HOW TO CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS
Identify your elected officials by searching your zip+4 of your home address on
congress.org or votesmart.org.
From www.legis.ga.gov you can view the biographies, legislation sponsored, committee
assignments and contact information for your representatives and senators.
What is grassroots?
Grassroots is individuals coalescing around a specific issue using a common
argument and/or message to achieve a common goal guided by a singular
strategy. Grassroots lobbying activities by Georgia Bike Alliance members are a
means of providing decision-makers and the general public with information and
opinions on issues affecting cycling, transportation and road safety within the
state of Georgia.
Why should I get involved?
Your involvement is important because members of the Georgia General
Assembly are concerned about the views and interests of all of their constituents,
because support from constituents equals votes during elections. Legislators
believe that you represent the interests of their cycling constituency. Therefore
each Georgia Bikes Alliance member who contacts their legislator contributes to
the credibility and strength of the GBA agenda.
How could I make a difference?
Your elected officials don‟t necessarily know more about complicated cycling,
transportation or non-motorized vehicles than you do. As legislators cast
hundreds of votes every session, it is impossible for them to become experts on
every issue that comes to a vote. Your involvement in the Georgia Bikes Alliance
and in your community makes you an authority on cycling. The personal
experiences and thoughts you are able to share with your representatives and
senators help them understand the effect their votes on policy have on your issues.
Communicating with decision-makers regarding public policy
Visiting your legislators is the most direct way to have your voice heard. It can
also be very intimidating. Keep in mind that legislators and their staff are people just like
you; spouses, parents, businesspeople that care about the community in which they live.
They rely on your support and your vote to keep them elected.
Contact your state legislators when they are at the state capitol during
legislative sessions and at their district offices during the interim.
Remember the legislative session always begins on the second Monday
each January and continues for 40 legislative days, usually adjourning in
Inform their secretary, legislative aide or staff about the topic you wish to
discuss and who will be accompanying you. If you are in a small group,
be sure to discuss your remarks and discuss the agenda before the meeting.
Due to your legislators demanding schedule, have two talks ready: one
that is 10 minutes and one that is 90 seconds. This will ensure that you
will be prepared if your meeting is interrupted.
Familiarize yourself with your legislator‟s voting record and his/her
position on the issue you will be discussing, if such information is
available. It is also helpful to have a basic knowledge of the legislator‟s
background and biographical information for the purpose of developing
Have the background information with you and know the specific
legislation related to it. A one-page summary of legislative priorities will
assist you in preparing talking points for your issue prior to the meeting.
At the visit, be clear, positive and constructive. Use examples from your
Before leaving provide a definite request. Leave a short, one page written
summary of our position and supporting materials. Make sure your
legislator knows how you want them to vote on a particular issue.
Politely thank them and their staff for their time and leave your contact
information or a business card so they are able to follow-up with you in
Constituent letters and email
A well-written and constructed letter to policymakers is an important part of
influencing legislation and can be written to voice support or opposition. IT IS HIGHLY
RECOMMENDED THAT MEMBERS WITH AN INTEREST IN THE PARTICULAR
LEGISLATION SEND INDIVIDUAL LETTERS RATHER THAN FORM LETTERS.
This does not mean you have to slave over your computer for hours coming up with a
long-winded letter. A paragraph or two will suffice as legislators have hundreds of letters
and emails to read daily.
o Begin to encourage approval or disapproval of a bill while it is in
committee, if possible.
o Let the reader know if you are writing on your own behalf or as a
representative member of an organization. Put your return address
on the letter because envelopes are often discarded.
Identify your issue
o Do this up front. Include the bill number and subject matter.
State your position
o Also do this up front when you identify the issue. For example, “I
am writing to request your support of House Bill ### which will
establish 3 feet as safe passing distance of a vehicle around a
bicycle on the roadway.”
Establish your credibility and expertise
o Let them know your credentials, years of experience and
involvement with the Georgia Bikes Alliance. Be sure to
communicate that your are a registered voter from his/her district.
o Keep the letter to one page. If your background information or
supporting materials are lengthy, attach it as a separate, supporting
document to the letter.
o Facts validate your position. Numbers and statistics are very
persuasive, but don‟t overload the letter with them.
o Be firm, confident, positive and courteous. Never give the reader
an ultimatum or threat.
