How to be an effective citizen lobbyist and hold your legislators accountable
On January 14, 2017, a group from the Green Party of Utah attended the “Pre-Legislative Bootcamp” hosted by Libertas Utah to gain insight into how to more effectively communicate with Utah's legislators and navigate the processes of law-making and advocacy. Find our notes from the event below.
Note: the Legislative Session starts on January 23rd and ends on March 9th.
Presented by Daniel McCay (Republican) and Kim Coleman (Republican)
Keep in mind when communicating with your representatives that your enemy today could be your friend tomorrow. Although you may disagree with them about one bill, they may be your best advocate on a future bill.
Be civil in communication and keep your tone of voice in mind. If you can avoid getting too heated they will be more likely to hear you out on future issues. Try to cooperate with them and open the door for future communication.
Avoid hyperboles or heated emotions in your message. Be succinct (especially during session since they have a short attention span), use logic and reason more than emotion.
Provide info, statistics, and stories that can inform them. Sometimes they may simply be unaware of facts.
Show up to the capitol to talk to them in person. Have multiple ways to talk about the issue.
Avoid using vague words like “unconstitutional”, “conservative”, “liberal”, since they do not communicate the underlying message you are probably shooting for.
Start with your name, where you’re from, what the issue is, and why this person is relevant to that issue.
Make sure you are talking to someone who is currently considering the bill. Ex: if it’s passed the house and gone to the senate, don’t contact someone from the house about the issue since the bill is no longer relevant to them.
If emailing: in the subject line, put “I am your constituent writing about (issue XYZ)”, and in the body put your full name and address.
Focus on committee members that are focusing on the bill.
Note: these people do not have to be from your area. If they are in the committee, they are representing the entire state of Utah.
Try to work with them before they reach the committee. By the time they are in the committee meetings, they are usually already decided about a bill.
Reach out to the sponsor of the bill if you are confused about the language and communicate with them.
Amplify your voice by becoming a part of a group that lobbies for the issues that you care about.
Thank your legislators for doing something you agree with! They will respond positively to compliments and will be more likely to hear you out in the future.
Takeaways: keep communication short during the session, and delve further into issues during the off-season when they have more attention to spare. Legislators are people and will respond positively to effective communication, will shut off if you bully them or get too heated. They also usually have their minds made up based on principles but are open to facts. Most effective way to get their attention is to remind them that you are their constituent and can vote for someone else. Show up in person to talk directly to them. They are also open to using their phones to text.