My eighth grade civics class taught me that our government is open and accessible to the people. You can meet with your elected officials and discuss the issues. Since age 15, I have been doing just that.
With the recent tragedy in Arizona there is a review taking place about openness at our State Capitol. Can new security measures at the Capitol have an impact on the ability of people to be able to have access to and communicate with elected officials? The answer is yes.
Lobbying as a non paid person at the State House for decades, I know what access to policymakers is and the difference it can make for legislative policy.
I have seen where reception areas have been set up to greet people and serve as waiting areas until the elected official is ready to greet them, but the well-known lobbyist does not wait because the reception person knows who he or she is. I am aware of people who park their cars on the north side of the Capitol on Sherburne Ave. to come to a hearing on a cold day or to see their representative, but have to go all way around to the south side to get in. The registered lobbyist more than likely has a paid pass to allow them to get into any entry door at the Capitol.
The traditional lobbyist has access in many different venues and ways inside and outside the Capitol. For the citizen, the Capitol can be the only place to meet the legislators and let their views be known.
It is important that the security group which was recently reactivated to review security be guided with a principle or two I learned from that civics’s class.
One, treat everyone the same for access to the Capitol. And two, allow for public participation and feedback on what the people think about access to their house, the “People’s House.”