Educating Legislators
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EDUCATING LEGISLATORS

Following are ways that you can get involved in educating your legislators about issues that affect associations in California:

1.  Letters/Emails. Written communication is still the most common way people have of communicating with their legislators. Be sure to have your name and address included so the legislator may respond and will know that you are a constituent--being able to vote for them (or for their competitor!) is a big motivator in paying attention to your letters. Use each letter to address one issue and try to keep it brief and to the point. Be sure to include the following:

  • First Paragraph. Identify yourself as a constituent; if it is regarding a specific bill, include the bill number and name; if writing on behalf of an association, include the number of units.
  • Second Paragraph. Indicate your position on the bill; point out the impact the bill will have on you and/or your association.
  • Third Paragraph. Include ideas of how to improve the legislation (if appropriate).
  • Fourth/Final Paragraph: Thank the legislator for his/her time and attention to your concerns.
2.  Phone Calls. Calls to legislators right before a crucial vote can be very helpful. Know that often you will not be speaking to the legislator themselves, but ask to speak to the staff member who handles the issue you are calling about. The information will be passed along to the legislator. Keep in mind the following:

  • Identify yourself as a constituent.
  • Be courteous, brief and to the point.
  • Be ready to give the bill number and name.
  • Clearly state your position and the action you expect from the legislator (support/oppose/amend).
  • Provide your name, address and telephone number.
  • After the call, follow up with a personal letter or e-mail reiterating what you stated in the call.
3.  Personal Visits. Building a relationship and establishing rapport with your legislators can go a long way toward helping your areas of concern be addressed. Be sure to call prior to your visit and schedule an appointment (usually on Fridays when the legislature is in session.) Be prepared for dates/times to be canceled or delayed as legislators’ schedules have to change rapidly to accommodate urgent meetings, hearings or votes. Do your homework and have a good, comprehensive knowledge of the issue you want to discuss with the legislator, and be sure to let them know in advance the topics you would like to discuss. As you would with a phone call or e-mail, be sure to be ready with the following:

  • Have a business card ready to give to the legislator and whatever staff will be in the meeting, and identify yourself as a constituent.
  • Be courteous, brief and to the point.
  • Be ready to give the bill number and name, and if you have information on the bill, have multiple copies to hand out to the legislator and their staff.
  • Clearly state your position and the action you expect from the legislator (support/oppose/amend).
  • Get a business card before you leave, and after the meeting, follow up with a personal letter or e-mail thanking them for their time and attention to your concerns.
Once these initial methods of education have begun, you can continue to monitor the issue or legislation, and send follow-up letters/e-mails to let the legislator know you are still interested. Eventually the legislator will come to rely on you as someone who can communicate helpful information when needed, and they will have the education they need to make better decisions for associations in California.

Article provided by Kimberly Lilley, Director of Marketing for Berg Insurance Agency and Chair of the San Diego California Legislative Action Committee.

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