If any of you plan on testifying for a cause at some point, attending a committee hearing can help you know what to expect.

After a long exciting day, we ended with a debriefing by our WDC leaders. Unfortunately, I had to miss this in order to go to Baltimore to see the end result of a bill passed last year. Environmental bills, and others require regulations to be written.  A draft is posted in the Maryland Register. There are opportunities for public comment, so I went over to the Department of the Environment to advocate for strong testing requirements for the water our kids drink in schools across Maryland. A law might only be as strong as the enforcement, so we can’t take our eyes off the ball!

I strongly suggest WDC members take a day off from your normal routine and attend this event in the future.  Go see where the “sausage is made.” It is a long process, with twists and turns, and sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right. Our advocacy helps the process by making it easier for our legislators to get great bills passed. I am so happy that I became a member of this great organization so I can hopefully make a positive difference for all of Maryland’s children.