Lesson #9 - Making the most of your visit to the Capitol
Getting There - It is best to carpool because parking is a nightmare. The Cramton Bowl at Patterson Field is three city blocks (up a hill) from the capital. Wear sensible shoes and bring a sling if you have a nursling (not a stroller, State House halls are quite narrow). Don’t forget an umbrella if the weather forecast is rain.
From Southwest Alabama: Head north onto I-65 towards Montgomery, then take exit 170 for Fairview Ave, turn right at W Fairview Ave. Then turn left at Norman Bridge Rd and continue onto S Decatur St, then S Union St. Turn right at Madison Ave/State Route 108 and park at Paterson Field, after parking, walk East on 108 to N Bainbridge St and head south to the capitol.
From Northeast Alabama: Take I-65 S toward Birmingham, then take exit 172 for Clay St. Turn right at Clay St then take a sharp right at Oak St. Take a slight right at Maxwell Blvd and continue onto Tallapoosa St. Turn right at Commerce St and take the 1st left onto Bibb St/State Route 108, park at Paterson Field and, after parking, walk East on 108 to N Bainbridge St to the Capitol.
Dressing for Success - One way we can show that this issue is important to us, is to dress our best when we come to the capital. Most of the male legislators will be wearing suits and ties and most of the ladies will be wearing stylish suits. Our goal is to look as professional as possible, while still staying in our comfort zone. So the dress code is business professional. The more we look like the legislators, the easier it is for them to relate to us and hear our message.
Our Best Behavior - Another way we can show that this issue is important to us, is to give careful consideration to how we act while in the public eye. It is imperative that supporters be polite, quiet, and respectful when attending committee meetings, speaking with legislators, or even just hanging out in the halls. Through the years, we have found that legislators respond best to committee hearing rooms packed with primarily voting fathers and mothers. Older children who are capable of listening fare well, as do content babies in slings; the preschool set is often happier somewhere else. In the past, breastfeeding in the public areas of the State House has generated negative attention towards our bill. Breastfeeding mothers have found that the women's lounge areas (adjacent to, but not inside, the ladies' restrooms) are a nice respite from the crowded halls. The lounges on the upper floors are the nicest. We trust that all supporters who care enough to make the trip to Montgomery will exercise their best judgement as they consider the needs of their family members and how they can help portray home birth families in a most positive manner possible during their visit.
Committees and Hearings - You can find the committees that your legislators are on if you click on these links for the House Committees and the Senate Committees. Your legislator can’t meet with you while he/she is in committee, but you can sit in and listen to the hearing and visit with them afterward or just wait for them outside the door.
Legislative Days (usually Tuesday/Thursday) - During the morning when legislators aren’t in committee, they might be at their desks on the floor, in their offices or roaming the halls. If you would like to send your legislator a note while he/she is on the floor, there are Pages available to deliver your note.
Committee/Hearing Days (usually Wednesday)- Your legislator can’t meet with you while he/she is in committee, but you can sit in and listen to the hearing and visit with them afterward or just wait for them outside the door.When attending a public hearing, please check in at the front desk so you can find your hearing room. Arrive early so that you can go to the bathroom and get a good seat. Respectful conduct is very important, no sighing, snickering, whispering, eating or rolling eyes, please.
Lunch - Al a carte items are available across the street from the capitol at the RSA (Retired Society of Alabama) building. There are a couple of fast food joints (Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway) within walking distance of the capital. Remember to be back from lunch early if you have a hearing after lunch.