Tips for Contacting and Infuluencing Legislators

Here is some advice for contacting and persuading your elected officials to take the action that is best for the Cat Fancy and Cat Fanciers. This is written generically and it should be assumed that local jurisdictions may have alternative methods of getting your point across.

Public officials do listen!

Do Your Homework
Know the issue: Before contacting legislators, make sure you know what you're talking about. Find out what the relevant laws currently state. Get facts and figures straight!

Know the legislative process: Contact the city council office for information on enacting legislation. Ask the council clerk for a schedule of open council meetings, and attend at least one meeting to see how they are run.

Know the legislators: Call your local office of the League of Women Voters or the county clerk's office for legislators' names and districts. Attend town meetings where legislators meet with voters, or write to thank them for taking a certain position.

Know the support staff: By staying in touch about issues and proposed legislation, you'll get to know aides, staff, and secretaries; they are more accessible than the legislators and can provide you with helpful information. Establish a rapport early rather than waiting until there is a bill you opppose, but remember to keep your contact brief and not take up too much of their time.

Set Your Goal
Decide specifically what you will campaign for, e.g., repeal of a spaying and neutering ordinance or a bill against pound seizure. (If the legislature rules it out totally, then consider compromises).

Lay the Groundwork
Legislators will be most responsive to their own constituents. You would be best served by finding supporters in each district and have them contact their legislator.

Short, polite letters to legislators show their constituents position on the proposed legislation. Use your own words, rather than postcards and form letters; the more personal a letter appears, the more seriously it will be taken.

Prepare information packets that include a factsheet on the issue and the proposed ordinance.

Attend city council meetings. Contact the council office to learn how to get your issue on the agenda. If you are speaking, make it factual and short and sweet. Follow the same procedures you would in a personal meeting with a legislator (see below). You can also use the opportunity to meet legislators and be a presence at meetings, even if you are not on the agenda.

Personal Visits
Personal contact is an important lobbying tool. Make an appointment ahead of time, and if the legislator is unavailable, speak with an aide or other staff person. It's best to go by yourself or, at most, with one other person. If you are going with a group, decide beforehand who will be the spokesperson or what each person will say to avoid repetition. The following guidelines will make your visit as effective as possible.