The first part of the training was given by Representative Steve Sandstrom, who talked about how to work with legislators. Most of it is common sense, just reminding us to remember that legislators are regular people like you and me, with families, jobs, and busy lives, and appreciate being treated with kindness. Sadly, sometimes people forget these things in the heat of the passionate moment around an issue. Here are some of the tips he offered:
- Most representatives prefer email, but they are also available by phone if you'd like to talk to them.
- Identify yourself as a constituent (in the subject line of the email if you are contacting them that way).
- Find out what stance they have taken on this issue or similar issues before contacting them. You can view how any legislator voted on a given bill in the past by looking on the Legislature Web site. If you aren't able to find out what their stand is, ask before assuming they have a certain position.
- Be courteous--even if you are frustrated. You'll get better results. Everyone likes to be approached civilly.
- Respect their time.
- Contact your representative early—before the legislative session starts, if possible.
Remember, not every issue needs to be taken to the state Legislature. Here are some types of issues you will want to talk with your legislators about:
- Budget issues (classroom size, teacher pay, trust lands)
- Transportation issues involving state funds or state roads
- Health and safety issues (drug and alcohol laws, gun laws, etc.)