Legislative Action Toolkit

Think About Your Message

Contacting Your Legislator

Calling Your Legislator

Meeting with Your Legislator

Get the Word Out…

So You’re Going to the Capitol

Public Hearings at the Capitol

How to Testify at a Public Hearing

 

 

Think About Your Message: When you communicate with your legislator, be persuasive, informative, and concise.

Work with other groups to strengthen your message: Find other groups to work with even if their focus is different from yours. Legislators need to hear from people with different jobs, backgrounds, and passions. Working with different groups increases your chance to influence the legislator, as well as increasing your confidence, because you will gain more information about issues you care about.

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Find out the name of your state senator and representative: Find your legislator here. Keep track of what is happening to bills, copies or bills, hot issues, and more at the Connecticut General Assembly website.

To Call Your Legislator at the Capitol:

House Democrats   860-240-8585

House Republicans 860-240-8700

Senate Democrats   860-240-8600

Senate Republicans 860-240-8800

Governor’s Office 1-800-406-1527 or 860-566-4840

To E-mail Your Legislator:

House Democrats: firstname.lastname @cga.ct.gov

ExampleCatherine.Abercrombie@cga.ct.gov

House Republicans: firstname.last name @housegop.state.ct.us

Example: al.adinolfi@housegop.ct.gov

Senate Democrats: lastname@senatedems.ct.gov

Bye@senatedems.ct.gov

Senate Republicans: firstname.lastname@cga.ct.gov

Example: Toni.Boucher@cga.ct.gov

The Best Way to Contact Your Legislator

Personalized communication is the best. In-person meetings make the biggest impression but are more challenging to arrange. Hand written letters are more effective than emails, even if they take more time to complete. Phone calls are quick but you often don’t get to talk to the legislator directly. E-mails are also quick and more likely to get to the legislator but legislators receive thousands and yours may get lost. E-mails written by you, rather than using prepared text, are more effective. Pick what works best for you given the time and energy you have.

Calling Your Legislator

Legislators are interested in hearing voters in their district. Part of their job is to answer to you. When you call, an assistant will answer but your message is given to the legislator. If you want to talk personally to the legislator, say so.

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Meeting with Your Legislator

Meeting your legislator creates the most impact and makes it more likely that your voice will be heard. Legislators will try to meet with constituents at their offices in Hartford during the legislative session (roughly January to June). Often, legislators will have in-district meetings.

 To set up a meeting:

  1. Call or email your legislator (find your legislator here). Most likely an aide will respond to you.
  2. Tell them why you want to set up a meeting. This helps the legislator to understand what you have in mind so he or she is prepared as well. Always be polite and respectful to the aide.
  3. If your legislator can meet with you, they will. If they are busy do not get discouraged. Keep trying until a meeting is set.

Getting ready for the meeting:

Once the meeting is set up, take time to prepare for it!

  • You only have a few minutes with the legislator, so prepare what you have to say and have your handouts ready.

 At the meeting:

  • Politely, but firmly, explain what you want.
  • Be specific about what you want the legislator to do.
  • If they ask you a question and do not have an answer, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know”. Say you will get the information and call back with it.
  • Make it clear that you will follow up and monitor the legislator’s actions.

After the meeting send a thank you note to your legislator and stay in touch with information, follow-up calls, or more meetings.

Simple Tips:

  1. Know the bill number you are concerned with: If you are calling about a specific bill, it’s helpful to have the bill number. All bills have a number.
  2. Say exactly what you want the legislator to do: Ask the legislator to support a bill you think is a good idea, oppose a bill you think is a bad idea, etc.

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Get the Word Out…

Create an Event!

Take advantage of a special occasion or event that is already scheduled to focus attention on your issue. You can schedule events inside or outside the Capitol/Legislative Office Building or in your neighborhood. Note: There are rules about what you can do at the Legislative Office Building or the Capitol.

Use the Media!

Letters to the editor are widely read and generate plenty of interest. You may also be able to get a news story published about your concerns. Contact reporters from your local paper, radio, or TV stations who cover related issues to see if they are interested. They are more likely to cover an issue if there is a person with real experience with the issue who is willing to be interviewed. 

Use Social Media!

Use social media to distribute information, to build a sense of community, and to create a call to action. Additionally, most legislators have Facebook pages where you can communicate with them.

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So You’re Going to the Capitol

This section will give you ideas on how to testify at public hearings.

Legislative Office Building & State Capitol

The Legislative Office Building (LOB) and the State Capitol are located next to each other at 300 Capitol Ave. and 210 Capitol Ave., in Hartford. You can park for free in the garage next to the LOB, but it often fills up early during the legislative session. There is a required security screening, including metal detectors, in both buildings that you must pass through to enter.

How to find out what’s happening:

  • Check out the Connecticut General Assembly website
  • On the first floor, just inside the front door, a League of Women Voters volunteer wearing a red jacket will be able to help you.
  • There are television monitors showing the day’s schedule of public meetings and hearings located throughout the LOB.

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Public Hearings at the Capitol.

Public hearings give people a chance to learn about bills and say what they think about them.

Important Facts About Public Hearings:

Public hearings are often announced with very little lead time…

Notice is only required to be published in the Bulletin five days in advance of the hearing —and the day the notice is published as well as the day of the hearing count. Public hearing notices are printed in the Legislative Bulletin, or inside the Capitol Concourse, an underground hallway connecting the LOB and the Capitol.  The Legislative Bulletin tells when each committee has scheduled a public hearing. The information includes: date and time, location, bill numbers, titles by subject, processes and procedures.

The number of bills on the agenda can be very large…

Despite time limits (usually 3 minutes), many witnesses speak for a long time because legislators ask questions. You can find out about specific bills using this Bill Tracking Tool. Follow the link and enter the tool as a guest. Register yourself by providing basic information such as name and email, then begin tracking bills by number. You can customize your account to send you email or text alerts on your bills of interest.

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How to Testify at a Public Hearing

Sign up to testify.

Committees use different systems for ordering speakers. Some committees take sign-ups on a first-come, first-serve basis; some use a lottery system. Under the lottery system, it does not matter what time you get to the LOB to sign up- everyone has an equal chance to draw a number which decides the order. Specific instructions on how to sign up for the hearing are found in the Legislative Bulletin. Instructions must be followed exactly for you to testify.

Be prepared to wait and listen.

The first hour of the hearing is usually reserved for testimony from legislators, representatives from state agencies, and community officials. After this, the public is heard. While you wait for your turn to speak, listen to what others are saying; that way you can respond or comment on their remarks when it’s your turn to speak. Try not to repeat an issue that you have heard over and over again.

Bring copies of your testimony.

You can find how many copies of your testimony you must provide to the committee you’re speaking in front of in the Legislative Bulletin online or at the LOB.

When you testify…

  • Remember to limit yourself to three minutes
  • Identify yourself and who you are representing
  • State the bill by name and number
  • Say if you are for or against the bill
  • Explain what you want to be done
  • Summarize your position
  • Thank the committee for the opportunity to speak

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