Face-to-face visits to legislators and staff are the most influential method of advocacy. You will find that state and county legislators are much more accessible and approachable than U.S. representatives and senators. Most state legislators have usually only one part-time staffer. Unlike in Washington, in Pierre and in your home town you may find your legislator in his or her office alone, without “gatekeepers.” As local representatives, they want to hear from their constituents, who just happen to be their neighbors.
- Limit the issues – one or two only
- Get the facts. Try SDAHO sources
- SDAHO Council on Public Policy
- SDAHO Bill Summary
- SDAHO Federal Issues Brief
- Knowing the bill number is helpful but not critical; the issue is more important than the bill number or title as there are so many bills and amendments. A legislator is likely to vote on an issue.
- Find out how your legislator voted on this issue or similar issues in the past.
- Take some handouts that you might be able to leave at the legislator’s office.
- Create a personal message that includes your relevant work, professional background, expertise and experiences. Always address the problem in terms of how it affects your patients and the community.
- Give your name, home location (in the legislator’s district). Remember to identify yourself as a SDAHO member and your organization.
- State the reason for your visit or contact. “I’m concerned about…”
- Take note of the legislator’s reactions (e.g., pro, con, disinterested, confused).
- Briefly state your position on the issue. Avoid reciting facts and figures unless relevant to your story.
- Tell your story; remember your personal message
- Ask the legislator for a pledge or action (vote, introduce, co-sponsor, speak to colleagues).
- “How do you feel about this issue? And Can you support us [our position/this measure] on this? [If no] “What concerns you about our position?
- “Can we get you more information about this?”
- If the legislator declines, ask them what they can or will support.
- Send a thank you note or make a thank you phone call.
- Let SDAHO know about your contact.
Writing Letters, Email Messages
- Keep it short: Not more than one page or what can appear on one screen without scrolling.
- Limit the message to one issue.
- The letter or message must include your name, address, phone number and email address (if email), your position and why you hold it, urging the legislator to support or reject the bill or amendment, co-sponsor it, etc.
- If you are constructing a letter or message from a web site by pasting suggested paragraphs, add a few personalized sentences in the beginning. Legislators get many form letters and you want your message to stand out.
- Send a thank you note after the legislative action is finished (assuming it went the right way).
- You might end up speaking to a staff person or leaving a message. In any case, make your statement to whomever answers the phone. Identify yourself and your organization, include a call back number, state your position and why, and urge the legislator to support or reject the bill, etc.
- Make a thank you call after the legislative action is finished (assuming it went the right way).