What Can You Do?
Citizen involvement is the key to good government.
- Each of us has the privilege as well as the responsibility to keep our elected officials informed about issues that are important to ensuring the quality of our lives.
- Each of us has the power to persuade members of the Legislature or the Governor to support a particular position on any given issue.
- The competition to have our position heard over the positions of others is an essential part of the legislative process. This competition results in better laws for all of us. To make this process work well, however, people from all walks of life must actively participate.
The Face-to-Face Meeting.
Face-to-face meetings are one of the most effective methods of communicating with lawmakers and their staff.
- You can call the official’s local office and make an appointment to see him or her when they are back home in their district or business office.
- You can invite him or her to your home, to your place of business or to a school facility.
- You can call the official’s Capitol office and make an appointment to see him or her when they are in session in Oklahoma City.
What should I do during an office meeting?
- First, introduce yourself and any others in your group.
- Thank the official for taking the time to visit with you. Tell them of the good things they have done in the past and how much it was appreciated.
- Keep the meeting short and simple. Get to the point and briefly outline two or three key reasons for your position on a particular piece of legislation or the issues that prompted your meeting.
- Give solid examples of how the issue affects your organization, the legislator and his or her constituents. Let the legislator know that his/her action on your issue will directly affect children and families.
- Answer any question asked of you, but if you don’t know the answer, tell the legislator that you will get back to him or her promptly with an answer.
- Always send a note thanking the legislator for his or her time and briefly restate your issue. Include any follow up information that was promised and review any points that were passed over in the meeting.
- Clearly identify the subject in which you are interested.
Don’t just use only the House and Senate bill numbers to describe important legislation. Remember, it is easy to get a bill number incorrect. Know the bill number and the issue. State your position clearly and then be available to either answer any questions the legislator may have or offer to find out the answer to any question you do not know.
- State why you are concerned about the issue.
Your own experience is excellent supporting evidence. Explain how you think an issue will affect your community and his or her constituents.
- Restrict yourself to one or at most two topics.
Concentrate on your arguments – for or against. Keep the subject matter limited.
- Try to establish a relationship with your own legislators.
You can be most effective as an advocate for important issues by getting to know your senator and representative from YOUR district on a personal basis. Find out which committees and subcommittees your legislators serve on. They have much more influence over legislation within their committees’ and subcommittees’ jurisdiction.
- Be Firm, But Friendly.
Do not try to force a commitment on how your legislator is going to vote. However, when your legislator is aware of the issue and your position, it is then time to begin asking for a position. Remember to always be courteous.
- Don’t Assume.
Don’t assume the legislator is completely familiar with your community, your issues or the role you play in your community.
- Lobby Like You Mean It.
Be cooperative. Be realistic. Be practical. Bills change during the process. Sometimes you may find yourself supporting a bill and the next week opposing it because of some change. Know where your bill is and what it looks like at all times.
- Don’t Try To Do It By Yourself.
Work with others in your community and your state.