Austin in Annapolis: A take on the passing of Noah's Law
My passion for politics began at my family dinner table and has stuck with me through college and into my career. Living in Washington, D.C. and working with elected officials to pass laws is what I have always wanted to do.
On January 11, 2016, I registered as a lobbyist for the first time in Maryland. My first task was to introduce an unprecedented anti-drugged driving bill in the state of Maryland.
First I had to find sponsors for the legislation. I approached Delegate William C. Smith (D-Montgomery County) and Senator Anthony Muse (D-Prince Georges County) due to their history of work and support on underage drinking legislation. Both lawmakers agreed to be sponsors.
Drug-use by drivers is an emerging issue, evidenced by roadside surveys and fatal crash data. As various states are beginning to legalize recreational marijuana use, and with an opioid epidemic exploding in many parts of the United States, awareness of the issue is critically important. Soon, H.B. 1364 was being heard in the House Judiciary Committee. I met with all of the legislators or their staffs in advance and educated them on the issue and the legislation. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass this year, but we hope it will be reintroduced in 2017.
While I was working in Annapolis between January and April, I was honored to support the Montgomery County Police Department, WRAP and MADD in their effort to pass Noah’s Law on behalf of my organization, Responsibility.org.
Noah Leotta worked to save lives every day as a Montgomery County police officer. Last December he was working the annual Holiday Alcohol Task force. As he began walking toward a suspected drunk driver, another driver who was very drunk at a .22 BAC and had admitted to smoking marijuana, hit and killed Officer Leotta. Noah’s family and his colleagues advocated strongly for the passage of Noah’s Law.
Today Governor Hogan signed the bill into law which will require all convicted drunk drivers to install an ignition interlock on their vehicles to ensure that they cannot drive drunk. I was proud to be there amongst other supporters to watch the bill signed into law.
I loved this experience. Leading the effort for my organization, meeting with Delegates, Senators and their respective staffs helped me to mold ever-lasting relationships as I journey through this exciting, fast-paced field of lobbying in an effort to save lives. I’m proud of our work, I look forward to next year and most of all, I am glad that Noah Leotta will go on saving lives forever through Maryland’s new law.
Austin Rodriquez is an Associate in the Government Relations and Traffic Safety department and a native of the Washington-Metropolitan Area. Relationships – both professional and personal – are a top priority for him.