STATE-LEVEL ADVOCACY UNDERSTANDING YOUR STATE LEGISLATURE
Getting to Know Your Elected Officials Building a strong relationship with your elected official and their staff is an important aspect of advocacy. Before meeting with them, you will want to do some research. On your elected official’s website, you can learn more about their positions on particular issues and different pieces of legislation. Learning more about them will allow you to effectively communicate with them by considering their background and areas of interest. Here are some facts you will want to learn about key legislators: • Their political party • Their tenure in office • Their specific committee assignments • Their priority issues of concern • The legislation they have sponsored or championed in the past Take the time to complete this important research. Not only will they appreciate you taking the time to learn about their positions on certain issues, but it will allow you to frame your issue in a manner that will resonate with them.
The process for the passage of a bill is similar at the federal and state levels. A bill passed by Congress is signed (or vetoed) by the President; a bill passed by your state’s legislature is signed (or vetoed) by the Governor. Most state legislatures are structured similarly to Congress; each state legislature has both a House and a Senate with the exception of Nebraska, which is unicameral . Just like in Congress, state legislatures also have committees that focus on specific topics, such as healthcare policies. As bills move through state legislatures or Congress, they rely on the expertise of committee members to determine how policy should be addressed. These committees can make adjustments and changes to a bill before it is voted on. They help to organize the most important work of legislation — considering, shaping, and passing laws to govern the state/nation. 1 To learn about your state’s legislature structure visit: openstates.org/find_your_legislator/, and enter the name of your state. Study your state’s legislative structure and the committees in place that might review a bill of interest to you. Learn about the members of each committee, the committee chair and staff. Committees hold public hearings on their respective areas of authority and these hearings are a great opportunity for advocates to make an impact on the legislative process.
UNICAMERAL: Having a single legislative chamber.
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