By Elissa Katz, President, Humane PA PAC
A house doesn’t get built overnight – and neither does a law! Passing an animal protection bill is often a very slow process – certainly slower than many of us who care about animals would like. Similar to building a house, it requires a solid foundation which can support the weight of all of the building blocks which have to be laid before it is ready for occupancy, or in the case of a bill, before it reaches the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Who lays the foundation? In the case of an animal protection/anti-cruelty bill, the lobbyists. And the animals of Pennsylvania are among the luckiest of constituents because they have 3 seasoned, smart and effective lobbyists doing their bidding in the Capitol: Heidi Prescott, Roy Afflerbach and Kristen Tullo. Most of us know them. We all depend on them. They are the ones who build relationships, forge alliances, provide expertise, push and push and push – until a bill moves. They can be seen on site when the legislature is in session, talking with legislators and their staff – but you have to look fast to catch a glimpse because they cover so much ground in a single day. They put in long days, not only walking every cobblestone of the Capitol building, but often attending fundraisers and events, to be able to bend the ears of lawmakers .
The lobbyists are also charged with an extremely difficult task – compromise. Since they are privy to behind the door discussions and the concerns from lawmakers and even the bill sponsors, they know when bill language must be modified or the bill will be dead in the water before ever receiving a vote. The lobbyists often must grapple with the hard decision and work of modifying a bill so that the animals get something, albeit, not a perfect something, or nothing at all.
Can the lobbyists get the job done alone? Absolutely not! They – and the animals – need advocates, all of us who contact our legislators when a bill has been introduced and ask him/her to sign on as a cosponsor and to support and move the bill. Advocates who email and call their legislators, who respond to action alerts, who meet with their legislators, who make the trip to Harrisburg for Humane Lobby Day, who use social media to spread the word and to keep animal related issues front and center – without advocates, the lobbyists’ job would be impossible. Advocates are the bricks laid on the foundation, that give form and substance and essence to the building of a bill into law. Without advocate pressure, particularly on issues that face stiff opposition, a bill may never move.
Obvious and critical building blocks in the construction of anti-cruelty laws are humane lawmakers! We can have the strongest of foundations and the most active of advocates, but without humane lawmakers, legislators who will champion the protection of animals and are prepared to make the elimination of cruelty to animals priority legislative issues, a bill will be similar to a hollow shell of a partially built house. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has a wealth of humane legislators currently in office: Rep. Todd Stephens, Sen. Rich Alloway, Rep. Ryan Bizzaro, Rep Frank Farry, Rep. John Maher, Sen. Daylin Leach, Sen. Andy Dinniman among many others are humane heroes with successful track records. They not only talk the talk, but they fight the fight until the job gets done. They are committed to working a bill through the process until it is finally signed into law. The recent enactment of Act 10 demonstrates that.
Finally, similar to the mortar that binds and seals the bricks of a home, a powerful political action committee (PAC) is the final essential building block in the arsenal of tools required to forge a bill into law. A PAC supports and helps elect into office lawmakers who will support humane legislation; a PAC provides a mighty voice for the animals by unifying advocates and voters into a voting bloc, a bloc that causes the legislature to take notice. A PAC levels the political playing field and elevates our cause above competing special interests in public policy, especially those special interests that fight to keep animal abuse legal. PACs like Humane PA PAC provide expertise and educate animal lovers on how to be effective political advocates, and lastly, they help raise the profile and importance of the animal vote in Pennsylvania – a voting bloc that candidates take seriously. And that is why Humane PA PAC was created and has worked so hard to become what is considered one of the “most effective interest groups in Harrisburg.”
Lobbyists, advocates, humane legislators, and Humane PA PAC: these are our building blocks. And, while like a house, a law is not built overnight, and there will be some obstacles along the way, lobbyists, advocates, legislators and Humane PA PAC must continue to build together in order to eliminate cruelty to animals in Pennsylvania.
Elissa B. Katz is the President of Humane PA PAC and a partner in the law firm of Meranze, Katz, & Gaudioso, P.C. in Philadelphia. She is a regular volunteer with the Northeast Animal Rescue, assisting with cat care. She is also a board member of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.