Use personal, human terms
o Don‟t fill the letter with jargon, it will distract the reader. Add a
short, personal story to tie the issue to a real problem.
Ask for a reply
o Indicate that you would appreciate a reply or a phone call
containing the reader‟s position on the issue.
o If the decision-maker proceeds in a manner that pleases you on an
issue, express your gratitude with a thank-you letter or offer to
provide support to them on other issues. On the other hand, if you
believe the decision-maker has acted contrary to your interest, let
them know and be polite.
Effective phone calls
State legislators can be reached at the state capital during the legislative session.
If the legislature is not in session, legislative staff will have phone numbers for contacting
your elected officials in their districts. It‟s a good idea to get a legislative directory or
“white book” at the beginning of each legislative session. Copies can be picked up in the
Secretary of the Senate or the House Clerk‟s office at the capitol for no charge in
The administrative assistant will probably be the one to answer the phone.
You can leave your message with him or her or talk to the legislative aide
working on your issue. Make sure you get the name of the person with
whom you are speaking.
Identify yourself by name and current hometown. Make sure you state
that you are a constituent and member of Georgia Bikes Alliance.
Keep your call short and to the point.
Identify the issue or bill number you wish to address.
State your position and how you want your legislator to vote.
Leave your name, phone number, mailing address or email address even if
the secretary says it is not necessary.
Follow up your phone call with a short note to the staff member with
whom you spoke, emphasizing your position and your appreciation of
his/her attention to the issue. This can help build your relationship with
the staff and the legislator.
GBA Member Grassroots Lobbying
Specific Strategies and Tactics for contacting your elected officials
Look and act like a professional Act in an unprofessional manner
Always address your legislator as „Representative‟ Never address a legislator as Mr. or Mrs.
or „Senator‟ as a show of respect Avoid clapping, booing or interrupting at any
Dress professionally and be polite when meeting legislative hearing or meeting
with legislators and their staff Never demonstrate your partisan views with
Keep your composure when attending or legislators present
presenting at a committee meeting Never attempt to embarrass a legislator in a public
If you disagree with a legislator in a public forum, forum
do so in a factual, objective way Never allow your conduct to reflect poorly on you or
Always present yourself as intelligent, informed the Georgia Bikes Alliance
Misstate facts or remain uninformed
Become informed Never support or oppose a candidate without
Educate yourself on the legislative process, the obtaining the facts about all the candidates
election process in your state, the budget situation Never incorrectly state GBA‟s position on issues
and how your legislators vote
Confirm your resources with the Georgia Bikes Overreact or alienate
Alliance before your meeting Never contact a legislator at odd hours
If you do not know the answer to a question, Never mix your personal political concerns with
indicate that you will provide the information in a bicycle and bicycle safety issues
follow-up Never alienate a legislator‟s staff
Meet with your legislator Demand or insist on your own way
Contact legislators during regular office hours or Never insist or demand that the legislator vote
by appointment only for/support or vote against/oppose a proposal
Focus on a single issue during your meeting Never imply or demand that your political
Treat your legislator‟s staff with the same respect contributions buy a vote or legislative support
you would accord the legislator Never „burn your bridges‟ with a legislator—
Bring factual written materials with you to support although they may not support you today you may
your position need them tomorrow
Request your legislator‟s support Threaten or punish your legislator
Be clear on what you are asking of the legislator Never threaten legislators with reprisals such as
Remember that political contributions should not withholding endorsements or campaign contributions
be discussed while on a capitol visit Never betray your legislator‟s trust; it may cause
Contributions only help you gain access to the potential allies to be wary of you in the future
legislator; they do not guarantee support
Stay positive with the legislator even if they are
not initially supportive
Support your legislator
You may endorse a candidate as an individual but
never as a representative of GBA
Always remain open to listen to another point of
Keep the door open and keep communicating--this
is all part of developing respectful relationships