How do I get my representative to do enact something for me?
October 22, 2022 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I am deliberately leaving this vague for privacy reasons and am asking on behalf of a friend. We would like for our state to enact something that will provide funding for a cause we believe in (and that is already on the books in another state) and am passionate about. We have reached out to our Assemblymember but got a response that we should come up with a "legislative proposal" and provide reading materials before they'll even schedule a meeting with the Assemblymember.

So...I guess this might be a few questions - I read this past question, and am appreciative of the answers, but it's not exactly what I'm looking for. 1. What do we need to do to get the attention of the Assemblymember? 2. Are there any additional routes to getting this cause to the attention of say, the State Senator or someone else where it may be more relevant? 3. If we do write a "legislative proposal" what is the best way to do that?
posted by toastyk to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have money for this cause? Hiring a lobbyist would help, but is unrealistic for many normal people under normal circumstances.

Can you go viral and get earned media coverage (local news etc.)? That could put it in their radar or help you get enough profile to communicate with them.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:54 AM on October 22, 2022

Well it sounds like you got a pretty good response from the assembly person, the staffer who replied at least thought your cause had enough merit to consider listening to. Unless your representative already feels strongly about an issue, they're not going to want to dedicate their own time or the efforts of their staff to investigate it without knowing more about the subject. To actually get something useful in front of the representative that would spur them to act, you either need to do what they say or find some way to apply popular pressure.

If this has already been enacted in another state, your best bet would be to find out how that got passed in the first place. Are there advocacy groups in that state that may have participated in the effort to get it passed? Do internet searches indicate that a particular member of their assembly champion that bill? If this happened relatively recently, there's a good chance you could contact them and be able to reuse some of the information they researched to get the law passed in their own state. These days a lot of new state regulations are essentially prewritten by activist/lobbying groups and then it is adapted for different states.

The other option would be to find a group in your own state that has experience advocating for related causes. This obviously depends on the specific cause, but if you do some research you could probably find some sort of foundation or academic group that has experience talking to assembly members in your state. You could maybe get involved with that organization, or at least gets some pointers to other resources. The next step depends on your issue and your state
posted by JZig at 11:04 AM on October 22, 2022 [6 favorites]

What do we need to do to get the attention of the Assemblymember?

Aside from writing a seven-figure check?

The good news is, someone has already answered this question, just not in your state. Find the people in the other state who got it passed there. There’s probably a lobby that worked for it, and that lobby likely has a branch in your state. Your local branch will probably take the lead, writing the proposal and contacting other Assemblymembers.

If there somehow wasn’t a lobby behind it, the best thing to do would be to contact the legislator in the other state who sponsored the bill and ask them to speak to your Assemblymember. They should be able to guide you a little on the proposal as well, not least by potentially sharing the proposal they received.

The common thread is that you, by yourself, aren’t likely to accomplish a ton. The key is getting more powerful people to take up your cause. The more powerful people you have on your side, the easier it’ll be to get your Assemblymember to listen.

Don’t limit yourself to the Assemblymember who represents your district, either. Your representative might be amenable to your idea, but another member might actually be passionate about it, and that’s even more valuable. If your issue is related to a particular disease or illness, for example, look for other representatives who might have a family member affected by that disease.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:50 AM on October 22, 2022 [4 favorites]

Picking up on kevinbelt's last point, look for a list of the various committees in your state legislature and target your advocacy to members of the most appropriate committee - e.g. education, health, environment, etc.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 11:55 AM on October 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

I work in local government and have managed to get a few state laws changed. Put together an actual draft of what you want the changed law to look like. Find a lawyer friendly to your cause if you aren't sure how to do this. Look at similar legislation introduced in your state to pattern your proposal from.
posted by notjustthefish at 12:07 PM on October 22, 2022 [4 favorites]

Who responded to you? Was it a legislative aid or a constituent services person? If it was the former, I'd actually give them a call and see exactly what they're looking for.

I used to work in politics and had a lot of friends who worked for Congress or state legislatures. They straight-up told me that the more you can provide staffers with research and detailed proposals, the more likely your thing is likely to get traction. Yes, this totally sucks for our democracy, and it's why lobbyists at some levels make so much money - they're literally writing bills. But you can make this work for you. And a decent staffer will take 10-15 minutes to talk you through what they're looking for.

BTW, if you can't get traction with this office, try another office - find an Assembly member who is a champion for whatever issue area you're working on. If it's an innovative program that can help them be even more of a leader on this issue, they may be interested even though you're not a constituent.

Failing all of that, I would try to find someone in your networks who has done some sort of lobbying - you'd be surprised at how many people have done this through community orgs/nonprofits, etc. I don't think you need to hire an actual lobbyist at this point - you just need someone who can give you some direction.
posted by lunasol at 12:39 PM on October 22, 2022 [2 favorites]

I would definitely ask that aide if they can provide an example or two of proposals they received that the assemblymember thought were worth considering.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:50 PM on October 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

What do we need to do to get the attention of the Assemblymember

They're pretty clear here that his staff doesn't have the time to write his own bills on the subject. What you have to do is write a legislative proposal, so they know you're serious and also so they don't have to do the work. Then they'll meet with you.

You can usually get another org elsewhere to give the bare bones, then take it the rest of the way yourself.
posted by corb at 2:06 PM on October 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your answers. We've got a lot to think about.
posted by toastyk at 10:15 PM on October 23, 2022

Response by poster: Just an update: my friend has a meeting with the Assemblymember (or her handler, forgot which) tomorrow. Wish us luck! :)
posted by toastyk at 8:10 AM on October 31, 2022

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