legislators actually do pay attention to communications from the people who
live in the districts they represent. Persistent advocacy sometimes can pay off
for you, your family, and our community.
legislator is a little different, and I canít claim to know more about your
relationship with your local state senator or assemblymember than you do. These
are general tips that you can adapt to fit your own situation.
people donít know who their state senator or assemblymember is. (Hint:
not Dianne Feinstein.) If you donít know who your legislators are, they
probably donít know who you are, either, and itís time for them to find out. To
find out who they are, go to www.thearcca.org, scroll down to the red, white
and blue ďWrite Your LegislatorsĒ button, enter your ZIP code, and click
you know someone who works for the legislator whose support you want, call him
or her, regardless of whether he or she works in the legislatorís Capitol
office in Sacramento or district office near you. Personal relationships are
important. If you donít know anyone there yet, call the Capitol office.
you canít call, fax the legislator a letter in Sacramento. A letter on a
letterhead Ė your organization or business, for example Ė is best. Donít send
it in the US mail; it can take up to three weeks to get through the anthrax
general, donít use email unless you know for sure that the legislator pays as
much attention to email as to letters. Some do. Some donít. However, if you
know someone who works for the legislator, and if you canít call, you can email
him or her personally. Did I mention that personal relationships are important?
you get the legislatorís Capitol office, tell whoever answers the phone that
youíre a constituent of the legislator and youíre calling about Senate Bill
so-and-so or Assembly Bill such-and-such. Tell them which committee the bill is
in Ė youíll get that information from our Action Alert that asked you to call,
or from leginfo.ca.gov Ė and ask who staffs that committee for the legislator.
the bill already has passed all the committees and is before the full Senate or
Assembly, ask who handles bills coming to the floor. Then ask to talk to that
willing to hold on the phone a while or even call back later to get the right
staffer. You may never get exactly the right person, but often you will, and
youíll certainly get somebody.
you get the staffer on the phone, introduce yourself. Give them your address so
they know you live in the legislatorís district. (They have access to voter
registration records. If you're not registered and are eligible to register,
now is a really good time to do so. Go to
for his or her name, then write it down and save it. This is the beginning of
that personal relationship I keep harping on.
why you care about the bill youíre calling about. If youíre a person with a
disability or a family member, say so. And if youíre calling about, for example,
the Crime Victims with Disabilities Act and you or someone you know has been
the victim of abuse, tell the staffer that.
say clearly that you are calling to ask the legislator to vote yes or no on the
bill. Ask the staff member if he or she knows how the legislator plans to vote.
Probably not, but they may surprise you and know the answer.
A few calls like that sometimes can actually make a difference in a legislatorís
vote. Two or three such calls are usually worth more than 20 or 30 of those
point-and-click emails that clog up legislatorsí inboxes. (We do
point-and-click email campaigns sometimes too, but only if we think we can
generate a lot. A whole lot.)
thereís the followup. After the vote, find out how your legislator voted.
probably can get that information through www.leginfo.gov. If that doesnít
work, you can call the staffer you talked to originally Ė you have a personal
relationship with him or her now Ė and ask how the legislator voted. If you
call and they donít know, ask them to put you on hold and check, or call you
they donít call you back, you call them -- as many times as it takes. They'll
be impressed by your polite persistence.
the legislator voted right, thank the staffer. If the legislator voted wrong,
politely express your disappointment and ask why. Again, if the staffer doesnít know,
ask him or her to find out and call you back. If they donít call you back, you
call them. As many times as it takes.
the legislator a letter to thank them for voting right or express your
disappointment with them for voting wrong is also a good idea. Your letter will
stand out because almost nobody ever does it. Itís OK to use the US mail for a
letter like that. Send it to the attention of the staffer you talked to. Youíre
probably going to be talking to him or her again the next time. I did mention
that personal relationships are important, didnít I?
you for your advocacy.
Arc and United Cerebral Palsy in California
Eighth Street, Suite 350, Sacramento, CA 95814
June 11, 2010 - Communities Can Influence Policy: Talking to Policymakers -noon to 1:00 pm
Parents of children with special needs are in a unique position to be called upon to share their viewpoints with decision makers such as legislators, school board and regional center board members and others. In this webinar Tony Anderson, Executive Director of The Arc of California, will share information on how to talk with policymakers. Are letters or phone calls better? What about emails? Do you have to go in person for anyone to pay attention to your message? When should you speak up? The answers to all of these questions and many more, will be included. At the end of the webinar, you will be prepared to share your viewpoint and influence policy. Service providers will find this information helpful as you advocate for policy, and support parents to share their viewpoint.
Funded by the Infant Development Association of California under the Communities Can Influence Policy grant from Area Board V.