It was June 5th2019. Today was to be my first participation in a lobbying day and to say I was looking forward to it would be a giant understatement. I would be joining the Delaware Nature Society’s (DelNature’s) advocacy staff, DelNature volunteers and an array of like-minded organizations who have banded together as the Clean Water Alliance. Today, we Water Warriors were here to show our support for House Bill 200, which, when passed, will provide a reliable funding source for efforts to protect and restore the waters of Delaware.
Participants who registered to lobby were each given a blue t-shirt. As we gathered on the steps of Legislative Hall in Dover, I could see a sea of blue rising. Representing 34 other state representatives, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst stepped to the microphone, “Clean water isn’t a privilege, it is a human right.” I added my voice to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd. In addition to state representatives and directors of nonprofits, Collin O’Mara, current president of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and former Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), had made time to fly back into Delaware in support of dedicated clean water funding. “I’m tired of having to deliver bottled water to Ellendale and Blades,” he said. The lobbying contingent from southwest Sussex County shouted their agreement. I got the feeling that some of those supporters had been needing to bathe in bottled water too long.
Now was the time for the crowd to adjourn to the legislative chambers to hear and give testimony regarding HB 200 (H2 “O” as Representative Longhurst cleverly pointed out). Well, the time had come for me to make a decision. I held my breath and dove in, I put my name on the list of those who wanted to testify!
I went into the chamber and found one of the last seats. To my surprise, Mr. O’Mara happened to sit right down next to me. Between his tapping on his smartphone, confirming a flight for an engagement he had in St. Louis later that day, he told me that in the current political climate, it was more important than ever for citizens to get involved in protecting the environment. He said NWF membership has increased significantly over the past two years. Hobnobbing with the big boys, I replied, “DelNature is glad to be part of that wave, for sure.’ Mr. O’Mara answered that he was glad NWF had an affiliate like Delaware Nature Society in Delaware.
Well, my name was called and as I looked up from the podium I saw a beautiful blue sky of blue t-shirts up in the gallery. The two minutes of testimony time that had been allotted to each speaker went by quickly, but I did finish in time, whew.
The highlight of the whole day arrived when the Chair of the Natural Resource Committee requested a show of hands on the motion to release HB 200 from Committee. HB200 passed unanimously! I don’t think I’ve felt a comparable rush of excitement since the Eagles won the Super Bowl!
This clean water legislation still has an upstream battle in front of it. But our efforts today have the promise of going from a trickle in a crack in a mountain to a great lake that can ensure clean, safe water for all.
Matt Bailey, a Clean Water Campaign Water Warrior, spent 20 years as a Wildlife Biologist working with Endangered Species. He now is pleased to be volunteering with the Delaware Nature Society.