Last week, a group of us traveled to the Statehouse in Columbia to "lobby" legislators on behalf of the ERA. It was an interesting experience, and gave us an insiders look into a dubious practice.
Turns out, anyone can lobby. It literally means you wait in the lobby of the Statehouse, between the two chambers, and submit a call-out card to hopefully draw a legislator out of session to speak with you. Who knew? It was crowded, a little chaotic and seemingly disorganized. But a lot of business was getting done.
We spoke with several legislators and received a mostly warm reception.
Senator Tom Davis, sponsor of S.901, welcomed us and said he appreciated our presence. We discussed the status of the two Senate bills and how they would be reconciled. He said eventually there would be only one, most likely by him throwing support behind S.918, originally filed by the the four women of the Senate. But he said the urgency now is to get the resolutions assigned to a judiciary subcommittee, which is the necessary first step to begin their journey.
Senator Sandy Senn, who is a sponsor of S.918, invited us into an inner room where we had a good discussion and got to meet Senator Margie Bright Matthews (another sponsor). We were also fortunate to have Senator Senn introduce us to Senator Luke Rankin, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and together we asked that he assign the Senate bills to a subcommittee. He seemed receptive. We'll keep an eye on it this week, but need to keep the pressure on (to contact Senator Rankin, click here).
Senator Marlon Kimpson as well as Senator Dick Harpootlian were supportive, yet have not signed on yet as sponsors. We encouraged them to do so (still waiting…).
We also spoke with Senator Richard Cash, who has issues with the original deadline (even though that is a Federal decision) and did not want his daughter to get drafted. We mentioned the draft ended in 1973 and we now have an all-volunteer service, but he did not want his daughter to have to “register” for the draft as 18-year old males still need to do. We gave him an ERA Brochure and moved on.
On the House side we spoke with Rep Russell Fry who is the last holdout to sponsor H.3391 in the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee. He hadn’t read the bill yet and would not commit. We need to keep those cards and letters going.
Rep Leon Stavrinakis said he was a supporter of the ERA (and rightly so since he cosponsored H.3340 with Peter McCoy). However, Peter McCoy has since deferred to Gilda Cobb-Hunter’s bill (H.3391) as the one to move forward. We asked Leon to sign onto that and he hopefully will soon (once again, still waiting…)
Rep J.A. Moore said he would sponsor and indeed did so by the end of the day. (Yay!)
Rep Marvin Pendarvis was in support as well as Rep Robert Brown. We’re keeping an eye on them. And we were fortunate to run into Rep Pat Henegan and thanked her for being a sponsor.
We also spoke with Rep Lin Bennet and the conversation was not encouraging. She’s decided to do nothing until the “eliminate the deadline” decision is made at the Federal level (SJ Res 6 & HJ Res 79). She see’s that as a prolonged effort that will end up in the court, and feels to discuss the ERA at this point would be a waste of time. She also believes current laws protect women sufficiently and there is no need for a constitutional amendment.
So in summary … by participating in a rather arcane process, we made our presence known, learned more about how the ERA is perceived, and hopefully secured additional support. All in all, a pretty good day.