BY TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Don’t be daunted by what you don’t know.
If you’re anything like me, you know that it’s easy to become overwhelmed by how much there is to learn when it comes to engaging with legislators and the policy-making process. If we really care about an issue, how do we go about making our opinions known to the people who have the power to make such influential decisions? For me, the single most important thing that I’ve learned is to give myself permission to get started.
Here are my top tips to help you get started with making your voice heard at the Legislature:
- Ask questions. Approaching conversations with your Legislator with curiosity can help you build relationships and open lines of communication to continue asking questions later on, or share the knowledge that you have about an issue they are interested in.
- Learn as you go. As you ask questions, think about which ones will help you identify the next step in the legislative process. Asking, “Who should I talk with next?” or “What happens to this bill next?” can not only help you follow up about the issue you care about, but can also help you learn how to engage in the process in the future.
- Stick with it. There is a whole lot ot be learned from being a keen observer. Track a bill you care about, watch floor sessions at home or at the Capitol, or get a recap of the day’s highlights.
- Be knowledgeable about the issue you care the most about. I’ve found that most people don’t have an expectation that citizens will know everything about the legislative process. So, don’t feel like you have to memorize a list of Senate Committees. This frees you up to research your issue or think through how your experiences- also a form of expertise- relate to the bill at hand.
Whether getting started means setting up a meeting with your Senator or Delegate to ask them to explain a bill they’re working on, listening in as Legislators ask questions in committee meetings, attending a public hearing, or doing some research on your own,
You don’t have to be an expert to engage in your legislative process. You just have to get started.