31 Aug How to Visit Your State Legislators
Imagine if Alabamians came together and agreed to make a concerted effort to contact their lawmakers to change the existing child custody law practices.
Although it’s football season, (September through December) your State Senators and Representatives will be home in their districts and they want to hear from you, their constituents. That is always a great time to gather some friends and plan a visit so that you can share with them your support of a child(ren) having equal time with both parents.
The first half of the season (4 to 6 weeks), we ask you to focus on contacting your State Representative.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do just that:
1. Set Up the Meeting.
You may want to gather friends and neighbors to go with you, since having a small crowd is a show of strength. Don’t let your friends’ unavailability stop you, however. A visit by one or two is much better than no visit at all.
Once you’ve identified who’s going with you, call the local office you want to visit. (See this page for how to find your State Legislators.) Tell them when you would like to come and see if they have a 15-20 minute slot available. If they don’t have availability on the date you wanted, be as flexible as you can in scheduling a different time.
Decide what talking points you want to make, and figure out who in your group will do the best job of making those points. You can select up to 5 or 6 key points, but should keep focal-point speakers to only 1 or 2.
You want to ask your legislator to co-sponsor the Children Equal Access Act. Review synopsis here. Ask your Senator to contact Sen. Larry Stutts to become a co-sponsor of the Children Equal Access Act for 2018. Consider sharing State of Children in Alabama as you highlight one or two of the issues listed there.
3. Show Up.
Gather your group somewhere other than the lawmaker’s office (perhaps in the parking lot or a nearby restaurant) so that you can arrive at the office as one cohesive group. Arrive a few (3-10) minutes early, and be prepared to wait patiently. Try to dress nicely, and do not let your group be unruly.
Note: Taking children along is a great idea, but you need to make sure they will not be a distraction. Otherwise, it is better to leave them with a sitter.
4. Make Your Presentation.
You will want to have your points prepared, but also be ready to dialog. It may be worth noting that the Children Equal Access Act incorporates peer-reviewed scientific data (40 studies and consensus of over 100 social scientists) on the subject of child custody.
If your lawmaker or his staff have questions, answer those you can. If you don’t know an answer, be honest. Tell them, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I would be happy to find out and get back to you.” We will gladly provide the answers you need, and you will have set up a follow-up opportunity to build rapport with that office.
5. Follow Up.
When you get home (before you have time to forget), write a thank you note and mail it to the office. Thank your lawmaker for taking time to hear your concerns. You might also mention by name helpful staffers you met along the way. Was the receptionist especially hospitable? Or a staff liaison? You might mention her or him by name. They will hear about that, and you might win a friend in that office.
6. Let Us Know.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how your visit went. Please include your lawmaker’s name, how many went with you, which issue(s) you touched on, and your opinion of the meeting. (Please keep it brief, though. We are hopeful we will have to read a lot of these!)