Your elected state legislators want to know what you think of proposed legislation before they vote on it. You can visit, telephone them, or write them letters to express your views.
VISITING YOUR LEGISLATOR
A visit to the capitol to meet with a legislator is generally viewed as more powerful than a phone call, letter or email. A scheduled meeting shows that you’ve taken the time to bring your message to Hartford. The following is a set of suggestions to help you lobbying in person.
- SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT: Legislators are not in the Capitol every day. It is important to call them in advance and set up a meeting. It is also helpful to let them know the subject of the meeting at this point. On a day when the House/Senate is in session it is possible to speak to members when they are available.
- BE FAMILIAR WITH CURRENT LEGISLATION: It is important to be sure you are up to date on any recent happenings in the legislature. Otherwise, the real issues may be obscured by the confusion.
- HAVE AN AGENDA: Meetings should be short and to the point. A formal agenda is not necessary but you should know the three or four things you would like to accomplish.
- IF YOU DON”T KNOW THE ANSWER TO A QUESTION, SAY SO: There is nothing more important for an advocate than credibility. Legislators will often ask questions which they know the answer to test you. If you are not sure of the answer say, “I don’t know but I can get that information for you.” If you offer this, it is imperative that you follow up.
- BE AN ACTIVE LISTENER: Just as with a phone call, a legislator will often tell you not only how they feel but also what the opposing side is saying. This may happen directly or through the legislator’s use of arguments to support or defend a position. It is important to pay attention to advocating for your position.
- SAY THANK YOU: Follow up each visit with a personal thank you note, even if you disagree on the issue that you discussed. The extra effort is worth it!
WRITING/EMAILING YOUR LEGISLATOR
Letter writing can be an effective method of getting information to a legislator or number of legislators on a regular basis. The following are suggestions to help guide you.
- BE CONCISE: A one-page letter is more effective than a thesis.
- USE YOUR OWN IDEAS AND EXPERIENCE: You can rely on fact sheets and other information provided by CYSA and other resources, but you are the best one to connect with your local legislator. Local examples are the most effective.
- STICK TO A SINGLE ISSUE: You may have a number of things to discuss, but you don’t want to flood decision makers with too many ideas which will dilute your message.
- ASK FOR A SPECIFIC ACTION OR COMMITMENT: You should refer to a specific bill and be sure to ask for support on your position.
- DON’T BURN BRIDGES: It is okay to disagree with a legislator but don’t get angry. While many of these issues are important to us, we need to establish long-term relationships with these people. You want to be viewed as a rational, constructive member of the community.
- REQUEST A REPLY: This encourages the legislator to address the action or commitment you asked for, not avoid it.
- ESTABLISH REGULAR CONTACT: Don’t just write to ask for something. Establish regular contact by writing to thank your legislator for a vote on a bill or to let them know of an event or program your agency has been involved with.