County Supervisors Association of Arizona



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County Supervisors Association
County Supervisors Association of Arizona
1905 W. Washington
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85009

 

Tips for Effective Advocacy

 
Keep it Simple

Advocating can take many forms, including e-mail, personal visits, phone calls, faxes or letters. The main thing is to keep it simple:

  • Be brief. Use your time wisely and well.
  • Be specific; identify your subject matter clearly and concisely including the bill number and let your state senator or representatives know your position on the legislation.
  • Focus on the impact to your constituents and on the legislator's particular needs and interests.
  • Don't assume legislators and their staff understand your issue. Hundreds of bills are introduced each session - legislators must juggle many issues. Be prepared to explain your issue clearly.
  • Ask the elected official their position on the issue; there is nothing wrong with you asking and them telling you where they stand on a particular bill.
  • Keep in touch with your legislator. Either call or follow-up with an e-mail as soon as possible.

Always Tell the Truth

First impressions go a long way. You only get one chance at credibility. Never lie or embellish the information you are sharing with an elected official. If you are asked a question and you don't know the answer, promise to find out and follow up with the legislator who asked the question.
 
Sample Layout for Your Letter

Paragraph 1: State clearly and concisely why you are writing, including what you are asking the legislator to do and why you care. For example, "I'm writing to urge you to vote for SB 1299, the ALTCS circuit breaker bill. As your constituent, I'm counting on your support."

Paragraph 2: Outline one or two critical points and perhaps a personal example of how the issue affects you or your family. For example, "This bill will provide needed funds to ensure that counties do not pay higher than average costs for long-term healthcare."

Paragraph 3: Ask the legislator to state his or her position and thank them for their consideration. For example, "Can I count on your 'yes' vote for SB 1299? Thank you for your consideration of this issue which is so important to me."

Do not forget to sign your letter!
 
If your legislator sends you a reply, then it's time for you to write letter #2. The three typical responses are:

1) Your legislator agrees with you and says they will do what you asked. Your letter #2 should thank them for replying to your letter and also thank them for their support.

2) Your legislator doesn't agree with you and will not do what you asked. Your letter #2 is to thank them for their reply, to express your appreciation for their honesty in stating their opposition and to say that you look forward to working with them in the future on a different issue. Don't burn bridges - that same legislator could be an important vote on the next bill.

3) The third and perhaps most common reply you may receive from your elected official is one that avoids commitment and detail. You are likely familiar with responses such as, "Thank you for contacting me regarding this important issue. I will consider the issue carefully and vote based on what I believe is best for all my constituents."In this case, you may decide to let it go, especially if the legislator has publicly committed to a position on the issue. Or, you can write a second letter asking for more specifics. Your second letter will likely receive more attention and generate a more thorough response than your first letter.
 

Testifying Before a Committee
 
All bills are referred to a legislative committee where they can be given a public hearing. If you wish to testify at the committee hearing:
  • Arrive early and sign in at an electronic kiosk outside the committee room.
  • Once again, be prepared. Organize your thoughts beforehand and if you need to, prepare a one-page statement that you can simply read to the committee.  (CSA staff can provide talking points or guidance, and often will assist in coordinating a unified message between county supervisors.)
  • If a committee member asks you a question, always remember to go through the committee chairperson. You should respond by saying, "Mr. Chairman/Madame Chairman, Representative/Senator ___________ to answer your question..."
  • Also remember to thank the committee chair and the members of the committee for giving you the opportunity to speak.
  • Keep your statement brief and to the point.
  • If you don't know the answer to a question, say that you don't know and that you would be happy to find out and get back to them.
  • Finish by again thanking them for their time.
Source: ASU Advocacy Program

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