It’s been a little over a week since Lobby Days, but the energy of those two powerful days is still here! During the event incredible volunteers from across the state engaged with over 80 Representatives and Senators to continue the momentum behind pro-equality legislation. The event was dynamic and inspiring for all who attended.
Lobby Days began with a captivating training by our very own Carlos Smith and Michael Farmer. Each team - garnered with a pop diva name - role played a meeting as the staff acted as Legislators (I didn’t mind being called Representative Paoloemilio, if even for a few minutes!)
During lunch our team heard from House Minority Leader Mark Pafford. He talked to the group about the general climate of the Legislature, while answering our lobbyists’ questions. For the remainder of lunch, the room was buzzing with role playing and team bonding.
After an eventful afternoon of meetings, Florida's only openly gay legislator Representative David Richardson stopped by our Lobby Days Mixer at 101 Restaurant, along with Senator Darren Soto. House Bill 33 sponsor and LGBT champion Representative Holly Raschein chatted with Equality Florida staff and volunteers about her perspective on the bill. Co-sponsor Representative Heather Fitzenhagen also stopped by to pump up our volunteers. They all kept our advocates in high spirits and pumped us up for the next day!
During Tuesday morning’s committee hearing for the Transgender Discrimination Bill (H.B. 583) passionate volunteers testified against the dangerous piece of legislation. While it ultimately passed the committee, Republican Representative Roberson, along with four Democrats, voted “NO.”
After another eventful day, balancing the committee hearing while attending over 40 legislative meetings, our volunteers returned to their home towns. I was sad to see everyone go, but the LGBT energy kept buzzing through the Capitol as our interns delivered rainbow thank you cards to each legislative office. After wrapping up, a few members of staff and I ‘nerded out’ while watching session. . . I guess we could have left the Capitol, but what is more exciting than seeing our legislative process in action? And, Equality Florida received acknowledgment and gratitude between a bill reading!
From the bottom of my heart, it was an absolute pleasure to see volunteers from all over the state impassioned to fight for their rights. I had the unique pleasure of hearing each team’s thoughts, concerns, and triumphs throughout the day, as I debriefed with them between meetings. I think our wonderful Field Intern Morgan Baker said it best, “This was hands-down the most meaningful experience I've had during my time with this organization and I am beyond grateful for and humbled by the many amazing volunteers that spent time with us.” Onward for Equality!