• December 27, 2013 at 8:34pm

    Effective Advocacy at the Colorado General Assembly

    From Chris Holbert

     As we approach the January 8th start of the 2014 general session, it might be helpful for liberty-oriented activists to consider the following suggestions for effective advocacy. You don’t HAVE to do it this way, but it might be helpful to consider these suggestions.

    • The 100 legislators who serve in the Colorado legislature are NOT “members of Congress.” That word refers to the 535 people who serve in the federal legislature. There are 65 Representatives and 35 Senators in the Colorado General Assembly.

     • Depending on where you are registered to vote (or live) in Colorado, there is one State Representative and one State Senator who represents you. If you don’t know those two people, then take time to meet them. If you need to determine who they are, then get a piece of mail at your home and find your Zip + 4 zip code. From there, go here and enter your Zip + 4 in the search box: http://www.votesmart.org/

    • From the http://votesmart.org/ web site, write down the name of your State Senator and State Representative

    • Next, go to the General Assembly web site and click the “Contact Information” tab in the left menu. http://www.leg.state.co.us/

    • Contact information for your State Senator and State Representative is provided in the “Legislative Pink Book” that is available under the “Contract Information” tab

    • Remember that the 100 State legislators ARE NOT insulated by staff as are members of Congress. We have one, part-time, legislative aide during the general session (January-May). It is EASY to contact us because we live in our communities and work on a seasonal basis (January-May) at the Capitol in Denver.

    • The Capitol is a public building, you can go there. Write a legislator’s name on the back of your business card and hand it to one of the House (green jackets) or Senate (burgundy jackets) Sergeants at Arms. He/she will deliver it to the legislator who will then come out of the chamber or committee hearing room to talk with you. Lobbyists do this constantly during a legislative day and you can do it too.

    • Call the legislator’s office and request a meeting time. Depending on the legislator’s committee assignments and bill sponsorship load, he/she may or may not have designated time blocked for meetings. If not, use a business card to call him/her off the floor or out of committee.

    • Remember that a state legislator IS NOT in control of his/her schedule once the session starts. We are more at the mercy of our respective floor and committee schedules, which often provide zero office time, lunch hour, or predictable end-of-day. We can be in committee until 2, 4, or 9 p.m., or 12:00 a.m. We don’t control when that ends. Go to where we are rather than ask him/her to come to where you are.

    • When you talk to a state legislator about a legislative issue, start by briefly describing the bill or topic and then ask for his/her opinion/position. If it’s a bill, then feel free to ask, “How will you vote?” Lobbyists do that a lot. They know that knowledge is power and knowing who is with you, who is against you, and who is undecided on the issue is very helpful information to have. That knowledge will allow you to work MORE EFFECTIVELY.

    • Asking the legislator how he/she intends to vote EMPOWERS YOU. It is MORE EFFECTIVE for you to have that important information than it would be for you to explain your position to him/her. This is NOT an attempt to stifle you. Consider that you might be attempting to convince someone who already agrees with you to agree with you. That isn’t effective. Educate/convince those who are undecided, not those who already agree with you.

    • When testifying during a committee hearing on a bill, remember to talk about what is actually IN THE BILL. Refer to the bill, a specific page(s), and specific concerns or benefits of the bill. Spend more of your limited time explaining what is good or bad about the bill. Spend less of your limited time addressing topics such as US/world history or political philosophy. The committee members will vote on the bill – what is in the four corners of that document.

    • When advocating for or against a bill, start with the bill sponsors. Generally, there will be two: one Representative and one Senator. There could be more, but there must be at least one of each. Bill sponsors are listed near the top of every bill that is introduced in the Colorado General Assembly.

    • The next level of advocacy involves the members of the Committee(s) to which the bill is assigned. In the Colorado General Assembly, every bill must be heard by at least one committee in each chamber. Committees will have 5 to 13 members. It is much easier to talk with 5-13 people than it is to contact all 65 in the House or 35 in the Senate. Committee assignments are listed near the top of every bill that is introduced in the Colorado General Assembly. Committee rosters are available here: http://1.usa.gov/1catd0Q

    • Watch the respective Calendar for the House and Senate for when a bill will be heard by which committee(s). The Calendars will list the meeting time and location for every bill to be heard by that committee. The Calendars are updated at or about 5:00 p.m. each legislative day for the next legislative day. Calendars available here: http://bit.ly/1btER3x

    • Remember that legislators ARE NOT jurists. We can and do have positions on important issues BEFORE we vote. We don’t have to keep those positions secret until we vote. Knowing whether a legislator is for, against, or undecided is very helpful information. Remember to ask for that information.

    • Trust and verify.

    • Treat your friends better than your enemies. Don’t expect anyone to agree with you 100% of the time. However, those who repeatedly vote against your positions are not your friends.

    In Liberty,

    – Chris

    1) There is no requirement that you know the legislator or that he/she know you. If you are a constituent, which means that you live in the same district that he/she lives in and represents, then note that on the card. Some people seem to think that “constituent” means that we live in the same state. That is not accurate for a district-based office.

    2) A legislator can decline to come out. There is no law that requires him/her to leave the chamber or committee room. However, that would be “not smart” to do to a constituent. Note that the highly technical legislative phrase “not smart” has the same meaning as does the word “stupid.”

    3) Cards are not accepted/allowed during Third Reading, which is the final vote on a bill. The Sergeants may accept cards, but those cards will not be delivered until Third Reading has concluded. A legislator is unlikely to leave the floor or a committee hearing while he/she is presenting his/her own bill.

    4) Either off the floor or out of committee is generally no big deal. If he/she is busy, then he/she can ask the sergeant to explain that to the person who sent in the card. It’s a very minor deal, which happens constantly.

    If you do call a legislator off the floor or out of committee, then BE CONCISE! Do NOT tell him her “the whole story.” Offer a BRIEF summary of your issue and then ASK if he/she has a position. If so, what is that position? Is he/she a “Yes,” a “No” or undecided? BE CONCISE. 30 seconds to one minute is plenty of time. Don’t do an info dump.

    Posted by Dana West @ 8:58 pm for 2nd Amendment, Adams County Politics, Candidates, Colorado politics, Denver area politics, Editorial, Education, Elections, Energy, Issues, PERA, Transportation |

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