posted on February 27, 2013 17:12
By Tom Doak, Executive Director
A few times each session, we alert our members to pending legislation and ask for their help. We don’t do this on every issue, but on certain key bills or where we expect a hard fight, we will ask for your help. As a citizen and as landowners, you can be more effective in influencing legislation than you may think. If a legislator gets just a few calls, letters or e-mails on a subject, they will pay attention. I have had legislators tell me if they get one contact on an issue, they may assume it’s only of concern to one person. However, if they hear from two or three, they really take notice and a half a dozen is considered exceptional. Remember, a legislator may not be familiar with a particular bill or issue when you contact them or they may be very familiar with an issue before the legislature, either way, you want them to know how you feel. In any two-year session, the Legislature may consider 2,000 or more bills, plus hundreds of amendments. Unless your legislator serves on the committee dealing with a particular bill, or it’s a high profile bill, it’s likely to be unfamiliar to them.
Be respectful. You can be forceful and passionate about your concerns, but foul language and threats like “I will never vote for you unless you do this” don’t work and may backfire.
- Contact the legislators who represent your district. Legislators respond to their constituents, but rarely to someone who lives outside their district. Tell them who you are, where you live and mention that you are their constituent.
- Be clear why you are calling and be as specific as you can and provide the bill number if possible. State your concern or issue clearly. How would it impact you or your woodlot or your family?
- Make sure the legislator knows what you would like them to do, i.e. vote for something, against something advocate your position with another legislator.
- The personal touch is always best. I suggest a phone call whenever you can. If not, an e-mail works too. You can send a letter, but remember things can move quickly, and by the time you write and mail a letter, the situation may have changed.
- One thing most legislators say doesn’t work is when they receive identical e-mails or cards from many different people. This occurs when an organization gives you the language, or asks if they can sign your name to something. When they see this pattern, the subsequent e-mails or cards get deleted or trashed. If you get wording or “talking points” on an issue, you need to personalize this material. A personal touch is much more effective.
- If you can meet with your representatives before you have to contact them about a specific issue, they will already know you when the need arises. Look for an opportunity to meet them in their district perhaps on a weekend early in the session.
Contacting Your Legislator
Whether you are trying to find out who your State Senator or Representative is, find their contact information, learn more about them or check on the status of legislation. One good place to start is the Maine Legislative website: http://www.maine.gov/legis/. From there with a little perseverance you can navigate to all the Legislature’s information.
If you know who your legislators are and want to leave a message for them during the legislative session, you can call the House of Representatives, 1-800-423-2900, and the Senate, 1-800-423-6900. You can leave a message for you r legislators at these numbers. Make sure to give your name and phone number and a brief message about why you are calling. Another option is to call the Democratic or Republican offices of the representatives or senators directly. Those numbers are: Senate Democrats, 287-1515; Republicans, 287-1505. House Democrats, 287-1330; Republicans, 287-1440.
To write to your Legislator during the session, send your letter to:
House of Representatives
2 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0002
3 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0003