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A lesson in how to lobby

Virginia General Assembly
Virginia's General Assembly goes into session January 12th.

David Smith is a former aide to Virginia Delegate Kaye Kory and a consultant to anyone who wants to make a difference in state laws and policies. He says constituents can find out what bills are on offer by visiting the Virginia Public Access Project’s website.

“Sign up for their newsletter," he advises. "You can do that at VPAP.org, and they also do a great job bill tracking, so you can see where your bill is moving as well as campaign finances. If you want to know who has the ear of the legislator you’re trying to influence, you want to see who’s giving them money.”

Other useful resources include the Richmond Sunlight website and the LIS service on the General Assembly’s site.

If possible, Smith suggests a visit to speak with lawmakers, but phone calls may also prove powerful.

“Anybody who takes the time to actually pick up a phone and call their legislator or call another legislator who might be hearing a bill they’re supporting on a committee or subcommittee – that is powerful. That’s a lot more influential than an e-mail.”

And, he says, even e-mails can make a difference.

“A form e-mail is good. An individual e-mail is even better, and when you send an e-mail to your legislator, make sure you mention that you are their constituent. As a constituent you get bumped to the top.”

If you do get through to a lawmaker, he adds, keep it short – not an essay or even a blog post but bullet points. Explain the problem and why the bill you back is the solution.

To locate your legislator, go to http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/

To sign up for SALT’s free training webinar:

Meeting ID: 306 049 3017 Passcode: 599860

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief