It's The Perfect Time To Get To Know Your Lawmakers
With the next legislative session just a few months away, we’d like to encourage our supporters to take this opportunity to get to know your lawmakers now so you’re ready to reach out when the 2022 session gets underway in February. We talked to a few of our seasoned advocates for some ideas on how to get started.
Building relationships takes time and careful effort, but it’s the most effective way to shape the thinking of those who decide public policy. Here are a few ways to begin building those relationships if you haven’t already.
Work on a political campaign.
There’s no better way to gain a legislator’s appreciation and trust than to lend a hand to his or her election or re-election efforts. CVA Board Member Karen Laski has been lobbying and volunteering for candidates for many years.
“Being an advocate for animals is as easy as letting your legislator know that animal issues are important. He or she will remember you and your position if you do a favor to help them with their campaign to be elected or re-elected as state legislator. Just contact the campaign office and say you’d love to help and they will give you a choice of calling or going door to door to ask some of your neighbors to support your candidate. It’s actually very pleasant to do.”
Attend district meetings and events.
It’s best to develop relationships with legislators and their staff members long before you turn to them to support or oppose a measure. Meeting in person at their home district can be more convenient than a trip to the State Capitol, according to Karen Laski and Elizabeth Abbe:
“Karen and I got to know our Rep. Jason Doucette through a ‘meet and greet’ coffee hour in Manchester when he was running for office. He was really personable and interested in our issues and we got to know him personally. Subsequently, Rep Doucette always welcomed us at the Legislative Office Building and we felt he genuinely was happy to see us.”
You might also invite legislators to meet you at a local shelter to “put a face” on a particular issue and have others join in the discussion.
Visit, call, write, or email.
Personal visits, letters, phone calls, and emails are also important, especially when they come from a constituent—a person (and voter!) who lives in their district. Karen Laski notes that legislators are happy to talk to constituents.
“Legislators want to hear from their constituents. Speak from the heart and try to make what you say be memorable. Explain how your bill will be good for animals and help CT.”
Don’t worry if you end up meeting with a staff member if the lawmaker is called away for a vote or committee business. The staffer will convey your message.
Educate. Become a fountain of facts.
Do your homework and be well-versed on the issues; you can always refer to ctvotesforanimals.org for background information.
Know the facts, regarding both legislative procedure and your issue. If discussing a bill, know the number and title.
Present the facts in an orderly, concise, positive manner. Stay on point. Don't try to talk about too many different topics or your message may become confused.
Relate the positive impact of legislation you support and the problems it corrects. If you are affected personally, tell them your story and how an issue will impact you, your child, or your family.
Relate the negative impact of legislation you oppose and the problems it would create.
Leave fact sheets when possible for lawmakers to take with them.
Show your support.
Whether in a political campaign or around a specific vote or issue, don’t hesitate to give a shout out to a lawmaker who is supportive of animal issues. You can do this in a number of ways, says Elizabeth Abbe:
“We were appreciative of Rep. Doucette’s sponsorship of the puppy mill bill and stayed in touch with him on it by email, and when possible, by meeting at his office. He even came to the protest we had in front of Puppy Palace in Glastonbury, so we took lots of photos of him with the group and posted them on social media with our thanks.”
Finally, when you are successful in meeting with your lawmakers, be sure to let them know you appreciate their time. Always follow up with a short thank-you note or email.