Effectively communicating with your state legislator
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Effectively Communicating with Your State Legislator. by Matt Sande Director of Legislation Pro-Life Wisconsin. Know them!. Legislators respond best to people they know and can rely on who live in their district.

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Effectively Communicating with Your State Legislator

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Effectively Communicating with Your State Legislator

by Matt Sande

Director of Legislation

Pro-Life Wisconsin


Know them!

  • Legislators respond best to people they know and can rely on who live in their district.

  • To find out who your state legislators are, please go to the PLW website at www.prolifewisconsin.org and scroll over the Legislative Affairs menu item at the top of the page. A drop down menu will appear. Click on the Speak Up icon and then scroll down the page and click on Who Are My Wisconsin Lawmakers?

  • Type in your street address, city and zip code. The names and contact information (phone/email/address) of your state senator and state representative will appear.


Build a relationship with them!

  • All politics is local!

  • Building any relationship (personalor professional) takes time

  • You want to establish a genuine, personal rapport

  • You don’t have to be from the same political party or agree on every issue

  • Your goal is to become a valuable, honest, and reliable resource on life issues


Build a relationship with them!(continued)

  • Take the initiative and invite them to your affiliate meeting / PLW will help you

  • Meet them at a district event (Chamber of Commerce event, public hearing, forum, etc.)

  • Introduce yourself, tell them you are a pro-life leader and would like to stay in touch

  • Write a short note, restating your brief meeting, and thanking him or her for their time


Communicate with them!

  • Your voice is more influential than a lobbyist’s voice

  • Your legislator represents YOU!

  • You are a committed voter…you have power!

  • Your letter/call/e-mail means more than you think!


Communication basics

  • Write a letter

  • Send a fax

  • Send a PLW prepared postcard

  • Call their Madison office directly

  • Call their District office directly (their home)


Communication basics(continued)

  • E-mail

  • Visit

    • Capitol office

    • In district office hours


Letter writing

  • Short of a personal visit, written communication to your legislator is one of the most effective ways to deliver your message

  • You can deliver the message by mail, by fax or by sending an e-mail

  • Constituent letters that are well written and briefly explain the issue and its impact will be noticed and retained in a legislative office


Sample letter

Dear Senator / Representative Johnson:


Introduction

  • State the subject

  • Use the bill # or title of the bill

  • Tell them who you are and the name of your affiliate


Body

  • Explain the issue briefly, factually, and passionately in a simple and understandable way

  • State your position on the bill or measure; if you support or oppose

  • Be polite and respectful / never criticize

  • Give an example of the issue’s local impact (maybe in your own family)


Conclusion

  • Thank the legislator for his or her consideration of or attention to the issue

  • Let them know that you are a pro-life resource for them and can give them more information if requested


Tips for effective letter writing

  • Limit the length of your letter to no more than two pages, one if possible

  • A single, well-written letter from a well-known constituent may be more likely to influence a legislator’s decision than an avalanche of post cards

  • Give your credentials when appropriate

  • Express appreciation for past or future support


Use PLW Speak Up webpage to email

  • Scroll over the Legislative Affairs menu item at the top of the page. A drop down menu will appear. Click on the Speak Up icon and then scroll down the page to Email Your Government Officials

  • Use the links listed under Email Your Government Officials to send your email to your state senator and state representative.

  • PLW will receive a copy of your email which will enable us to monitor the activity of our grassroots advocacy campaigns.


Phone calling

  • When time is short, a personal phone call to a legislator or legislative aide is an effective method to communicate your views

  • Your call is most likely to receive attention if you have developed a personal relationship with the legislator or staff


Phone calling(continued)

  • On a hot issue, calls can often be “logged” and you may not get past the receptionist / that’s OK, he or she will at least register your support or opposition to a particular bill

  • Making a well-timed call can be very important, especially in combination with other pro-lifers in your affiliate / it may tip the balance in your favor, so DON’T HESITATE TO CALL!


Tips for effective phone calling

  • Focus on a single issue, making 2 or 3 key points in your phone call

  • Have notes in front of you to stay focused on the message you are delivering

  • Localize the issue to demonstrate the impact on the legislator’s own constituents

  • Clearly state the action you wish the senator or representative to take on the issue (vote for, vote against, offer an amendment, delete a provision, etc.)


Tips for effective phone calling(continued)

  • Keep your call brief – no more than 3 or 4 minutes

  • If asked a question you can’t answer, tell them you’ll get the answer and get back to them

  • Leave your name and telephone # with the staff to whom you’ve spoken in case they have questions later

  • Write down the name of the staff person you spoke with so that next time you can ask for him or her by name / this will help you build a relationship with the staff

  • Staff are more likely to listen to and return the phone calls of constituents they know

  • If you prefer to leave a message with your state legislator, please call the toll-freeStateLegislative Hotline at (800) 362-9472.


Personal visits with legislators and staff

  • Know where your legislator stands on life issues (PLW staff can provide information on this)

  • Be considerate of your legislators’ time constraints

  • Be prepared, be informed about what you’re saying

    • Know the topic, bill number, main arguments, etc.

    • Know your opponents main arguments

  • Educate – Don’t preach


  • Personal visits with legislators and staff (continued)

    • Keep your message simple and straightforward – don’t confuse the issue

    • LISTEN to your legislators views on the issue

      • Answer their questions and acknowledge their insights

      • Understanding their view, whether or not it concurs with yours, will provide valuable insight into how you might support or change their view


    Personal visits with legislators and staff (continued)

    • Leave a briefing paper after the visit, highlighting your key points (PLW will provide you written policy memos) / include your name and contact information for follow up

    • Write a thank you note after the visit / write a note to the legislator’s staff if they attended the visit

    • ALWAYS be polite and courteous, even when you disagree


    Go the Extra Mile!

    • Know the committee your legislator chairs

    • Know the committees your legislator serves on

      • Do they impact pro-life issues?

  • What time of the year is it?

    • Is the Legislature in session?

    • Is it a budget year? (odd years)

    • Is it an election year? (even years)

    • Who holds the majority in the Senate, Assembly?


  • Keep PLW “in the loop”

    • PLW needs to know what your legislator is telling his/her constituents

    • Send / forward responses from legislators to the PLW state office (email me at [email protected])

    • Use www.prolifewisconsin.org to monitor and research legislation

    • Use the Wisconsin Legislature’s website to access bills and other legislative info: www.legis.state.wi.us

    • PLW will bend over backward to get you the bullet points, memos, policy papers, and any other material you need to be an EFFECTIVE PRO-LIFE VOICE and RESOURCE for your legislators


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