The Springfield experience: Lobby Day is our way of making small business voices heard

Traveling to our state capitol and participating in the legislative process is both rewarding and impactful.

The ability to engage with politicians in a purposeful way provides folks visiting the capitol with great insight and increases their engagement in the political process.

By the time you read this column, the Small Business Advocacy Council will have returned from our Advocacy Day. We have a robust schedule that will keep us on the move. We will be meeting with constitutional officers, legislative leaders and other policymakers.

We will also arrange meetings for our group with their legislators because the personal interaction between elected officials and their constituents is an important way to garner support for legislation.

When we visit Springfield, it is important to understand the goals and objectives for the day. Partisan politics is never on the agenda. Indeed, our nonpartisan, policy-driven approach is what makes us particularly effective advocates.

Some of those joining us in Springfield may favor one political party over the other, or campaign for politicians in other venues. However, our group comes to Springfield with a singular focus, which is advocating for small business.

We coalesce around legislation that will support the small business community and that remains our theme throughout the day. This leaves no doubt as to why the SBAC is in Springfield and maximizes the impact of the visit.

We come to Springfield to push forward an agenda laser-focused on supporting and empowering the small business community. We advocate through meetings and by having constituents talk with legislators. Preparation is important, and that includes having written materials available to provide policymakers. We are asking politicians to support legislation so the more we can convey information in a concise manner the better.

While the SBAC is almost always present in Springfield to testify in favor of the bills we are championing, we are not often fortunate enough to participate in hearings during Lobby Day. However, should such legislation be called for a hearing at this opportune time, the small business advocates at the capital can show their support for legislation on the very day a bill is called in committee.

Another reason for Lobby Day is to simply be present and visible to lawmakers. Politicians take note when small business advocates make time out of their busy schedules to travel to the capitol. Lobby Day also provides an opportunity for advocates to hear policymakers' ideas about how to support small businesses.

There is less than one month left until this Springfield session ends. We will be in Springfield to advocate for legislation that will support small businesses struggling to staff their operations and to stabilize the cost of health insurance. Our agenda also includes legislation focused on increasing transparency for government contracts so that small, minority- and women-owned businesses have a higher likelihood to procure opportunities. We will be advocating for policymakers to prioritize the small businesses because they drive our economy and support local communities.

Lobby Day provides a wonderful opportunity for small business advocates to engage in the legislative process. This engagement is an extremely important way for small businesses to make their voices heard because the best way to have a seat at the table is to be in the room.

• Elliot Richardson is co-founder and president of the Small Business Advocacy Council.

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