As a voting constituent, you have a tremendous ability to influence the outcome of legislation. Ask any elected official which individual`s concerns are most important to him, and chances are they all will deliver the same response: his constituents`. All politicians are keenly aware of the fact that it is their constituents who hold the keys to their political futures. Therefore, constituent concerns are of the utmost concern to politicians. The best way you can affect the outcome of legislation is to directly communicate your views to your lawmakers. REMEMBER: Your lawmakers work for you! Since the primary concern of all politicians is to get re-elected, be sure you communicate your concerns with your own elected officials first! Then, if you wish to express your views to others who don`t directly represent you, you can do so. But make sure your legislators hear from you first! Also, keep in mind many times you will not be speaking directly to your elected official, but rather to a member of his staff. Contact with legislative staff is critical to the process, as staff has major input with lawmakers and has expertise in most issues on which legislators will vote.
Making Phone Calls to Legislators
Why make a call? Making a phone call is a quick and effective way of informing legislators about your position on an issue. It is often an easier and faster form of communication than other options such as writing a letter. When a legislative office receives numerous phone calls about an issue, they know it is an issue important to their constituency.Know WHAT to say:
Know WHO to speak to. Phone calls are often taken by staff members. Ask to speak to the aide who handles the particular issue of your concern. Know when your officials are home in their district or away in session and be sure to contact the proper office accordingly. Elected officials have different contact information for in-district and Springfield or DC offices.
Know WHEN to call. Contact your legislator as early as possible on specific legislation as they are more likely to be open-minded and still have time to form or change their position. Legislators must focus on specific legislation when in session. Generally the best time to suggest new legislation is during the summer and fall when the state legislature is not in session.
Writing Letters to Legislators
Why write a letter? Personal letters can be powerful as they show you care enough about an issue to take the time to write it. Individual letters oftentimes make a greater impression on a legislator than a mass generated form letter. Some find it easier to fully express themselves using the written word. If a legislator receives numerous letters on a single issue, they are more likely to consider the issue important to their constituency.
What is the proper format? Always use the correct address and appropriate salutation:
The Honorable Mary Q. Smith
Connecticut House of Representatives
Connecticut State Capitol
210 Capitol Ave
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Representative Smith:
How should you send it? Unless otherwise specified, we always recommend that you fax the letter to your legislator.
Office Visits with Legislators
WHY should you schedule an office visit? Face to face meetings demonstrate to a legislator how committed a constituent or group of constituents are to a particular issue. Meeting may allow you to establish an immediate rapport with the legislator. You can immediately respond to counter-arguments and concerns and better adapt your argument to immediate circumstances. A conversation may help your legislator make broader connections between your issue and other issues.WHEN should you schedule an office visit? HOW to prepare for the meeting: Office visits can be scheduled any time throughout the year: in-district offices when the General Assembly or Congress are in recess; or in Hartford or Washington DC when in session. Contact your legislator early in session if you expect them to have time to form or change an opinion on specific legislation. Though often hard to schedule, a visit to a legislator during debate towards voting time on an issue may make the difference on the outcome of the bill. Generally the best time to suggest new legislation is during the summer and fall when the state legislature is not in session.
HOW to prepare for the meeting:
STEPS to an effective meeting:
Testifying at Committee Hearings
Why testify at a committee hearing? Legislators often get information that forms their opinion based on testimony whether data and statistics from experts or personal stories about how an issue is affecting real lives. Hearings may generate media coverage. They are a good place to network with other advocates. Perhaps most important, if no one testifies, the opposition may use that as an excuse to kill the bill.Suggestions and procedures to follow at a hearing:
Maximizing the impact of your testimony: