Tips on Contacting Legislators
To find your state legislators, go to http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/. Enter your street address, and then scroll down the resulting list to the last two entries, which will be your state Senator and state Representative. (They will have Salem mailing addresses.)
- Call their Salem office. You'll probably reach their administrative aide or their legislative aide. These folks are your best allies. Learn their name and write it down.
- The first thing you say is, "I'm a constituent of [Representative/Senator] [Name]." (Always refer to the legislator as Representative Name or Senator Name.) "I would like to set up a short meeting with [Rep/Sen. Name] to discuss a homeschooling issue that's very important to me."
- You can try for an evening/weekend meeting in-district, but I have found that it's much easier to get a meeting if I'm willing to go to Salem. Our legislators have long daily commutes, exhausting days, and their staff probably wants to protect their "family time" on evenings & weekends as much as possible. (The Capitol is a great field trip with your kids, and it's a great opportunity for a side-trip to the Gilbert House.)
- Before the meeting:
- Think of some talking points to get some ideas of how to address commonly-raised issues. Think of 1-2 sentences that sum up what you want to tell the legislator.
- If you are discussing a specific bill, bring a copy with you.
- Think up 1-2 questions that you want to ask the legislator. They are used to lobbyists telling them what they should do. It is refreshing for them to be asked for their opinion, advice, or position, rather than simply being told how to vote.
- If you really want to connect with the legislator quickly, look up his/her voting record on some issues that matter to you. It's wonderful to be able to start the conversation with: "Thank you for making time to meet with me. I appreciate your work, and especially your support/opposition to ____________."
- At the meeting:
- You will probably have about 10-15 minutes, at most.
- Introduce yourself (and your children, if present), and thank the legislator for making time to meet with you.
- Ask if they are familiar with the bill that you're interested in. Whether or not they are, they'll probably ask you to summarize it.
- Make your request, or ask your questions.
- Give them an opportunity to raise questions or make comments.
- Acknowledge their concerns. Address the concerns if you feel comfortable doing so, or tell them that you'd like to look into their concerns and that you'll get back to them.
- When the legislator indicates that the meeting is over (often by standing up, or by the assistant reminding the legislator of another meeting), thank the legislator again for making the time for this meeting, and for considering your request.
- Follow up after the meeting with a hand-written note (or typed or e-mail if it's going to be long) thanking the legislator for their time, and reiterating any points that you want the legislator to remember. If there were concerns that you don't think were fully addressed, provide the additional information in your follow-up letter.
Have fun! This is participatory democracy in action.