BAILEY: My experiences lobbying at the U.S. Capitol and representing LaGrange

Published 9:30 am Saturday, June 24, 2023

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By Gage Bailey

On Tuesday, June 13, I was able to have the incredible honor of lobbying at our nation’s capital with Citizens Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan environmental organization that aims to fight climate change. Our goal is to foster positive relationships with members of Congress regardless of parties so that we can promote the best environmental solutions while helping ordinary people. I have been a member of CCL since January 2022 and have taken several opportunities to email lawmakers, particularly Senator Raphael Warnock, Senator Jon Ossoff, and Representative Drew Ferguson to take action on climate. After several online trainings, me and nearly 1000 other members assembled in Washington, D.C. for the June 2023 conference and lobby day, making friendships amongst ourselves and those on Capitol Hill.

During our conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, we were treated to several guest speakers, among them being retired Florida Representative Francis Rooney and Representative Scott Peters of California, who offered their perspectives on carbon pricing and clean energy permitting reform. Citizens Climate Lobby has four key policy areas: 1) carbon pricing, 2) clean energy permitting reform, 3) building electrification and efficiency, and 4) healthy forests. The first two were the ones we focused on during the conference and what we discussed with lawmakers to help the U.S. transition to a clean energy economy. Carbon pricing basically involves imposing a fee on every ton of carbon emitted by polluters to encourage a gradual transition to clean energy while incorporating a monthly dividend from the revenue to give to American families. Permitting reform involves helping projects get approved and started faster to power the infrastructure needed to make a greener economy possible.

Once we were done with the conference, we were officially ready to head to the Capitol. That Tuesday morning, all of us gathered on the Senate steps outside to get a group picture before heading to our respective meetings, intricately organized into different teams. Several months of planning went into the scheduling, assigning, rehearsal, and material preparation of them which were held with staffers if the lawmakers were unavailable. I was assigned to teams that would meet with the offices of Senator Raphael Warnock, Representative Mike Collins, and Representative Drew Ferguson (this one I personally scheduled as a liaison).

I was mesmerized by this historic opportunity we took advantage of, and the results were stunning as all of us collectively met with 436 offices followed by the beautiful connections we made with one another. More than anything else though, I shared my town’s story and how these projects could help bring jobs to LaGrange in addition to other small cities. 

This was vitally important for me going there as towns like ours rarely make headlines and don’t always get the help they need when compared to cities such as Atlanta. That’s not to say our town lacks strength or a tight-knit culture that tries to help each other.

We are a resilient people who have recently seen our fair share of devastation from unprecedented tornadoes, four in a span of about 72 days during the first few months of the year. Research shows that climate change exacerbates them and other storms like hurricanes, increasing not only their power but the length of time we observe them throughout the year. As other parts of the nation experience these trends, it’s safe to say that LaGrange more than likely will too. If we neither focus on becoming more sustainable nor have enough resources to be prepared, there will be greater loss of life accompanied with economic damage.

Our lawmakers must come together, Democrat and Republican, to help those in need because we can’t adapt all by ourselves. That Tuesday, I met Senator Warnock, Representative Lucy McBath, Representative Hank Johnson, and Representative Drew Ferguson. I strove to represent my own town and be the voice it needed to see future progress in the face of a changing climate. The debt ceiling agreement already contained some permitting reform provisions (but more is needed) while the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is back in the House, so there are chances for both sides of the aisle to come together to pass them.

I’m aware that climate change remains a contentious topic, but people would be surprised to learn how much of it lawmakers recognize, even among conservatives. There are thousands of conservative members of Citizens Climate Lobby who want meaningful solutions, and even though tensions between parties are high, we have to remember that there should be no such thing as red and blue states. We are one people, one country, and have the same crisis staring us in the face. It’s up to us to decide our destiny, and that’s the reason I went to D.C. I sought to strike relationships with members of both parties I met and make them aware of LaGrange one story at a time. What will be your story of LaGrange and how will you do your part to help?