Advocacy

posted September 11th, 2015 by
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Making Change for Animals

If you are not registered to vote you are leaving some animals out in the cold!

Advocacy starts with four practical tools…

 

  1. Preparing a Fact Sheet
  2. Writing a letter
  3. Making a phone call
  4. Meeting with your legislator

 

The Oklahoma Legislative Process

The Oklahoma Process is easy to understand, and our policymakers are accessible.  A few things you should know before getting started:

The Oklahoma Legislature meets every year from February through May in a general session of the legislature.  New bills are submitted by each legislator by the second week of the preceding December, so fall is a great time to discuss your concerns with legislators.

During the 4-month session, the Legislature is in session from Monday through Thursday, allowing legislators time in their home districts on Fridays to meet with constituents.

State legislators say it takes only about five letters or phone calls to get their attention on an issue.   And, on average, you only need five to 10 legislators backing your issue to pass a bill out of committee or to kill it. That means your single phone call or letter really can make a difference.

 

Practical Tool #1- Prepare a Great Fact Sheet

What’s a fact sheet?

Fact sheets introduce an issue in a format that’s useful to busy people.

Good fact sheets recognize that busy people (like your elected officials and legislators) need something short and punchy to grab their attention. A good fact sheet says, “Read me!! I’m a painless way to get acquainted to an issue.” Anything long and complicated many not simply be ignored; it can actually be counter-productive. Keep it short, accurate, and interesting.

The purpose of a fact sheet

Set out the facts:  key statistics, figures, or comparisons

Identify a group with a particular issue

Provide answers to common questions about the issue (they may be in a O & A format).

Show information using graphs, charts or pictures.

Inform, persuade or educate.

Make an argument for a particular course of action.

 

A Good Fact Sheet:

Is only one to two pages long.

Doesn’t use long sentences or wordy paragraphs.

Is easy to read with sub-heads, bullet points, and often graphics.

Includes only the most compelling, useful statistics.

Uses stories, examples or other simple ways to convey complicated points.

Reflects careful thought about the audience and facts important to them.

Draws a conclusion and clearly states what you want the reader to do.

Includes the name, address, telephone number, Website address and/ or e-mail address of the organizing group.

Is honest, factual and does not exaggerate.

 

Practical Tool #2: Write a Letter

Letters are an important, even critical, way to influence legislation. You can mail, FAX or e-mail your letter. Letters to your own council representatives, commissioners, senators or representatives are especially important.

You have two state legislators (one senator and one representative).

Always use your own stationary or letterhead for your letter, and use your own words or thoughts. Form letters are not effective!

A personal story about how legislation affects your family or your community can be very effective.

 

Here are a few guidelines:

Introduce yourself as a constituent (if you are one).

If you are part of a group or coalition, say so, along with how many people you represent.

Keep it to one page if possible—short letters have the greatest impact.

Make your position clear, and say exactly what you want your legislator to do.

Tell how the legislation will affect Oklahoma communities.

Don’t worry if you’re not an expert. Your personal experience and your commitment is the best evidence.

Don’t threaten, browbeat, or get nasty.

Refer to bills or policies by name or number (if you know them).

Ask for the legislators view on the issue.

When a legislator does what you ask (such as vote for a bill), send a thank you note.

 

A great letter includes:

Who you are.

What you want done.

A little bit about the issue or a particular bill or piece of legislation.

Who supports it, if you know.

What you want done, again, in slightly different words

Your name, address and telephone number

 

Addressing your letter:

During the legislative session, you can send letters directly to the Statehouse, addressed like this:

The Honorable (Full Name)                         or                            The Honorable (Full Name)

Oklahoma State Senate                                                                Oklahoma House of Representatives

Oklahoma City, OK 73105                                                                              Oklahoma City, OK 73105

 

Practical Tool #3:  Make a Phone Call

When the legislature is in session, you can call legislators or their staff at their offices at the capitol. Lists of members’ names, office addresses and telephone numbers are available for the House at www.okhouse.gov, or (405) 521-2711 and the Senate at www.oksenate.gov, or (405) 524-0126.

 

Here are a few tips for calling your legislator:

Identify the bill or issue you wish to talk about by name and number (if possible).

Briefly state your position and how you would like your legislator to vote.

Ask for your legislators stance on the bill or issue.

Don’t argue if the legislator has an opposing view or hasn’t yet decided.

If you don’t know the answer to a question- don’t guess. Simply say you don’t know, but will get back to him/ her with that information.

If your legislator needs more information, supply it as quickly as possible (things move very quickly at the Statehouse!).

Never be abusive or use threats.

Follow up your call with a note restating your position and thanking them for their time.

