DONATE

Advocate for a Policy with State Legislators or Legislative Staff

Purposes

  • Advocate for a new policy or demonstrate your support for an existing one through an in-person meeting with your state legislators or legislative staff.

Ideal Outcomes

  • Establish concrete actions a state legislative office can take to support your issue.
  • Develop long-term connections with a state legislative office and identify ways to serve as a resource for them.
  • Gain a better understanding of their legislative priorities and how you can support or influence them in the future.

Step-by-step Guide

  1. Time your visit properly.
    • The time of year determines government priorities. For example, brainstorming new bill ideas, drafting legislation, and searching for expert witnesses all take place at different times. This timeline (California example) varies at the local, state, and federal level, so time your visit to optimize the impact of your message.
  2. Do your background research.
    • Find out what issues the office you’re visiting is focused on.
    • If possible, research the background of the staffer or legislator you will meet with and identify their role and key responsibilities.

Tip: Look at the legislative directory or the personal websites of the elected officials to see what bills they've introduced or supported

  1. Plan your meeting.
    • Send an email to set up the meeting. If you’re scheduling multiple meetings, make sure to leave yourself time to travel between offices.
    • Create your one-pager. Summarize your key points and contact information, preferably in an accessible, easy to read format with graphics.
    • Make sure to have plenty of business cards on-hand, so that you can easily leave your contact information. If you don’t have any, get them made.
    • If possible, include a clear “ask” that provides concrete actions the legislator could take to further the issue. This may include things like a recommendation for how to vote on pending legislation, a request to make a public statement on a topic, or a request to send a staff member to an informational event.

Tip: Even if someone isn't available to meet with you, they might be able to suggest other staffers or legislators who would be a good fit

  1. Holding an effective meeting.
    • Be prepared for change – your meeting may start late or be cut short, or you may end up meeting with a different person in the office.
    • Leave behind your one-pager and business card for easy reference.
    • If you meet with a legislator directly, ask for the contact information of their staff to follow up afterward.
    • When possible, determine next steps during your meeting.

Tip: Meeting with staff is sometimes more effective than meeting with legislators since they will likely do the hands-on work of pitching ideas, drafting legislation and finding supporters.

  1. Follow up after the meeting.
    • After your visit, send a thank you message reminding them what you talked about and any next steps. By staying engaged over time, you let staff know that you are committed to seeing this issue resolved. Legislators and their staff meet with hundreds of people per week and may not always take action. You need to show them that this is an issue they should care about.

Examples

Article - December 23, 2018
Policy's Last Mile
Share this article

On October 25, five scientists and engineers shared their insights on community engagement at an ESAL happy hour in Oakland, California. The event brought together leaders from across the San Francisco Bay Area who apply their expertise toward pressing problems in their neighborhoods.

Article - December 17, 2018
Fish Passage in Alaska
Share this article

Frankie Barker talks about how she helped write an ordinance that would require anyone building roads in Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Borough to adhere to US Fish and Wildlife Service standards for fish passage when installing culverts.

Article - November 24, 2018
Transforming Political Campaigns with Technology
Share this article

Computer scientist and physicist Dave Leichtman has been involved in political technology for over ten years. He helped build a tech volunteer group in his state to connect tech-savvy individuals with campaigns. Now, he is the vice chair for technology and communications of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Article - November 15, 2018
Milwaukee Area Science Advocates
Share this article

The Milwaukee Area Science Advocates (MASA) nonprofit grew out of the March for Science. MASA's mission–to increase scientific enthusiasm, understanding, and legislative value in the Milwaukee area–is achieved through a strong relationship with the community.

Article - July 23, 2018
Representing a State Student Delegation
Share this article

Ryan Coogan wrote to ESAL about participating in a nuclear engineering student delegation in Texas, where students met with politicians and nuclear industry stakeholders to discuss safety and security, environmental impacts, and politics.

Article - June 11, 2018
Meeting with a City Official
Share this article

In the second part of this month's "Postcard", Arti Garg describes a follow-up discussion she had with her city's economic development manager after offering public comments at a city council committee meeting. She wrote a one-page summary proposing that the city prioritize cleantech hardware in its development plan.

Article - June 11, 2018
Delivering Public Comments at a City Committee Meeting
Share this article

In this month’s “Postcard”, Arti Garg describes delivering public comments at a city council committee meeting.

Article - April 23, 2018
An Astrophysicist Turns his Gaze to Gerrymandering
Share this article

In this month's "Stories from the Field", we talked to Thomas Beatty, an assistant research professor in astronomy at Pennsylvania State University who is skilled at charting distant worlds. He applies some of the same STEM principles to the more down-to-earth subject of gerrymandering, which has been the subject of recent court rulings and ongoing political debate.

Article - April 9, 2018
Coffee with City Council Members
Share this article

In this month's "Postcard", Griff O’Neill, a physicist by training currently working as an engineer in the semiconductor industry in California, describes how he sat down for coffee with two city council members from his community.

LOAD MORE
Last Updated: Oct 15, 2019
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram