All right, guys, I'm finally getting around to writing about Advocacy Day.
Like I said last week, there was a welcome reception downtown on Tuesday night. I got to meet Keiko Zoll, as well as several other great ladies, and I went out for tapas with two of them afterwards. There had been snacks at the reception, but I wanted a little more, and the three of us had a great time! Plus, I was able to pass along a book I was done with to one of them (brought it to her the next morning).
Wednesday morning, I got downtown bright and early for our training session. The keynote speaker was Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who had been the youngest woman elected to the Senate.
We then got instruction and guidance on what to say and how to handle questions. There were two bills that we were advocating for, the Family Act of 2011, a tax credit for 50% of costs associated with in vitro fertilization or preserving fertility for cancer patients, and to extend the Adoption Tax Credit, which is set to expire on December 31 unless it is renewed. We met with the other advocates from our home states to determine who would cover what talking points for meetings with multiple constituents and to see who wanted to drop by offices of Representatives who did not have a constituent present.
I said that I would visit Rep. Andy Harris' office, since I live right next to his district. I met with his tax policy staffer, since the healthcare policy staffer was unavailable, and I explained the impact of infertility and of the lack of coverage for infertility to key groups in the state such as military personnel, federal employees, and employees of small businesses. I figured those were three good areas to emphasize, with Harris being a Republican. Since I knew that the staffer was not expecting this and would have to talk to Rep. Harris before saying anything, I got his card and said that I would follow up with him to find out what Rep. Harris thinks of the bills and if he has any questions. I did make sure to get a picture outside of Rep. Harris' office before trotting off to lunch with a close friend.
After lunch, I had an hour before my meeting with staffers from Steny Hoyer's office, so I walked around the Capitol and did some gawking. I can't believe that I had never been, despite all the field trips to DC that every kid in Maryland has. I did take a picture of his office entrance. He does get the deluxe accommodations, being the Minority Whip.
For this meeting, I had a consultant with me, one of the ones that RESOLVE has hired to help with the lobbying for the Family Act of 2011. We met with two of Rep. Hoyer's staffers that cover healthcare policy. One of them was 6 months pregnant, which the consultant had mentioned ahead of time as an aside (since he knew her from other projects). I was glad to have the warning so I could prepare myself! We met in one of the big pretty conference rooms, although the grandeur was somewhat spoiled by having to go to the other end of the table to avoid the crumbs from a lunch meeting. The main thing that I took away from the meeting was that the main work and opportunity for the bill to pass would be after November, once Congress reconvened with its new composition. Before leaving, I got a pic with the two staffers.
After this meeting, I had about an hour and a half before my next meeting, with a staffer for Senator Mikulski. There had been too many advocates from Maryland for each of us to meet with both senators, since the meetings had a max of 10, so I chose to meet with Senator Mikulski's office and not Senator Cardin's. My cousinish (she's the sister of my cousin's husband) works in the HR department of one of the Senate office buildings, so I went to hang out with her for a little while. Dianna introduced me to her coworkers and showed me the little subway that runs between the office buildings and the Capitol.
For the meeting with Senator Mikulski's staffer, I was with three other advocates and another consultant (a different one than before). One thing that the consultant was trying to encourage was for Senator Mikulski, as the chair of a subcommittee on children and families, to hold a field hearing about infertility at Shady Grove Fertility Center. Sorry, I did not get a picture in or outside Senator Mikulski's office. There was a debrief session at the end of the day, but I didn't go because it was on the other side of the Capitol from my last meeting and mostly overlapped with it. Last picture for this post is one that was actually taken before I went to Rep. Harris' office, of me in front of the Capitol. Overall it was a great day. I enjoyed meeting people, and it felt good to be doing something real to advocate, something more than just having this blog. I don't know how much of a difference the blog makes, but if we can get the Family Act passed and the Adoption Tax Credit renewed, that actually helps people. And that's a big deal.