What Difference Can I Make?
•HCFA passed because of ground swell of popular support.
•Consistent effective contact with your state delegate and senator has a big impact. It takes a lot less votes to get elected…your support counts more.
•A big showing on Lobby Day sends a strong message to legislators that you are serious. (If someone drives 3 hours each way to lobby you, they know you aren’t fooling around)
How to lobby for a bill
Step 1: Who are your representatives?
Step 2: Educate yourself on the issue/bill
Step 3 Contact your legislator in writing
Do’s on Letters/Emails
•Be courteous and respectful without “gushing.”
•Form letters are ignored…make it your own. ..address one issue per contact.
•Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter/email. If it’s about a certain bill, identify it correctly. Say who you are. Anonymous letters/emails go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don’t include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.
•State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.
•Keep your letter short — one page is best.
•Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.
•State what it is you want done or recommend a course of action.
•Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter/email.
Don’ts on Letters/Emails
•Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. Simply stated, don’t let your passion get in the way of making your point,
•Fail to include your name and address, even in email letters.
•Demand a response
Step 4: Follow up your letter/email with a call
•Clearly have in mind a specific request of your representative. When you reach a member of his/her staff
•Be brief and specific ie “Does Delegate Smith have a position on HB?” Reference your email/letter.
•Leave contact information and politely inquire about the time frame for a follow up. Follow up as appropriate.
Step 5: Follow Up
Once they respond back to a call or letter/email:
•Thank your representative for listening to your concerns, especially if they take action.
•Commend them publicly, including letters to the editor or items in newsletters. (Be sure to share them with their staff.)
•Get the name of the staff person you speak to and try to deal with the same person each time. Remember that if your representatives are helpful and you praise them publicly, next time they may help even more.
The ultimate goal is to build a positive, long-term relationship
If you get no response
•Call back your representative.
•Politely give them specific information on letters/emails/calls you have made. Just state the facts (i.e. “I emailed you on 1/5/11 and I called you on 1-10-11 and I have not gotten a response to my question on his position on HB?”)
•Politely ask for a commitment for a response and ensure they have your contact information. If you build a good relationship with the staff, they will work hard to avoid this happening.
If the Response is Negative
•Thank your representative for listening to your concerns.
•Politely reiterate your position
•Save the information as this delegate/Senator will be up for re-election this November. There voting record on key issues can be used effectively in the upcoming election.
•Don’t burn bridges. They may support other legislation in this session. Continue to build a relationship with a staff member who can be your advocate.
Feel Free to Set up a Meeting….if you do….
•Be accurate. To build a working relationship and get action, you need to be a credible source of information. If you don’t know something, just say so. Tell them you will find out and get back to them.
•Be brief. Members of General Assembly and their staffs are incredibly busy and so are you. They appreciate it when you get to the point and respect their time. Because your meeting or call might be interrupted, get to your request in the first few minutes.
•Be courteous. Always, always be courteous. A “How are you?” after the initial hello works wonders! On the other hand, being abrasive is almost always counterproductive, and it provides a good excuse to ignore your request.
•Be specific. Make a point to mention the bill by number, give reasons why you support the bill, and let them know that you are a constituent.
•Be persistent. If you find that the staff people you need to speak with are out of the office, leave a message for them with your name and number. If they don’t return your call within two to three days, then call again. Keep track of your calls, but remember that they are very busy.