Legislators who won’t listen to you?

by | March 16th, 2017

 

Together Oklahoma is non-partisan. That means we want ALL legislators to hear from their own constituents right away! We bring Oklahomans together to talk about how a budget is a moral document and how we want our state budget to reflect our values. That means we need you! We have less than 11 weeks to convince our state legislators to pass a better budget instead of another round of steep cuts to public schools, health departments, state parks, and more. 

While some of you are fortunate to have legislators who host regular town halls and constituent meetings, even a few who have legislators who send surveys to find out your opinions on bills, several of you have told me that you can’t seem to get a response OR you get a response but your legislators always disagree with you.

If you are in that situation, it is important to know why and what you can do about it.  The best thing for you to do is pretty clear cut and easy to understand:  Focus on your fellow constituents right away!  

Why do you need to engage with your district teams? How should you engage with your fellow constituents?  I’ll cover that and more below.

Engaging with your fellow constituents is essential because your legislators don’t answer to only you.  There are lots of advocacy tasks you can do on your own, but if you don’t engage with your fellow constituents at all, you are unwisely keeping yourself ignorant about information you need to know.

  • Know who your two state legislators are, you can find them here.
  • Know you have TWO district teams, one for State Senate and one for State House of Representatives, and they are not going to be exactly the same group of constituents because the district boundaries aren’t the same.  
  • Once you fill out the Together Oklahoma membership form, I will email you a list of TOK members in your district.  I don’t give out member contact information but you can access your district team in Slack. There is a channel in Slack for each of your Oklahoma State Legislative Districts. More about what Slack is and how we use it HERE.
  • I highly suggest you use those district member lists and Slack channels to do all of these things:
    1. Share the work of all of these tasks so no one is overwhelmed with too many citizen responsibilities!
    2. Track who is talking to your legislator and what they are learning from those communications using a spreadsheet or whatever means works for y’all.
    3. Share what you know about your legislator and their positions on upcoming bills. 
    4. Make note of which bills your legislator has sponsored. Your district team can request that list from TOK staff on Slack or via email at research@togetherok.org
    5. Keep track of how your legislator votes on bills that matter to you. They are people and just like the rest of us, their actions speak louder than words.
    6. Work together to power map your legislator, and find more about how to do that HERE.
    7. Plan to carpool together to the Capitol OR set up a constituent meeting with your legislator at home in your district.  Remember, face-to-face communications are most impactful!
    8. Bring your fellow constituents into your district teams.  Citizen power is stronger in larger numbers!
    9. Resist the temptation to make these partisan district teams.  There is plenty of Democrat and Republican organization happening elsewhere.  Together Oklahoma is a place to put those distinctions aside and find the points where we can all come together. 
    10. Connect with your local chapter of Together Oklahoma or consider starting one if you aren’t near Tulsa, Norman, or OKC.  HERE are the guidelines for starting a TOK chapter.
  • There is so much more you and your district team can do but that is plenty to get you going!

If you still aren’t convinced that you should connect with your district team, here is more about why I think you should:

  • You and your fellow district members are going to have different communication styles and personal traits.  Some legislators will listen better to you and some will only hear people who aren’t like you.  Legislators are just human beings and we are all biased to some extent.
  • Doing all ten of the things I suggested above takes time and none of us has all the time in the world.  Split up the work and keep a constant stream of communication flowing to and from your legislator. You and your district team can strategically engage with your legislator over time in a way that is much more meaningful and persuasive than some one day assault with a rally or a single person going up to the Capitol.
  • Other members of your district have some of the same concerns you do and some have concerns that are different.  You will be better able to persuade our leaders and our society to do things that are good if you know what’s going on with the other people around you.
  • Finally, we are in a time of absurdly harsh partisanship that ignores the reality that we are all in this life together! We all want good schools for our children, access to great jobs, clean, safe, and healthy communities and more.  There is so much more that unites us than what divides us and frankly, I think our elected leaders need YOU to set an example of how to work together for the common good, don’t you?

Let’s do this!  Let’s do it now!  If you aren’t connected to your district team through Together Oklahoma all you need to do is fill out this membership form and we’ll get you connected. You’ll receive an email invitation to Slack and a list of people who are working with the same legislators who represent you.  You can follow these guidelines to use Slack to your optimal advantage. How much or how little you collaborate with your teams is up to you but you can’t escape the fact that you are in two state legislative districts with other Oklahomans.  I hope you will get to know them and that they will get to know you!

Are you planning to join us at the Capitol on March 22nd for the Let’s Fix This Day at the Capito from 9am-4pm? We need your legislators to see you there so please join us or at least make sure someone from your district team will be there to represent you and your fellow constituents.  Time is running out and we need all hands on deck!