Who Should I contact to express my opposition or support for a proposal?
The first question you must answer is, which lawmaking body has put forth the proposal? You should contact members of that lawmaking body. In most cases, lawmaking bodies cannot interfere in each others’ lawmaking processes. So, it is unnecessary to contact your county commissioners about a proposal put forth by your city council.
Local lawmaking bodies include city councils, county commissions, boards of selectmen, and so on. Most towns, cities, and counties have websites that list the local lawmakers’ contact information. Remember, you need to contact the members of the specific lawmaking body where the proposal has been introduced.
If a state legislator is proposing BSL, then you would contact your state representatives (in your state’s House and Senate). All state legislatures have websites with a search box to help you find the people who represent you in the House and Senate. You may also go to Project VoteSmart’s website and enter your zip code to find your elected officials.
If the bill is being considered by a legislative committee (this usually occurs after a bill has just been proposed), you can contact the officials who are on the committee to encourage/discourage them from approving it. After the bill is approved by a committee, it makes its way to the House or Senate floor for a vote.
Remember, you don’t need to contact all your elected officials—just the lawmakers who are in a position to pass/oppose the proposal.
How Should I Contact My Elected Officials?
Letters are the most common means of communication with elected officials. These include e-mails, snail mail, and faxes.
Face-to-face meetings have significant impact because they are so personal, even if they are brief. When you meet with an official, you are putting a person’s face on the proposed law; the legislator now knows someone who will be affected by it. Call the lawmaker’s office to schedule a meeting.
A speech during a city council open forum or public comment session, or testifying in front of a state legislature, also has a very personal impact on lawmakers. Public speeches may need to be scheduled in advance of the meeting, so be sure to find out the rules before you show up.
What Should I Say?
The key is to be brief and to the point: quality, not quantity. Always remain respectful, calm, and informative.
Get some tips about writing letters.
Learn about rhetorical arguments that work and do not work.
Read more about general communication tips for speaking, writing, dealing with the media, and persuasion.
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