Tips for Contacting Your Legislators to

Support or Oppose a Bill

Most 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.

Every 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.

Most people donít know who their state senator or assemblymember is. (Hint:

Itís 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 ďEnter.Ē

If 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.

If 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 screen.

In 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?

When 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.

If 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 person.

Be 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.

When 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 https://rtv.sos.ca.gov/elections/register-to-vote.)

Ask for his or her name, then write it down and save it. This is the beginning of that personal relationship I keep harping on.

Explain 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.

Then 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.)

Then thereís the followup. After the vote, find out how your legislator voted.

You 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 back.

If they donít call you back, you call them -- as many times as it takes. They'll be impressed by your polite persistence.

If 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.

Writing 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?

Thank you for your advocacy.

Greg deGiere

Public Policy Director

The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy in California

1225 Eighth Street, Suite 350, Sacramento, CA 95814

916-552-6619, ext. 16

916-441-3494 (fax)

Greg@TheArcCA.org


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.

 

 

 
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The Arc of California, 1225 8th Street, Suite 350, Sacramento, CA 95814.  Office (916) 552-6619, Fax (916) 441-3494