I had no idea what to expect for my first I&E Days. As I neared the capitol and finished my first coffee, I awakened and became excited as I saw the large white tent where the 2013 Capitol I&E Days conference was taking place. When I got to the tent, I helped check in the I&E Days participants. During the process, it was great to see all the faces helping out with tobacco awareness. All faces were different and from different parts of California, but everyone had a similar look of eagerness and readiness for the day.
Later, all the participants got into their groups to talk about how they would go about their meetings with their legislators. We found that there were some gaps and people came together to do more work and go to those meetings as well. I ended up filling one of these gaps so someone wouldn’t have to go alone and I’m really glad I had that chance!
I went to a meeting scheduled with Assembly Member Cristina Garcia but talked to her Legislative Director, Robert Layne, instead. Unlike the other groups, I did not get much of a chance to prepare. I thought I could just bring up something from the blog posts I’ve written or the State of Tobacco Control research I did, however, once I stepped into the Assembly Members office, my nerves kicked in. I had never been to a meeting in the Capitol and that made me even more uneasy, but at least I didn’t have to talk first. As I was sitting with my two other I&E Days participants and listening to one of them talk about tobacco control in Assembly Member Garcia’s district, my nerves disappeared. When it came to my turn, tobacco control issues regarding the youth in California easily dispersed from my brain to my mouth and expelled into the office…with only a few stutters. Fortunately, Rob was already interested in the topic and stated that Assembly Member Garcia was as well. We talked about secondhand smoke, E-cigarettes and at one point, Rob brought up taxes. Because we knew we couldn’t talk about bills, we needed to steer away from this question. Thankfully, one of my partners, Julissa Gomez, who you might recognize from this blog, was able to relate his question to minority populations targeted by Big Tobacco. Afterwards, we left feeling pretty confident and I was surprised by how much fun I had in the meeting.
What I really liked about the mission of I&E days is that everyone was there to help educate our legislators on tobacco control issues. We weren’t there to persuade or take stances on bills but just to remind and inform them of an issue that affects Californians on a large scale. It was wonderful to see many people work so well together for this cause. Working behind the scenes and also participating in I&E Days was a great experience. All in all, it was a successful day!