The first few weeks of session are a crucial time to be reaching out to legislators. Things are still taking shape and community voice has an opportunity to set the stakes before legislators get stuck in their positions. A few coordinated phone calls here, a few emails there can make all the difference in advancing a bill.
0️⃣ Connect with the community organizations working on the bill you’re interested in. Behind each of Our Big Five bills is a coalition or organization meeting with legislators, organizing support, and coordinating testimony. They should be your first stop to ensure your time is best spent — that you’re armed with the most persuasive talking points available and you’re adding to the momentum that’s already been built. It’s hard for any one voice to be heard: but together, we can’t be ignored.
1️⃣ Claim your constituent power. For the most part, legislators only care about their constituents, so narrow your focus to your legislators. If you need to move a legislator outside of your district, organizing friends, organizations, voters and media in their district is your next best bet. If you’re not sure what district you reside in, use the District Finder to figure out.
2️⃣ Call AND email. It’s fairly easy since their contact info is available publicly (see: House and Senate). If you reach out, you will likely get a hold of an aide. Let them know clearly why you called or emailed and what specific action you want your legislator to do. If you’ve connected with the community organization doing the work, they’ll have provided this information as a one-pager to you already. We strongly recommend connecting with an organization to make the best use of your time.
3️⃣ Take control of the local narrative. Since legislators only care about what their constituents think, influencing them is an incredibly powerful and underrated tool. One of the best studies in the field found nearly 1 in 10 readers of a well-written op-ed are persuaded by the argument. The effects last for as long as a month — over a quarter of session! Legislative offices also keep close tabs on their local papers. If you can get published by local outlets, you can scale up the advocacy of your calls and emails in a big way
4️⃣ Comment on a bill. One step between connecting with a legislator and providing testimony is commenting on a bill directly. This is another way to hammer home your case on an issue. To do so, follow the step-by-step process outlined here.
5️⃣ Testify in writing or in a virtual hearing. A week before a hearing is scheduled, you can provide written testimony or register to testify virtually. To do so, though, you’ll need to know which committee is holding the hearing and when. The community group you’ve connected with will be the best source of this information and should be able to provide you with persuasive talking points that should serve as a starting point for your testimony.
6️⃣ Report back to the group. However far you’ve gone in your advocacy, let the community group you’re working with know, so they can plan accordingly. And sleep well knowing that you’ve done your part — for now, because we’re only in phase one of session.
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