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 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@example.com) • 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