During Jan Plan, 2016, I explored the job of a lobbyist through interning with Maine Audubon. As a Conservation Policy intern, I was able to experience the rigor and routine of advocacy through furthering Maine Audubon’s environmental mission.
Maine Audubon’s policy wing is staffed by a single person: Jenn Gray. From protecting critical wildlife habitat to fighting against dangerous mining reforms, Jenn works tirelessly to apply Maine Audubon’s value of conservation and preservation to Maine state policy. With her lead, Maine Audubon has made great progress, and continues to have meaningful influence on both environmental and energy policies. In just the three and a half short weeks I was present, their efforts have lead to significant wins for the people of Maine.
My job was to learn from every aspect of the policy progress, and then apply my knowledge to help Jenn in her day to day job. We routinely would sit in on House and Senate sessions, as we followed our bills through both bodies. Afterwards, we would spend our afternoons in committee hearings and workshops, specifically the committee on the Environment and Natural Resources and the committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology. When the legislature was not in session, we held meetings with the Natural Resource Council of Maine, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and various stakeholder groups.
January proved to be an exciting time to jump into Maine politics, as it was the start of a new legislative session. I jumped in during the wake of a conflict over the Land for Maine’s Future Bonds (LMF), a bond system funded and approved by Maine voters for the furthering of local conservation projects around the state. Governor Paul LePage was withholding the bonds as leverage for his own policies, which ignited a bipartisan movement, built through the tireless work of the LMF Coalition, that eventually lead to the Governor’s pledge to release the bonds. During my time, we lobbied representatives to extend these bonds and unite in support of LMF, leading to a resounding victory for conservation forces.
We advocated on behalf of many other issues as well. Through personal meetings and discussions we helped further the protection of endangered bat species, as dwindling bat populations meet an explosion of wind turbine proposals. We followed many other bills, such as a controversial narrow-gauge train proposal, an oil spill exemption proposal and a bill to re-appropriate RGGI fund allocations. Some were successfully blocked, while others await fierce contention in the remainder of the session.
By the end of the internship I was able to summarize committee meetings, House and Senate sessions and existing policy. These skills culminated in a final policy analysis of LD 1398, a Bill to Reduce Electricity Rates for Maine Businesses, which will inform Jenn and other environmentalist’s future actions on this bill. I even got the chance to advocate against the bill to a representative during a legislative breakfast. While I am a long ways and a law degree away from filling Jenn’s shoes, I have left my internship better equipped to advocate and with a firm understanding of what it means to be a lobbyist.