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Legislatively Speaking
Legislatively Speaking: Letting Congress Know Your Concerns

By Alma Graham, CT State Grange Legislative Director

  May 6, 2019 --

At the end of March Connecticut hosted the Northeast Leaders Conference in Norwich. The conference was open to all Grange members, not just State leaders. One of the presenters at this conference was our National Grange Legislative Director, Burton Eller.

Eller’s topic was “Engaging Congress.” He gave us information on how we can become active in the legislative process for the Grange as well as for ourselves. He said that the Grange is a true grassroots organization. Our legislative actions come from local folks in towns and represents the “Hometown grassroots of America.” The following are excerpts from his presentation:

All should communicate with your local and national Senators and Representatives on our concerns and topics. The most effective way is by in person visit; one-on-one. The next best way is individualized personal letters or emails. Include any facts and your thoughts about the topic you are talking about and why you are concerned or supporting the issue. Don’t make it too lengthy. Phone calls are also effective. What not to do: Form postal letters, postcards, emails and blast phone calls.

To schedule a meeting, you will probably be asked to submit your initial request via e-mail or web form. The best way to schedule an appointment is to check on the contact tab on the Congressperson’s website. Don’t assume that they received the request. Follow-up by calling them, but don’t overdo the calls. Getting a meeting with the actual legislator is rare. Go ahead and schedule a meeting with their staff person. All offices have staff who specialize in different subjects of concern. Ask for one of them such as the Agricultural staff member. you will be lucky to get more than 15 minutes for your meeting. Legislators rarely will meet with anyone outside their districts.

If you are going to meet with either the member of Congress or their staff, be prepared with a well formulated policy request. The best time to schedule a meeting on policy issues is when Congress is NOT in session. You may be able to meet with them in their home offices and not travel to Washington.

When you meet with them, keep the topics you are discussing to one or two topics. Limit the number of participants, between 1 and 5 attending. Research the members’ history on the topic so you have a basic understanding on their position. Bring data on the impact of the topic on the local constituents and area. Present both the negative and positive consequences of the topic. Be specific in your request for action. Leave behind additional backgrounds on the issues for future reference. You can talk about what is happening in your community but don’t waste a lot of time.

It is important that you know your topic. Know the correct, current bill number if there is one. Include details on the topic when delivering your message. If you can tie it into a personal experience, that will add value to your message. If you are asked something you don’t know, say so and that you will get back to them. Then do it.

When you have completed your meeting keep in touch with the staff. Thank them for the meeting and send pertinent updates on your issue. Invite your contacts to meet with you back home when they come home to the district. Stop in the district office and introduce yourself and leave an issue summary with the local staff. Invite the Senator or Representatives or staff members to speak at your Grange or local meeting. Invite them to any special occasions or suppers.

“Remember, advocacy efforts are activities designed to impact public policy.”



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