Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Once you are ready to make contact with your legislator, it’s good to have some idea of the usual and customary methods legislators anticipate.
KEY INFORMATION TO SHARE WITH LEGISLATORS
- The length of time you have been business
- The number of employees you employ and number at risk from legislative proposals
- Information about your business obligations ¡V loan/lease
- Monetary contribution to Colorado versus $$$ going out of state
- The importance of your product line
- SAFETY – your policies, commitment, education, etc.
- The product selection, service and convenience you offer
- Signage, efforts to deter minors
CONTACTING LEGISLATORS BY PHONE
- Identify yourself by name and home address.
- Identify the bill you wish to talk about, by name and number if possible.
- Briefly state your position and how you wish your legislator to vote.
- Ask for your legislator’s stance on the bill or issue. Ask for a commitment to vote for your position, but don’t argue if the legislator has an opposing view or is not yet decided.
- If your legislator needs additional information, CALL CLBA to get the approved version so you may provide it to your legislator as soon as possible.
- Recognize that legislators are often away from the office, on the floor or in committee, so you may get an aide or be asked to leave a voice mail message. That’s great. Use the same basic rules.
CONTACTING LEGISLATORS – EMAILS OR WRITTEN LETTERS
- Written communication from constituents is appreciated and welcomed by legislators. Writing an effective letter or email is not a difficult task. Here are a few guidelines.
- Personal Letterhead – Write on personal or business letterhead, if possible, and sign your name over your typed signature.
- Return Address -Be sure your exact return address is on the letter, not just the envelope. Envelopes often get discarded.
- Even though your address is on the letter, be sure to also state that you are a constituent or that you work in the legislator’s district, if applicable.
- Identify the Subject – Identify your subject matter clearly. State the name and bill number of the legislation you are writing about at the top of the page (e.g. RE: SB 80).
- State Reason – State your reasons for writing. Your own personal experience is your best supporting evidence. Explain how the issue would affect you, your business or your profession, or what effect it could have on your community or the state.
- NO FORM LETTERS – Avoid stereotyped phrases and sentences that give the appearance of form letters. They tend to identify your message as part of an organized pressure campaign, and are often discarded. Make your own letter, in your own style, incorporating your organization’s key message.
- Be Reasonable – Don’t ask for the impossible, don’t threaten, and don’t say, “I’ll never vote for you again unless you vote our way!¨
- Be Brief – All of your letters should be one page, one sided. Attachments to support your views are fine.
- Always say thank you!
The Honorable Representative / Senator ___________,
Colorado State Senate / House of Representatives
200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80203
TESTIFYING BEFORE A COMMITTEE
- Protocol first – state your name and whether you support or oppose the legislation.
- Be prepared! Make your points – be as brief as possible
- Always professional and courteous – ill manners have no place here.
- Never argue with a committee member or another witness during the committee hearing.
- Don’t be redundant. If a previous witness has already said what you came to say, just say so and add your special points to wrap up.
- Try to simplify your message so even a complex subject will look “less complicated” to the committee.
- Never disrupt a hearing or attempt to sway the committee with demonstrations by members of the audience.
- This is a policy arena – leave your politics at the door.
AUDIO / VIDEO TRACKING OF LEGISLATION
Following the Debates
CLBA will be alerting you to live discussions of pertinent legislation. Please familiarize yourself with the following information:
Live Legislative Audio
The live audio broadcast of proceedings of the Colorado General Assembly is provided only as an informational service. Please be advised that the time and place for scheduled hearings is subject to change. The broadcasts will only occur when the committees are in session. In addition, technical difficulties could result in loss of audio signals or in the impairment of the quality of transmission. (Note: To listen to legislative audio within this site requires you to have Windows Media
Player installed on your computer).
Live Legislative Video
The Colorado Channel provides Coloradans with the opportunity to watch (or listen) to the Colorado General Assembly at work. Here you can find live stream video and audio broadcasts of the Colorado State House of Representatives and The Colorado State Senate legislative sessions. You can also access archived video of past sessions.
The Colorado Channel is broadcast on Comcast channel 165
TIPS ON INTERACTING WITH THE MEDIA
- Utilize CLBA’s two or three key points and hammer them home.
- Anticipate questions, and draft vivid, descriptive quotes.
- The key is to influence story.
- Stick with key points – or the reporter will identify his/her key points.
Keep it Simple
- Paint a picture the average person can understand ¡V and appreciate.
- Anecdotes “humanize¨ the story by injecting realism and credibility.
- Write, and then rehearse, the anecdotes in advance.
Build bridges from questions asked to answers you want to give:
- Key is to pivot from question asked to preferred answer.
- Remember: questions are not important, answers are.
Don’t ignore the question…restructure it…and use connectors.
- “That’s not the issue, the issue is¨
- “Let’s look at that another way.¨
- “I’m not sure I agree…but what I am sure of is…¨
- If question is a negative, answer includes a positive.
- Keep focus on key points.
Don’t become fixated by the question:
- Tough, unexpected questions – common tactic used by reporters.
- Questions are not important, answers are.
- Reiterate key points ¡V they are your safe harbor.
Don’t use “no comment¨:
- Makes you look secretive and arrogant.
- “Couldn’t be reached for comment¨ is more effective.
- “I don’t know the answer, but will get back to you.¨
Don’t treat reporters as adversaries:
- Their goal is to get the story.
- Few are truly out to get you.
- Adversaries can become enemies.
Don’t answer hypothetical questions:
- Once you start, it is hard to stop.
- Scenarios can get increasingly difficult.
- Hypotheticals rarely include your key points.
Don’t think you have to answer every question:
- That is not your job – your job is to repeat key points.
- Refer questions beyond your expertise to appropriate sources.
- Safe harbor: “I don’t know.¨