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Serving: IN

Do legislator visits and contacts really help in the long run?

Do legislator visits and contacts really help in the long run?
Is attending a legislative breakfast or making a contact just going through the motions?

I’ve attended more than a few legislative breakfasts in my day, many in the days when Indiana’s soil and water conservation districts were trying to gain support, first for t by 2000 and then for Clean Water Indiana. How do you gauge whether those events and other efforts to visit and contact legislators are successful? Are they just ‘make you feel like you did something’ events, or do they really make a difference?

Since the Indiana General Assembly just concluded these and other questions to Katrina Hall, director of legislative services for Indiana Farm Bureau. Her answers speak for themselves.

IPF: Do legislative visits really help?

VISIT, VISIT, VISIT: Some county Farm Bureaus organized and made sure members came to the statehouse three times this session, and actually talked to legislators. It helped get a strong property tax relief bill for farmers passed, Indiana Farm Bureau's Katrina Hall believes.

Hall: Absolutely! We could not have achieved what we did this session as an organization without the support of our members. We keep issues in front of legislators, but it is members who convince them that these issues are important.

Are visits effective?

Hall: Certainly. We challenged our county Farm Bureau’s all over the state to visit twice if possible this year, and many of them did. In fact, members from about a dozen counties physically visited the statehouse and talked to their legislators three times. That’s remarkable considering it was a short session. It took effort  and planning by individual counties to get members here as often as they did. It also took dedication.

We noticed that in the last days of the session, you were putting out calls for contacts and visits on a daily basis? Why is it so important then?

Hall: Several key points were still up in the air. We looked to get some help on property tax relief, but we weren’t sure how much. These decisions come down to the last few days or even hours as conference committees reach compromises. We needed to keep our needs in front of them as time wound down.

Can you point to an example in the property tax debate where support helped influence how legislation turned out?

Hall: You never know exactly why things go as they do, but we certainly believe that individual farmers contacting legislators made a difference. At one point in the final days it looked like a cap system would be left out of the property tax reform legislation that would pass. We kept asking, and members kept responding with calls and visits. In the end, a cap system was included. It wasn’t exactly what we asked for, but it is workable. It should help stabilize property tax bills for farmers into the future.

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