Use the following tips to jump start or improve your legislative visits. You can also visit this website pages, “How to Make a Visit“, “How to Write a Letter to the Editor” and “How to Write a Letter“. As always, The Rev. Susan Heath is ready to help.
INDEX OF TOOLS:
- Why visit your legislators?
- Setting up a meeting
- Talking to legislators
- What your legislators need to know (and you can help with)
- After the meeting
WHY VISIT YOUR LEGISLATORS?
Every year issues come before the state legislature that concern public education in South Carolina.
- It’s important for lawmakers to meet with their constituents to hear about the issues that matter to them and to learn why they matter.
- As Christians, our understanding of Scripture and our theology provide a moral obligation to get involved with the public debate as a concrete expression of loving and serving our neighbor.
- It’s important for legislators to learn about the Christian presence in their communities and how it benefits all of their constituents and the common good.
- A meeting will always be more memorable than an email.
- Studies show that in-person visits from constituents have the most impact on legislators and their staff –more than emails, phone calls and letters!
- If you are hosting an event, are featured in a positive news story or run a program that has a benefit within the community, your legislators should hear about it, and when possible, be invited to attend.
SETTING UP A MEETING
- Find your State Senator or State Representative.
- Meetings in the legislator’s district office are usually best, because legislators are typically less busy than when in Columbia.
- When requesting the meeting, explain that you are a constituent and that you would like to talk about Public Education issues that are important to you.
- Sometimes the legislator is not available, but a member of his or her staff will be. The staff member will pass along your comments to the legislator. Do not be disappointed if you meet with staff. Often they are well versed on issues and can be very influential to a legislator’s position.
TALKING TO LEGISLATORS
- Get to know your legislator – Look up the legislator website. Read the online biography page and find out about your legislator’s interests and hobbies. See if they have a Facbook page or follow them on Twitter. Sign up for their e-newsletter.
- Study your legislator’s voting records and statements, particularly on the issues for which you are advocating.
- Do you have any mutual friends or contacts? Find out what you have in common.
- Assume legislators/staff know little or nothing about what you do and the issue you’ve come to talk to them about, until you learn otherwise.
- Your job is to inform, educate and ASK for their support for Public Education. Their job is to REPRESENT you and your neighbors. Explain the issue in terms important to them:
Why is it in his or her interest to support Public Education?
What is the benefit to the community?
Is the idea/issue popular in their district? Be able to demonstrate this in some way.
Are you or your family, congregation or ministry helping their constituents in some way?
Always be up front in your communications. If you don’t know the answer to a question posed to you during a visit, say “I’ll find out.” It’s okay to tell them you will email or call with the information they are requesting.
WHAT YOUR LEGISLATORS MAY NOT KNOW
- Come with a few positive anecdotes about how your ministry or family helps and participates in the community.
- Your “ask” should be specific. For example, “Please support continued funding for Public Education in this year’s budget at the same level as, or higher than, last year.”
- If you have this info, share how many people were helped in your area in the last year.
- Remember: Numbers and statistics are good, but adding a personal story makes the meeting memorable.
AFTER THE MEETING
- Remember to send any additional information the legislator or staff may have asked for in a timely manner
- Please remember to mail or email a thank you note to the legislator for meeting with you, and repeat your specific request in a kind manner.
- In the future, if you are hosting an event, are featured in a positive news story or run a program that has a benefit within the community, your legislators should hear about it. You can always contact your legislator again!