Education and Advocacy
Legislative advocacy is creating relationships with your lawmakers and other community leaders. Through these relationships you develop avenues to provide education to them. This education can be specific to a topic that matters to your community, or specific to a bill that has been introduced or needs to be introduced.
Working with lawmakers and other community leaders educates them with your concerns in hope that they will become an advocate for your cause, which increases the likelihood of these issues being addressed during the General Assembly session. Legislative advocacy and education around substance use will provide a population wide, public health impact. Building on our grassroot efforts will impact policy, laws, ordinances, and other practices that will ultimately reduce the abuse of substances in our local communities.
How to get started: – Communicate with legislators in your district as a constituent – Develop a means for constant communication, via email or phone – Plan time to visit with your legislators in person for trainings or other important educational sessions – Invite legislators to community meetings and webinars – Circle back during scheduled Rally Days – Partner with other coalitions who have the same mission to educate together – Never stop making your voice heard – Reinforce your message
Always remember, although CCoVA organizes a rally event each year, we are available as a resource to help you organize additional educational efforts, even when we are not in session. It is important to keep our message heard year-round to achieve desired action.
Tips for talking with legislators
-Here are some tips for meeting with a legislator during the General Assembly Session. For many folks it is a challenge to take a day or half day off of work to come to Richmond, so if doing so you want to make your time meaningful.
-Meet with your elected officials – This is a no brainer. General Assembly members care the most about the needs of their constituents.
-Keep your comments brief – When I can, I try to keep a meeting with a legislator to just a few minutes. The administrative aide for the member is always shocked when I say, “I’ll take two minutes,” and I actually stick to that timeframe. Meetings really should be only 10-15 minutes max.
-Personalize your comments – The members work and live in their community. They may know your kids, mom, or aunt and uncle. Remind them how the school they drive past, the store they shop in, or the friend they go to church with may be impacted by the legislation or policy that you care about.
-(Happily) talk with a legislative aide – You may be disappointed if the member cannot meet with you, but fret not, the aide is that member’s eyes and ears and they will make sure their boss hears what you have to say.
-You may get bumped – Meetings run long, things change. Some offices may be able to shift their schedule so you can have your meeting 30 minutes later, others may ask you to come back another day. Be prepared for either.
-Be timely with your meeting – An elected member is usually more interested in learning your perspective on an issue that is going to be heard in a couple of days, not in two weeks. Identify the bill or budget amendment that you are interested in and when it will be heard, and convey that information to the member and their staff.
-Use helpful resources – David Bailey’s group puts out the Capitol Connections “red book” with pictures, emails, and office numbers for all the members. This free book is available on the ground floor of the Pocahontas building. Other online resources include LIS to look up legislation and committees, and Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) to determine your legislators and stay informed.
-Save what you can work on with the member til after Session is over – It is that old adage, “the Commonwealth has existed over 200 years without your bill.” Some complex issues require work that cannot get done during Session.