Now Matt’s introducing the senators who helped get the MN funding bill passed. There are four of them (2 Rs and 2 Ds, if you care).

Primer on government. States have senates and houses, and bills have to go through both before they can become law. We have these 4 people here to talk about how they experienced the process of getting this money to research in MN.

Rod Hamilton talks about sitting in his office one day and seeing a couple of guys in chairs roll by. He has MS, so he called them in to talk about wheelchairs. They told him they were looking to get a bill passed, and he offered on the spot to become the chief sponsor of the bill they had in mind. Jokes that they worked hard to get it done because it turned out that these people in chairs were such a pain in the ass.

Terri Bonoff was Chair of Higher Education/Workforce Development in the MN Senate. We have a precedent for getting this kind of spending into education budgets. When Terri’s daughter was in high school, one of her friends was in a car that rolled … remembering this trauma was one of the reasons Terri was so prepared to work on this bill. Describing collaboration with other senators working on funding for Alzheimer’s.

John Hoffman says that these conversations should never be partisan, and this is one case where they just weren’t. He’s describing the rapid aging of the MN population — very soon, lots more people needing support in old age than needing education. In that context, this bill had to be seen as a use of resources that was appropriate. There were also serious conflicts with people in the dis community who wanted money to go in a different direction. Painful conflicts.

So who’s hanging out at the capitol? Not advocates. Lobbyists. If you’re there every week instead once a year, people recognize you and take you seriously. Matt and Rob’s team was.

Talking about the personal connection that people had already made with legislators when the committee held its meeting, and how that set of personal relationships drove the meeting where key members got on board with the bill.

Tony Albright is saying that he’s known one of the advocates for 20 yrs through a church connection. He ran into this person (Joe) one day and asked what he was doing in the capitol. Joe described the project, and Tony invited him to come up and talk … so Joe comes along with a bunch of his friends in chairs. Tony took it seriously, and not just because of Joe but because we have to take it seriously when citizens show up to ask for ways to become part of the society we share.

Sometimes, he says, you underestimate your impact when talking to your legislator. Why? Because what we deal with is giant numbers, intricate budgets, 3-dimensional chess/politics … but if you put names and faces and compelling stories in front of the people who will have to cast votes, you can break through all that. When we get to deal with personal lives and stories — and I’m seeing my friend Joe at church every Sunday morning — I feel it that I’m this guy’s voice. He’s counting on me.

It was easy to get this thing passed.