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Local lobbyist looks to make a difference

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‘The smoke-free law ... is very, very close to being passed.’

By Calen McKinney

 

A Campbellsville native is roaming the halls at the state capitol, in hopes that her work as an advocate will improve people's lives. And she says she is pretty close to helping make a ban on smoking in public places become a reality.

She isn't serving in public office, but Jamie Ennis Bloyd said she hopes her work as a lobbyist will influence legislators and help them make decisions to move the state forward.

Bloyd, 32, who lives in Lexington and works as education and outreach coordinator for Smoke-Free Kentucky, graduated from Campbellsville High School in 1999. Bloyd is the daughter of Larry and Dr. Beverly Ennis, who had lived in Campbellsville but now call Greensburg home.

Bloyd completed a bachelor's degree at University of Kentucky. She later completed a master's of public administration degree at Eastern Kentucky University.

In summer 2002, Bloyd worked as an intern for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, in Washington, D.C. She then worked for The Center for Rural Development for a couple of years before being recruited to join former Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration. In 2004, Bloyd was part of Leadership Lexington and had a chance to meet Bob Babbage.

"Bob is the No. 1 lobbyist in the state and was Secretary of State and Kentucky State Auditor," Bloyd stated in an emailed interview. "I told him that day I wanted to work with him one day. It took me 10 years, but now I am a partner firm with his company!"

After Fletcher wasn't re-elected, Bloyd lost her job. But then came jobs at the American Heart Association and with a Republican city council member in Lexington.

But it was after having children that Bloyd and her husband, Cheslee, decided that she would stop working full-time to care for their sick son, Paxton, now 5. The Bloyds also have a daughter, Ansley, 3.

Last January, Bloyd started her own independent consulting and lobbying firm.

"I started doing part-time contracts and it has quickly evolved into a full-time passion," Bloyd said. "I am able to work from home part of the time and spend great quality time with my family - except for when the legislative session is going on!"

Now, Bloyd said she spends most of her working time with Smoke-Free Kentucky and the Kentucky Academy of Physician Assistants.

"Cheslee is a physician assistant so it's really become a family cause and family effort. Kentucky is one of the least PA friendly states in the country. And Kentucky has a major healthcare provider shortage. We are working on changing that."

Bloyd also works with the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the Kentucky Academy of Emergency Room Physicians.

She said she has always wanted to work as a lobbyist to help the causes she believes in the most.

"I think I have always wanted to do something like this, but didn't know it was called lobbying," she said. "I really like the word 'advocate' much better. All of the things I work on are personal causes, not just clients.

"I thought I wanted to go to law school, but after working in a couple of law firms, I discovered they did not have the work/family balance I really wanted or the flexibility I craved."

Bloyd says her job as a lobbyist is all about relationships and connecting with people and legislators from different walks of life and parts of the state.

"I really do love what I do. I truly believe this is what God intended for me to do. To advocate for laws that will save people's lives."

When the General Assembly is in session, Bloyd can most often be found meeting with legislators and their constituents at the state capitol in Frankfort.

"Unless you personally experience it, it's hard to understand how intense it is and how hectic my time there is," she said. "Usually, I have strategically planned what legislators I need to meet with each day to try to convince them to support the legislation I am working on."

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Bloyd attends committee meetings to hear the legislators discuss and vote on bills.

"Working with several different groups, I am often also organizing lobby days when hundreds of supporters come to the capitol to rally for their issues," she said. "One thing I love about lobbying is that literally every day is different. No two days are the same."

Last year, Bloyd became a registered lobbyist. And, during her first year as such, one of the bills she lobbied for passed. She worked with the Kentucky Academy of Physician Assistants to get changes made to on-site supervision rules.

"This was a very big victory. The PAs had worked for at least seven years to get anything passed. To lead them to such a big win in my first year was an honor and very rewarding. And very important to my husband."

During today's legislative session, Bloyd's work is focusing on educating the public about secondhand smoke and building support for a statewide smoking ban in public places.

"I've traveled over 6,000 miles in the past year meeting with people from all over the state, particularly in rural areas," she said.

"Some people think secondhand smoke is just a bad smell - but it is very, very dangerous and costs 950 Kentuckians their lives each year. The 950 is just from SECOND hand smoke. Direct tobacco use kills over 7,800 Kentuckians each year."

Bloyd said a statewide smoke-free law has worked in 24 other states and she believes it's the most effective way to drastically reduce smoking rates and exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace.

"The smoke-free law, [House Bill] 173 and [Senate Bill] 117, is very, very close to being passed," she said. "[Last Thursday], we cleared the house health and welfare committee 10-3. We have our huge lobby day [this] Wednesday, then expect the bill to be brought to the full house floor very soon after that.

"This year we have a Senate sponsor too - the first time! We have the votes in the Senate to win, if we get a fair hearing."

Bloyd said she very much enjoys what she does.

"People often say not to take it personal. But I think it is incredibly personal. Many people in my family have been directly impacted by smoking or secondhand smoke. Right now, my grandmother is battling metastatic cancer that is directly attributed to smoking. Back when she started smoking, the science wasn't there. We didn't know how deadly it was.

"The tobacco industry spends $271 million in Kentucky each year to keep people addicted. It's an uphill battle, and a tough one, but worthwhile. I've seen people I'm very, very close to die from it and couldn't do a single thing for them or anything to change what was happening. This helps me heal and make a difference instead of being helpless. I think if it's not personal, it's not worth fighting for."

Bloyd said her job can sometimes be overwhelming and stressful, but always rewarding.

"Sometimes I just get emotionally overwhelmed thinking about it," she said.

"I know I am very lucky to love my job and be able to get legislation passed that will make a change for the good of the 4.3 million residents of Kentucky.

"Everything I advocate for is to create a cultural change for good health and to provide the highest quality access to care for so many people, particularly in rural Kentucky, that just don't have the medical opportunities they need and deserve."