HOW TO LOBBY THE CONNECTICUT GENERAL ASSEMBLY
By Betty Gallo of Betty Gallo & Company
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that can. — Margaret Mead
Why Do I Think You Can Lobby?
Because we all lobby all the time. Whether it is lobbying to convince a friend to see a certain movie, a child to clean their room, the boss for a raise, a co-worker to help out on a project–we all lobby to get things we want. We list the arguments for our position, we point out the problems with the other side’s arguments, we enlist the help of those who are more powerful in the situation and we use our own position of power in the situation to get our way. All of this is lobbying. All are techniques we use to lobby the Connecticut General Assembly.
A Few Facts About The Connecticut General Assembly (GA)
Schedule: The GA is part-time. It is in session for five months in the odd numbered years and three months in even numbered years. The schedule is set by the State Constitution.
Membership: There are 151 House of Representative Members and 36 Senators in the GA. Democrats currently control the House and the Senate. The Governor, Dannell Malloy, is a Democrat. The Lt. Governor, Nancy Wyman, is also a Democrat. The Lt. Governor serves as the President of the Senate meaning she presides over the Senate, but she only votes if there is a tie. The highest ranking member of the Senate is the President Pro Tempore, Donald Williams, a Democrat. He is elected by the membership of the Senate. The House of Representatives is presided over by the Speaker of the House, who is Brendan Sharkey, a Democrat. He is a member of the House and elected by the House members.
Committees: The GA has joint committees with members from both the House and the Senate. Each Committee has a House and a Senate Chair. The number of Senators and Representatives assigned to each Committee is proportional by party and by house.
Unlike Congress, members of the GA do not have a lot of staff. They also do not receive a lot of phone calls or mail on most issues. Legislators acknowledge that they are impressed and give special attention to an issue if they receive even 10 letters or phone calls about a particular subject.
Visiting With Your Legislator
It is a good idea to have more than one person at the meeting. Keep the atmosphere of the meeting friendly. You are there to exchange ideas. It is sometimes just as important to know why a legislator opposes your position as it is to know that the legislator supports your position.
Leave literature for the legislator (either on the issue or general information on any organization with which you are working on the issue). This will serve as a reminder of your visit and the issue.
Follow up the visit with a thank you note and perhaps more information on your issue. If the legislator asked for certain information be sure you get back to the legislator with that information. Remember that the main objective of your contact is to establish an ongoing relationship with your legislator and establish yourself (and any organization with which you are affiliated) as a reliable source of information.
Be sure to take notes on the main points covered in the meeting. Keep a copy for your records and be sure to send a copy to any organization with which you are affiliated that is lobbying the issue.
What You Can Do If You Live Outside Connecticut
Contact the legislators who represent the city/town where your university is located. Identify yourself as someone who:
Works in their district
Works with people who live in their district
Teaches people who live in their district and state
Then segue into the talking points provided
Legislators Really Do Listen to their Constituents. Let Them Know What You Think!