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Educating Legislators: California’s Tradition for International Compost Awareness Week!
Engaging with legislators and their staff at their Capitol offices is no walk in the park but it is so worth it. Catch an early flight to Sacramento, head into the briefing room, meet dressed up passionate composters, grab coffee, memorize talking points, head upstairs to scheduled meetings, and avoid bumping into people in suits flying down the aisles with coffee in hand.
I joined 15 others as part of the Association of Compost Producers Legislative Day. Together, we met with 44 legislators (37% of the State Assembly!) and held a lunch with CalRecycle regulators to discuss funding, drafting of new rules, and legislation. As I navigated the hallways filled with color‑coordinated constituent groups figuring out where to lobby next, amidst tours of schoolchildren attentively listening to stories, and Star Wars Stormtroopers patrolling the floors for recognition (“May the Fourth (May Fourth) Be With You”), I made it to six meetings alongside my colleagues.
Let’s just say that I’m glad this was my second year doing this because these meetings can be intimidating—but they don’t have to be. The meetings are usually 15 minutes: the staffers have multiple meetings scheduled throughout the day on every topic you can imagine; there are other meetings happening in the office; and sometimes they just take notes and don’t ask any questions.
We also handed them a package, which they are required to scan and store in their records, giving our material a second chance to be read. It’s their job to listen to their constituents and it’s our job to show them what the boots in the ground look like. So, go prepared and you’ll be fine. We even had the chance to get a picture on the Senate Floor, which, from what I hear, is a privilege!
It is crucial we let our elected representatives know we exist, that we make a difference, that they are welcome to come visit, and that the work continues at all levels even after mandates and regulations are enacted. Democracy requires participation, if we don’t show up, somebody else will, so I hope you can make the time this year or next year to go talk to them about this growing and dynamic industry and about your specific ideas and concerns.
Jorge Montezuma is a Project Engineer for the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts and Districts‑owned and operated Tulare Lake Compost. He is also the Agroecology Committee Chair for the Association of Compost Producers (USCC CA Chapter).