Warning:  Legislators are often away from the office, in committee meetings, or on the floor of the chamber, so you may end up talking with a staff person instead. That’s great!! Use the same basic rules.  Staff people are very reliable and will pass along your message.

 

Tips for using voicemail:

State your name and address

Identify the specific bill you are calling about; use the bill number if you know it.

Briefly state your position- either support, opposition or some combination.

Keep the message simple.

 

For example:

“Hello, this is Jane Smith at 123 Main Street in Oklahoma City. I’m calling to let you know that I fully support HB 3192, which would regulate currently unregulated animal dealing facilities in our state. I urge you to vote yes.  Thank you.”

 

Practical Tool #4: Visit Your Legislator

Personal visits are a highly effective way to help legislators understand your position on an issue. Legislators welcome visits from constituents. They want you to be involved. However, they are busy people, so time is extremely valuable. Plan ahead and use the time well.

If you make an appointment when the legislature is in session, remember this is no guarantee that the legislator will be able to keep it. Legislative schedules change at a moments notice. Don’t take it personally-that’s just how it is.

 

Before the Meeting:

Make an appointment in advance, and expect to get about 15 minutes.

Prepare a good fact sheet.

Try to learn in advance where your legislator stands on your issue (many have their own websites just for this purpose).

Be prepared to explain how the bill will affect animals, Oklahoma communities, and voters in their district.

Dress appropriately for an appointment. Normal business attire is appropriate.

 

During the Meeting:

Be on time (parking can be challenging so leave early).

Be prepared, be polite and be brief.

Start with your 90 second speech

Give your legislator your fact sheet.

Be firm but friendly. Don’t be afraid to ask for a commitment to support your bill.

Attack the issue, not the person.

Don’t disparage government or politics.

Don’t use jargon, technical terms, or acronyms.

If you do not know the answer to a question, say you will find the answer and get back with them.

Be realistic. Remember that controversial legislation and regulations usually result in a compromise. It has always been so and will be so in a democracy.

Before leaving, ask how you can be of help to them (for example, more information? Talking to others?).

Thank them for their time—even if they will not support your cause.

 

After the Meeting:

Follow up with a thank you note and any information that was requested.

 

Sample Fact Sheet

A good fact sheet!  It’s all on one-page and with lots of “white” space.

 

 

Animal Advocates of Oklahoma

 

Supports HB 1234

 

Problem: Unregulated dog dealing in Oklahoma is a crisis. 

 

Provides a brief description of the bill and the history

Oklahoma is the only high volume dog breeder state without state regulations of facilities moving large numbers of dogs or cats. Due to tightening regulations elsewhere, substandard pet breeders have moved here, creating serious animal welfare issues.  à

 

The growing number of substandard kennels in Oklahoma has created a “buyer beware,” market with an ever increasing number of animal welfare and consumer complaints.

 

Substandard facilities also operate as a cash business, these facilities are costly to taxpayers and communities alike.

 

Solution:  Create comprehensive regulations that support those already in compliance with federal regulations.  State the solution that you support. 

 

HB 1234 does the following:

 

Creates regulations to bring unlicensed kennels and shelters up to minimum standards under state laws and provides a framework for enforcement and  a funding structure.

 

Passage of HB 3192 would provide a mechanism for registration and inspections of these facilities in order to prevent neglect, fraud and the loss of tax revenue. Draw a conclusion: → State clearly the outcome you want to see.

 

Please support HB 1234

 

For more information contact:

 

 

Provide contact information for yourself or your organization

 

Sample letter

 

What’s SO Great About This Letter?…. It’s just one page!!

 

January 1, 2008

 

The Honorable John Smith

City Hall

Anytown, USA 12345

 

Dear Representative Smith:

 

I am a constituent in Anytown and I am writing today to urge your support for the Breeder, Advertising and Transfer (BAT) permit.  I am deeply concerned about halting unscrupulous breeders who are often exposed to be very substandard. 

 

Substandard facilities create serious animal welfare issues and taxpayers are paying a steep price for the problems caused by “backyard breeders” and irresponsible pet owners.  

 

The BAT permit also requires those selling animals to collect and remit taxes so that our city does not have to foot the bill for the breeders.

 

I look forward to learning your position on this issue.

 

Please let me know if any additional information about this issue would be helpful.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jane Public

100 Main Street

Anywhere, USA 12345

 

A Word About E-Mail

 

E-mail is received differently by individual legislators. Some prefer e-mail above all other communication; some don’t read e-mail for days or not at all. It’s a good idea to call your legislator’s office first and ask, “Does Senator Smith read e-mail? Would that be a good way for me to send information to him?” If you do send an e-mail, always include your FULL name and your HOME address at the end.  That helps the legislator know that you are a real, live voting person in his district.

* Adapted from advocacy materials by Claudette Selph, Tulsa, OK

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