Friday, June 15, 2012

Mr. BITNP Goes to Raleigh

Me, Timna and Anne
On June 13, I was fortunate to join with Anne Bowman (AIM at Melanoma), Carol Taylor (Melanoma Prayer Center), and Timna Understein (Respects the Rays) to assist the North Carolina Dermatology Association (NCDA) with a day of amateur lobbying at the NC Legislative Building.  Our goal was to lobby in support of prohibiting minors from using tanning facilities and remind folks in the building  that the dermatologists were giving free skin screenings down the hallway.  I would give a play-by-play of the morning, but that would take days to recall…so much happened in such a short time, it felt like a week.  So I’ll simply share a few observations and thoughts of the day:

  • First of all, the three aforementioned ladies were incredible.  I loved meeting folks that I’ve “met” on Facebook…this being my second meeting with Carol.  I think the group gelled very well as if we had been friends for years.  Each person had their own personality which meshed well to form a great group personality.  I look forward to seeing and working with each of these folks again in the future.
  • The bill to ban tanning for minors has yet to be officially introduced.  The NC Legislators have “short” and “long” sessions…this year being a short session.  (I suspect it has something to do with having time to prepare for re-election campaigns).  The actual bill is to be introduced next year…our experience this past Wednesday was a dry-run rehersal for next year.  We developed some great ideas for improvements next year.
  • It’s been said to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  But I believe the philosophy of all the lobbyists in the building was “Speak quickly and carry a smart phone.”  These guys must have had a self-guiding app on their phone because I’m not sure I saw one look up from the screen even while they were negotiating the maze-like hallways.
  • There is a lot of politicking in politics.  So many people had their own agendas and causes to push…there were literally lines at some of the representatives’ offices.  But the open door policy was quite interesting to see.  No real “appointments” were noted…just a quick “is the Senator in?” inquiry before talking.
  • That “talking” was pretty much limited to a hand shake, a verbal introduction, and a quick, “we’re here to represent the melanoma community and hope you’ll consider supporting a bill to ban tans in 2013…plus please take advantage of the free skin screening down the hall.”
  • I found that most of the legislators were out in session or in meetings…so I approached all of the assistants.  I know they’re the ones that run the day-to-day workings…and most were quite receptive and had already arranged to get their screening.  I’m sure they ended up reminding their specific legislator when they returned to the office.
  • The group, individually or together, spoke with one of the most conservative legislators, and to one of the most liberal.  Both stated that they’d support a tanning ban bill.  That has to bode well for chances of passage next year.
  • Politicians have to walk a fine line…and in this day and age, unemployment is a hot topic.  So lobbying to shut down an industry, no matter how sleazy, is a tricky stance.  This is why the proposed ban would be for minors only.  Also, the flyers we handed out stated that banning the beds would not be bad for business as teens would migrate their dollars to safer tanning alternatives such as spray tanning.  Offering to allow tanning salons to “remain lucrative” didn’t set well with all of us…but I suppose it is all part of the political process.  (Unfortunately, the ABC News report on the dangers of spray tanning came out the same morning as we were pitching its use.  Oops.  More on that in my next blog.) 
  • Politics can challenge your own beliefs.  I met with several representatives, but a couple of them are guys I would never vote for due to our differing opinions.  However, they each support a tanning ban.  Again, the bill won’t be introduced until next session, after the election.  So, do I compromise my general political philosophies and vote to keep these guaranteed “yes” votes in, or do I vote for their opponents, thus risking losing that supporting vote?  It’s a dilemma and I don’t envy the politicians one bit for having to make similar decisions all day.

The day was exciting, eye-opening, and informative.  But most importantly, I learned that I can’t wait to work with each of these ladies again!  It was a true pleasure and honor.

1 comment:

  1. This is fascinating stuff, Al! I wish there was a "how to" cheat sheet on how to become more involved in this way. I'm so clueless when it comes to state politics, but seeing new bills being proposed every day that would limit teen use of tanning beds is so exciting to me! Your talking points in your last blog post were great, too. I'm going to have to commit some of those to memory for when I get it a little tiff with my pro-tanning friends :) Keep up the awesome work!