If you read our post, “Florida’s Environment: 5 Issues to Watch this Legislative Session,” you might have some thoughts to share with Florida lawmakers. But what is the best way to communicate with your state legislators?
Stacey Ellison, regional specialized 4-H extension agent with the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Science offers basic best communication practices to make sure your message stands out in her fact sheet, “Educating Your State Legislators.”
Here are the basics to follow.
Note, these tips are republished from Ellison’s fact sheet.
- Make sure your legislator knows you are a constituent and a voter.
- Be aware of the legislative timeline. Are the legislators in session? Are they still in committee? This can impact what they are able to accomplish during the legislative cycle.
- Know what you want and ask for a specific action (e.g., support or opposition to a bill).
- Be honest and courteous.
- Make sure to clarify that this issue has wide impacts across your community.
- Make sure to keep your communications clear of jargon with which the legislator may not be familiar. Remember, they don’t know everything about every issue, and it’s your duty as a citizen to educate them. Be sure to keep communication positive and proactive. It is good to be direct, but negativity can hurt anyone’s ability to listen objectively, legislators included.
- Take every opportunity to share appropriate literature and information with your legislators.
- Timing is important. If your legislator needs to take action tomorrow, a phone call or email will be appropriate. However, if you have more time, a personal letter or visit may make a greater impact.
- Keep to the point and discuss only one issue.
- Legislators are busy, so be prepared to communicate with a legislative aide in place of the legislator. Treat everyone who works for the legislator with the same respect and professionalism you would use with a legislator. They can be great allies in your cause.
- Always say thank you.
Ellison also offers specific tips for writing and phoning your legislator, preparing for an in-person meeting, giving a testimony at a public meeting and gathering support around a specific cause. Read the full fact sheet at the following link: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/4h397