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Legislative Outreach. Creating an effective grassroots legislative program. "Government is NOT a substitute for people, but simply the instrument through which they act." ----Barnard Baruch. Influencing the Legislative Process.

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legislative outreach

Legislative Outreach

Creating an effective grassroots legislative program...............


"Government is NOT a substitute for people, but simply the instrument through which they act."

----Barnard Baruch


Influencing the Legislative Process

  • Conservation districts are directly affected by actions of federal, state and local legislators.
    • Sometimes there is a need for new legislation to handle a natural resource issue or concerns over funding for District and natural resource programs.
  • Elected officials react to what they read, hear and especially to individuals they speak with.
    • It is necessary for CDs to take action to educate, inform and persuade elected officials.
4 musts to an effective legislative program
4 Musts to an effective legislative program....
  • 1) Building the relationships
  • 2) Know the legislative process
  • 3) Know your issues
  • 4) Follow through after the legislative process
building the relationships
Building the relationships:
  • Know all about your legislators: professions, background, affiliations, families
  • Know your legislators’ political interests/philosophies
  • Stay in contact and keep your officials informed …Don’t just call them in time of need
Know your legislators’ constituency (urban, rural, etc.)

Know what positions your legislator holds (committees, leadership, etc.)

Communicate a positive message!

You and the legislators you deal with should:

Know that your issue or concern is always an affirmative one.

Consider yourself “pro” and not “anti”. Being “anti” on an issue is negative, defensive and reactive. Working from a “pro” stance makes is far easier to keep communication open and influence the process.

Look for the win-win solution.


Personal Contact with Legislators

  • When you introduce yourself, save time by making it clear who you are and what CD you are with.
    • Do not “overkill” –stick to the message.
    • Most legislators have many demands on their time. Elaborate or long speeches will not be appreciated.
  • They want your well prepared facts and views presented in a straightforward manner.
    • Leave a copy of your position or fact sheet with them to read over at a later time.
    • Never make up answers –get back in touch with them when you know the correct answer.

Listen, listen, listen –especially with new legislators.

Seek a commitment –but don’t demand one before the facts are in. Give your legislator a chance to examine all sides of an issue.

Thank them for their time.

Follow up with a thank you letter and continued updates.


Written Communication with Legislators

  • A personal letter or e-mail may be the most effective way of contacting your legislator.
  • Address it properly. Know your legislator’s full name and correct spelling.
  • For a Senator:
    • The Honorable (full name)
    • State (or United States) Senator
    • Address
    • **********
    • Dear Senator (last name):
  • For a Representative:
    • The Honorable (full name)
    • State (or United States) Representative
    • Address
    • **********
    • Dear Representative (last name):

Always include your last name and address on the letter itself.

Use your own words –not a form letter.

Time the arrival of your letter while the bill or issue is still in committee and there is time for effective action.

Know what you’re writing about –identify the bill or issue of concern to you.

Be reasonably brief –a single page is preferred by most legislators.

Give reasons for your position.

Explain how the issue would affect you, your CD and the local community.

If you have specialized knowledge, share it with your legislator.


Be constructive. If a bill deals with a problem you admit exists but you believe the bill is the wrong approach, explain what you believe to be the right approach.

Write a letter of appreciation when you feel a legislator has done a good job. They are human too and seldom receive thank you letters of encouragement.

Remember –on any one issue, even a few letters to one legislator can have an important impact.


Invite Legislators to Your Meetings & Events

District meetings can be just as effective as meetings at the Capitol.

Invite elected officials to local meetings, field days and award ceremonies.

Host public events for your elected officials.

District staffers are just as important as legislative staff. Invite them to events too.

Don’t underestimate your ability to influence the future of agriculture programs!

know the legislative process
Know the Legislative Process
  • Know and understand the legislative process from start to finish
  • Keep informed prior to and during the session
  • When called upon to take action…know and understand your message and then follow through
know your issue
Know your issue
  • Be recognized as a credible, reliable and readily available source of information. This is one of, if not the most important, element of a strong legislative program
  • Be personally convinced about the subject
  • If you are a credible and reliable source of information, your legislator will call upon you even if you haven’t built the strong relationship
Never, ever, ever provide wrong or inaccurate information
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and offer to get back with requested information. Never guess or provide questionable answers
  • It is nearly impossible to recover credibility after supplying misinformation
The information you provide will help the legislator meet their personal political goals
  • Share with the legislators any knowledge of opposition to your issue or legislation and why. Don’t try to hide anything. The more informed they are the more effective they are
  • Always be respectful and courteous to an elected official regardless of your feelings
  • Don’t ever threaten or demand

“Bureaucracies are designed to perform public business. But as soon as a bureaucracy is established, it develops an autonomous spiritual life and comes to regard the public as its enemy.”Brooks Atkinson ("September 9", Once Around the Sun (1951))

follow through after legislative process
Follow through after legislative process
  • After legislation is adopted, typically the agency who’s statute was modified, promulgates rules and regulations. These are promulgated pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act which includes opportunity for public comment.
  • This is the agency’s interpretation and method for implementing the legislation
  • Those who supported and/or initiated the legislation will want to ensure accuracy and consistency in this process
follow the legislative process
Follow the Legislative Process
  • Visit http://legis.state.va.us/ to follow the Legislature during the session
  • Download bills, track amendments and view committee schedules
  • Listen to the sessions live via Real Audio technology

"..it does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people\'s minds.." --Samuel Adams