Contacting Legislators!

Steve Buckingham, chairperson of the UU Legislative Ministry of Maryland (UULM-MD) and a member of UUCF, gave an excellent update at today’s Friendly Forum on state legislative accomplishments during the recently-ended General Assembly.  Copies of the handout are available from Steve and in the Social Action Committee cabinet in the atrium. Steve emphasized the need to effectively contact our legislators.  A few years ago at the annual meeting a UULM-MD member told us,

“Call legislators—one rep said she was tired of hearing from UUs, which we take as a compliment! Phoning can be more efficient than letters because security issues delay mail sent via USPS.”

At today’s FF, I said I would re-post from last February 2.  This information, from a member of the Frederick Meeting Friends, is clear and direct.

Work to Pass a Bill that You Passionately Support

State & National Legislators: If you’re in West Virginia click here to track the status of a bill, here to contact Senators, and here to contact members of the WV House. In Maryland, simply click here and type your zip into the bar at the top. And click the underlined to find all US Senators and Representatives.

Then contact him or her. This advice from Friend Anne Buttenheim makes it easier than some other advice I’ve read and it makes sense in today’s world:

“Friends! As some of you know, I used to work on Capitol Hill as the person in charge of all the incoming phone calls to my Senator’s office. I have some insider tips to make calling your reps easier and quicker.

  1. Give your name, city, and zip code, and say “I don’t need a response.” That way, they can quickly confirm you are a constituent, and that they can tally you down without taking the time to input you into a response database.
  2. PLEASE ONLY CALL YOUR OWN REPRESENTATIVES! Your tally will not be marked down unless you can rattle off a city and zip from the state, or are calling from an in-state area code. I know you really want to give Mitch McConnell a piece of your mind, but your call will be ignored unless you can provide a zip from Kentucky. And don’t try to make this up; I could often tell who was lying before I even picked up the phone from the caller ID. Exceptions to this are things like Paul Ryan’s ACA poll.
  3. State the issue, state your position. “I am opposed to a ban on Muslims entering the US.” “I am in favor of stricter gun control legislation including background checks.” “I am in favor of the Affordable Care Act.” That’s it. That’s all we write down so we can get a tally of who is in favor, who is against. It doesn’t matter WHY you hold that opinion. The more people calling, the less detail they write down. Help them out by being simple and direct.
  4. Please be nice! The people answering the phones on Capitol Hill already have the hardest job in DC and some of the lowest pay as well, and for a month now their jobs have become absolute murder, with nonstop calls for 9 hours every day. Thank them for their hard work answering the phones, because without them our Senators could not represent us.

What does this sound like?

“Hi, my name is Mark, I’m a constituent from Seattle, zip code 98***, I don’t need a response. I am opposed to any ban on Muslims entering the United States and I encourage the Senator to please oppose implementation of any such ban. Thanks for your hard work answering the phones!”

This is how I wish every caller had phrased their message. It makes it easier for the people answering the phones and takes less time and emotion than a long script. I know that you want to say why, but keeping it short and sweet helps the office answer more calls per hour, meaning more people get heard. The bigger the tally, the more powerful our voice. Also, when you’re reading off the same script as 100 other callers that day… well…they can tell.

Pick one issue each day, use the above format, saying I am in favor of _____ or I oppose ______, and call your 2 Senators and 1 Representative on their DC and State Office lines, and you’ll be on your way to being heard.”

Steve noted that sometimes when calling state legislators, your call will be taken by someone who seems to be receptive to hearing more information.  Perhaps even the representative or senator him- or herself.  Be prepared to quickly articulate your reason(s).

More questions?  See Steve, who also is considering conducting an advocacy workshop.

 

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