A common thing we hear at NCADV is, “We need better laws to protect domestic violence victims.” And we couldn’t agree more. That’s why NCADV has a public policy office to influence legislators when they are considering bills and laws that impact the lives of domestic violence survivors. Many voices are better than one, especially when it comes to lobbying for change with our Nation’s leaders. So, how do you lobby to create the change you want to see in the world?

In a series of blog posts, we’ll be discussing how to effectively lobby Congress on behalf of domestic violence survivors, victims, and advocates on critical issues. In this “Lobbying for Change” series, you will learn …

  • The basics of lobbying and the legislative process
  • Advanced tips for lobbying for change
  • Details about the deadly intersection between domestic violence and firearms
  • How federal funding impacts the day-to-day lives of survivors, and
  • What you need to know about lobbying for domestic violence victims and survivors

By the time you finish reading the first post of our series, “Lobbying 101,” you will …

  • know what grassroots lobbying is and specific actions you can take to make an impact
  • understand the legislative process
  • be able to define key terms related to that process

Grassroots Lobbying — What Does It Mean?

Grassroots lobbying is the process through which constituents make their views known to their legislators on a particular subject. These views can be expressed in a number of ways: emails, letters, faxes, and phone calls to legislators’ office, social media outreach, attending town hall meetings and other events, letters to the editor, engaging the media, and even meeting with legislators and Congressional staff.

In order to lobby effectively, you’ll need a basic understanding of the U.S. government and how laws are made.

Understanding the Legislative Process

We could take you through an explanation of how laws are made. But why reinvent the wheel when Schoolhouse Rock did such a fine job?

So, now you know what grassroots lobbying means, have a deeper understanding of how the legislative branch of the U.S. government works, and are familiar with the process through which a bill become law. As you might already be realizing, the legislative process is long and complicated. We take a long view when lobbying for legislation; it might not pass right away, but we’re laying the groundwork for future movement.

14 Key Terms You’ll Need to Know

Laws originate with the legislative branch, the Congress. The executive branch, which includes the President and various federal agencies, are responsible for implementing the laws. The Courts, or the judicial branch, interpret and apply the law. The three branches have unique roles, and none can function without the others.

Here’s 14 basic keywords about government that will make the legislative process easier to understand.

  1. Bicameral
    • What It Means: A two-chambered legislative body (Senate and House of Representatives); a bill originating in both chambers
    • Example: A bill we’ll be reviewing that addresses the intersection between domestic violence and firearms is a bicameral bill.
  2. Bill
    • What It Means: The most common form of legislative proposal; bills are assigned numbers upon introduction
  3. Bipartisan
    • What It Means: Supported by both Democrats and Republicans
    • Example: A bill we’ll be reviewing that addresses the intersection between domestic violence and firearms is a bipartisan bill
  4. Cloture
    • What It Means: A vote by the Senate to end debate on a bill, amendment, or other matter, requiring a supermajority (usually 60 Senators) to vote in favor
  5. Committee
    • What It Means: A group of legislators assigned to consider certain topics, issues, and bills
    • Example: The committees we work with most frequently are Judiciary, Appropriations, and Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.
  6. Companion bill
    • What It Means: A bill in one chamber that is identical to a bill in the other chamber
  7. Conference committee
    • What It Means: Temporary committee comprising members of both the House and Senate to resolve differences between similar bills passed in each chamber
  8. Continuing resolution
    • What It Means: A continuing resolution funds the federal government at the level of the previous fiscal year. Continuing resolutions can be either short-term or long-term. At times in the past, when Congress was unable to pass any type of budget, they have had year-long CRs.  Usually, CRs are short-term, giving Congress extra time to come to some sort of agreement.
  9. Filibuster
    • What It Means: A procedural move in the Senate that blocks legislation from being brought up for a vote without 60 votes in favor of moving forward
  10. Omnibus budget
    • What It Means: Funds all federal programs for the upcoming fiscal year
  11. Sponsor
    • What It Means: The legislator authoring a bill
    • 11a Cosponsor
      • What It Means: A Member who sponsors another legislator’s bill or measure. A Member can become a co-sponsor either before or after the bill is introduced.
    • 11b Original cosponsor
      • What It Means: A Member who co-sponsors a bill before it is introduced
  12. Subcommittee
    • What It Means: A subset of the legislators in a committee assigned to consider certain topics, issues, and bills within the jurisdiction of the full committee
    • Example: Although all the committees we work with most have subcommittees, the only subcommittees we typically work with are the Appropriations subcommittees, particularly Commerce, Justice, Science and Labor, Health and Human Services.

What’s Next: The Art of Lobbying

In our next post, The Art of Lobbying, we’ll be going more in-depth into the lobbying process and learn …

  • How to contact your Congressional representatives
  • The 4-step process to an effective conversation with a legislator
  • What broomsticks and jetpacks can teach us about the art of lobbying