If You’re Not at the Table, You’re on the Menu – Legislative Day
Editor’s Note: This issue of the Contra Costa Lawyer features the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA) not be confused with the Contra Costa County Bar Associations (CCCBA).
Every year, usually in March or April, the Conference of California Bar Associations (the CCBA) participates in Legislative Day (Leg Day). On Leg Day, delegations (bar associations) from all over California travel to Sacramento to speak with our state legislators.
Each delegation from the conference has approximately 6 – 8 meetings scheduled with various state assembly members and state senators throughout the day. Delegates are typically assigned the state legislators from their district but delegates may choose to sit in on meetings outside their district if they have a particular issue to discuss with a legislator from outside their district.
During our meetings, we talk to senators and assembly members about resolutions we have passed through our annual conference. We advocate and lobby for the resolutions we have passed in the hopes of gaining support, and in some instances obtaining a sponsor, for our proposed legislation. Personally, I have had proposed legislation sponsored on three separate occasions that I have taken to Leg Day in the hopes of gaining further support (SB 1473 in 2018, AB 449 in 2017, and AB 1450 (2015).
In addition to lobbying some of our resolutions, every year we also request and advocate for more funding for the courts. Of the total state general fund for fiscal year 2018- 2019, only about 1.4% was allocated to the judicial system. I am sure many of the readers of this magazine have seen the impact caused by such minimal funding.
Another benefit of attending Leg Day is that each of the years I have attended, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has given a speech on the state of the judiciary towards the close of Leg Day. The Chief Justice often urges the members of the state legislature to consider the additional funding that is needed by the courts. The Chief Justice also provides insight into the challenges for the courts that she has witnessed over the past year. I always learn so much from hearing the Chief Justice speak and am further inspired to continue my efforts through the CCBA and Leg Day.
I have been able to learn my way around the Capitol by attending Leg Day. I know where certain offices are located. I have met with various state legislators and their staff, and I have obtained valuable contact information for the people with whom I have met.
In the past, whenever I have had a resolution sponsored as proposed legislation, and I have worked diligently with staff of various assembly members and senators to revise the proposed legislation to a point where we can gain more support from other legislators and address concerns in the initial proposed legislation. I anticipate that these contacts will continue to be helpful for resolutions that I have sponsored in the future.
It is also helpful to know your way around the Capitol in the chance that you need to testify about a piece of proposed legislation in the future. When I had proposed legislation sponsored in 2017, I found myself having to testify before the Revenue and Tax Committee, and it was helpful that I had some familiarity with where offices and various committee rooms were located.
Further, and as I mentioned previously, attorneys from all over the state attend both our annual conference and Leg Day. Attorneys who attend both the conference and Leg Day have the amazing opportunity to network and speak with some of the best attorneys throughout the state of California both within and outside of their practice areas. It is an amazing way to build your network and form relationships within the legal community.
Even though you can network with attorneys from all over the state at both the annual conference and Leg Day, these are two very distinct opportunities.
At the conference, you are trying to get your resolution passed or debate why others’ resolutions should or should not pass. It is all in an effort to come up with and only pass good, well-vetted resolutions. It can be contentious, but any contention stays at the podiums. It can also be a great way to further refine your own resolution or learn about other areas of the law or deepen your understanding of the law in your own practice area.
While the conference itself is the primary event and an amazing opportunity, Leg Day offers a second and different opportunity – the opportunity to work together in a collaborative fashion with attorneys from all over the state of California. It is an opportunity to band together with other lawyers, take proposed legislation that has been thoroughly vetted by the conference, and meet with state legislators in an effort to make good laws and amend existing laws as needed.
When it comes to the laws in California, California lawyers are the ones who have first-hand knowledge of how the laws affect people. We know if a law should be changed. We know if an injustice has occurred to our client because of a poorly written or archaic law. Because of this, we are a credible voice. State legislators want to hear from us because of the first-hand knowledge that we possess.
Many of us have assisted clients with cases that we know did not have the right outcome but based on the laws at that time, there was only so much we could do to help. The Conference of California Bar Associations is every California lawyer’s chance to change the laws so that the bad or wrong outcome we witnessed does not continue to happen to our clients. This is the power of the CCBA and Leg Day. This is the power to use your platform and your voice to advocate for others in our community and our state. This is the way to continue to progress and make sure we have well thought out and just laws in our state.
I have once heard it said, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” I will always choose to be at the table – for my clients, for my community, for my family.