MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, http://www.palwv.org has background information on important issues of interest to Pennsylvanians; fracking, redistricting, water resources and more. Go to the Publications page of the LWVPA website to find written resources on how to contact legislators, judge judges (often confusing for voters), an explanation of the League's positions and more.
The League of Women Voters of the US, http://www.lwv.org has background information on issues of national interest: health care, immigration reform, the environment, and much more.
Both the LWVPA and LWVUS have informative newsletters. Sign up on their websites to receive these timely messages.
Both the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, http://www.palwv.org, and the League of Women Voters US, http://www.lwv.org, have "Action Alerts" which give voters the information needed to act quickly on specific legislation under consideration.
NOTE: You can advocate for or against a bill at any time in the process even if your legislator is not on the committee considering the bill. It's easy to contact your legislator. Go to his/her website and use the Contact option. Phoning is also effective.
The bill is brought up for a vote in committee, or not.
If a bill receives enough votes to pass, it is voted out of committee. If a bill does not receive enough votes to make it out of committee, or if a bill is never called, the bill dies. It would have to start over in the next Session.
The bill is voted out of committee.
The Speaker decides whether to put a bill on the House Voting Schedule. If it is not put on the Schedule, it dies.
The bill moves to the House Floor for a vote.
The House will "consider" a bill 3 times. Members can amend a bill on 2nd consideration. 3rd consideration is Final Passage. if a bill is defeated, it dies and can be reintroduced in a future Session to start all over again.
If a bill passes the House it moves to the Senate.
Adoption vs. Visitation Either approach is better than doing nothing, but adoption is more effective. Decide your level of commitment but don't be paralyzed into inaction.
Visitation - Slightly better than the dreaded job interview. Make an appointment. If the legislator is not available, meet with staff and treat them as professionally as you would their boss.
Explain your issue and why it is important to you and other like you. Real life stories are important.
Don't bluff. If you don't know the answer to a question you are asked, say you will find out, and then follow up. There are at least two sides to every issue, so don't be surprised to be asked the other side of yours.
Be pleasant, even if you don't agree. In politics there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent issues. Don't threaten or say you won't vote for someone unless they support your position.
Leave some literature behind with your name, address and phone number on it. Send a thank you note after your visit if you really want to make an impression.
Adoption - A bigger commitment, but greater rewards. Become a known resource and authority. Try to develop a relationship with your legislator and staff so that when your issue comes up, they will think to ask you for input.
Regular contact is important. Every few months check in with your legislator. Whether a brief phone call or letter, or forwarding an article, you will remind them that you are a resource for them on the issue that matters to you.
If appropriate, invite your legislator to see and experience your issue. The more first-hand knowledge they have about a particular matter, the better.
Mail or Phone? Phone calls tend to be more effective than mailing, but emails are often answered quickly by the legislator when a call will more likely be answered by a staff member. Ask to speak with the staff member who handles your particular issue. Those staffers will be well up on current matters and can be helpful and will pass on your views to the legislator.
Think locally. Write to YOUR legislator. They care about your opinion. The legislator ten states away does not.
Keep it simple. Identify yourself. Stick to one issue. KNOW the facts. Leave out the emotional. It can be helpful to identify the issue at the top of the letter.
Be specific. State how the issue affects you and others. If a certain bill is being considered, cite the correct title or number when possible. (Find that information at http://www.legis.state.pa.us, and http://www.senate.gov.)
One page. Keep your letter to one page if at all possible. If it's necessary, send along reference material, links to reference material, etc.
Closing. Request the action you want taken. If you feel confident enough, offer to help with testimony if appropriate. Thank your legislator for his/her time.
Finally.... The best letters are courteous, to the point, and include specific supporting examples.
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT SEND a letter of support/thanks when your representative has done something important. Positive reinforcement strengthens a legislators position.
NEVER, EVER.... Never let your passion get the better of your common courtesy. And never, ever make threats. That might get you a visit from the Secret Service.
FYI, you can find your elected officials' contact information here on the Your Representatives page.