Advocacy tips from a former #TXlege staffer
The new Texas Legislature is convening in Austin for the first time this year, and things are heating up.
Usually, I would tell you to brace yourself for the disaster zone that is Republican governance, but this year feels different. It feels different because of you. We are going into this session stronger than we have in years because folks like you showed up and flipped 12 house seats in November.
At Progress Texas, we are amplifying your voices, holding our leaders accountable, and advocating for the issues affecting everyday Texans. Issues like quality health care, abortion access, voting rights, ending gun violence, supporting the LGBTQIA+ movement, economic empowerment, and immigrant rights. This session, more than anything, is about making your voice heard with our elected officials, and we’re here to help you make that happen.
Here are some tips to help you be an effective advocate this legislative session from someone who’s been on the inside.
Know your stuff
No one expects you to be an expert on the issues or legislation that you're advocating for, but knowing the specifics of what you want and who you want to do it can maximize your efforts. The Legislature only meets for 140 every two years (it’s literally designed not to work, classic Texas) so maximizing your advocacy is key to getting anything done.
1. Know who your State Representative and State Senator before you even start.
Legislators prioritize information received from folks in their district over anything else. You have the power to re-elect them or kick them to the curb, so they want to know what you have to say. Need to change the mind of a rep that isn’t yours? Try to find someone from their district to make the call; it’ll carry a lot more weight.
2. Stay informed on the issues.
A lot is happening and the legislature moves very quickly, so the most valuable thing you can do is know what’s going on. Sign up for newsletters like those from Progress Texas or the Texas Tribune, follow reporters on Twitter, and stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter for updates on the issues that matter most to Texas progressives.
3. Get specific about what you’re asking for.
When things get hectic the big ideas can get lost, so try to give the staffer you’re talking to the most specific information you can. Don’t just advocate for better health care coverage, try to find a bill you really like, get the bill number, and ask that your representative vote for it. You can find all the bills on the Texas Legislature's website where you can even create an account and set alerts on the bills that are most important to you.
Let ‘em know
Once you’re equipped with the information you need about the bills you want to support or advocate against, it’s time to let your voice be heard. The most important and impactful thing you can do is tell a personal story about how legislation would affect you and your family. You don’t have to be a policy expert to know how a law would change your life and your representatives need to hear that.
4. Choose a form of advocacy.
- Writing Letters and emails
Take your story and write it down. It doesn’t have to be anything poetic, as long as it’s personal (and don’t forget those bill numbers!)
- Phone Calls
Give your legislator's office a call and let them know what’s on your mind, but just try to keep in mind there is a very tired staffer on the other end of the phone. Be nice!
“Hi, this is [your name] calling from [city.] Can I speak with the person in your office who works on [progressive cause important to you]?
I oppose/support _________(bill or issue) and ask that [elected official] to vote against/for _________(bill or issue.)
- Office Visits
If you can, take a visit to your local district office. Staffers are there to help you with any issues you may have and to report to the representatives what people back home are saying. Consider writing down what you’re advocating for to leave behind with the staff after you leave!
The most important thing we can do this session is testify on the bills coming before a committee. If you have the resources to get to Austin for a hearing on the bill you care about, there is no more powerful form of advocacy. You will be given a couple of minutes to speak and then your story and feelings on a piece of legislation become an official part of the record. This makes you and your agenda hard to ignore. We will be posting opportunities on crucial pieces of legislation.
We need you
Find what works best for you and keep doing it! Like most things, advocacy is better with friends. So find some like-minded freedom fighters and start a coalition! Keep an eye on the incredible work our progressive allies will be doing this session and get involved however you can.
Make a commitment to doing at least one thing this session that makes your voice heard. Make a commitment to progress, here today. We need you in this fight.