Visit Your Legislator at the District Office
Why Contacting Legislators Is Important:
Members of the Florida Legislature rarely hear from their constituents on most issues. Sometimes hearing from a handful of concerned citizens will cause a senator or representative to pay attention to a particular issue and encourage him or her to vote the correct way.
In general, the more personal your lobbying contact is, the more effective it will be. While a personal discussion with a member of the Florida Legislature is most effective, a meeting or telephone conversation with one of his or her assistants is almost as good. A personal letter or email is much more effective than a form letter or postcard.
You do not need to be an expert on the issue to visit, call or write your state senator’s or representative’s office. All you need to do is communicate is that you want the member to support or oppose a particular measure. When you call a member’s office, give your name and address and ask whoever takes your call to let the member of the Florida Legislature know that you favor or oppose something.
It is very important that you lobby both members of the Florida Legislature who may support your views AND those who may not. Lobbying can change votes, so it is critically important that you lobby those who disagree with you. Lobbying supporters provides them with evidence of support for their position and allows them to be more active in support of that position.
Before You Visit:
Print out and study the talking points. Make a note to take with you. Include the bill number if available, the name of the legislation, and what you want them to do. For example, you might write: “Vote No on SJR 0124, the “Excessive Punishment” bill.” From the talking points, make a list of the two or three most pertinent concerns YOU have with that bill.
When You Visit:
Try to go with at least one other person, and not more than five people. At least 50% of your delegation should actually live in the district of the legislator you are visiting. Dress respectably. You do not have to wear a suit or a fancy dress, although that does not hurt. (We all know “THEY” pay more attention when “WE THE PEOPLE” are dripping with money!)
Arrive within five minutes of your scheduled appointment. Better to be early, but if you get to the office earlier than five minutes prior to your appointment, expect to be kept waiting.
Keep your visit short and to the point. These people are busy and while they may want to be chatty, leave them with the impression that YOU have other work to do, and that YOU are taking time from your busy day to make sure they do the right thing. SO,
Be clear. State your concerns. Do not feel you have to elaborate and get into the nitty gritty of the legislation. In fact, it is often better to say, “I’m not a lawyer, but any child can see that this legislation does nothing positive and is unnecessary.” OR “I just think it is a bad public policy to be executing people with the mental capacity of a ten-year-old! We don’t have to do it!”
Take a note pad and a pen that works. If the person you visit with has questions, write them down and promise to get back to them.
Be sure to get the business card and/or contact information for the legislator or aide that you speak with. FOLLOW UP with information they request, a HAND WRITTEN note thanking them for their time and reiterating your position, and for future reference. If you promised to provide more information, contact FADP at 800-973-6548 or <firstname.lastname@example.org> for assistance.
Return to this web site to fill out the “How My Visit Went” questionaire.
If you have questions, contact FADP!
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy
Gainesville, FL 32609