Know Who You’re Talking To (And Why You’re Relevant)
Before you meet with your elected officials, you should take a little time to learn about their interests so you can frame your message in a way that will help get their full attention. If you’re really ambitious, you can organize your findings in a spreadsheet or database to update and review as needed. This document includes a Legislator Profile worksheet that may be useful in capturing this information.
Whose District or State Am I in?
One of the most common questions asked in legislative offices is “is the advocate from my district?” Representatives and senators represent distinct groups of people and devote their energy to the requests and needs of those individuals. Members of the House represent all the people who reside in a distinct geographic area called a legislative or congressional district. Senators represent an entire state. Hence, every American has one representative and two senators who are responsible for representing their views. In general, stick to contacting your own representative and senators. The Stroke Advocacy Network can help you find out who represents you.
What Is the Legislator Passionate About?
Every legislator works on—and is passionate about—different issues. You can find out what your legislators are most interested in on their websites, which are easy to find here:
What Committee or Committees Is My Legislator on?
Legislators are assigned to committees based on their interests, their districts or states and (for the more competitive major committees) on how long they have served as a legislator (seniority). Legislators usually serve on one to three committees.
A legislator’s ability to influence legislation depends largely on whether she or he is a member of the committee that oversees related issues. Policies that impact stroke survivors may be considered by a variety of committees, including:
- House Energy and Commerce
- House Ways and Means
- Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)
- Senate Finance
- House and Senate Appropriations
Where Is My Legislator on the Seniority Scale?
All legislators are ranked on a scale of seniority, based on when they were elected to that office. Legislators with seniority as well as those who serve as a committee chair, ranking member or a member of the elected leadership will have the greatest ability to move policy proposals through the legislative process.
What Party Does My Legislator Belong to?
Legislators help all constituents, not just those who are members of their political party. However, it is important to know the legislator’s party affiliation to determine whether they are part of the majority or minority party. Members of the majority party do have an advantage in efforts to get legislative proposals passed.
The next section of this document is a worksheet that will help you learn about and understand your legislators in more depth.
Worksheet: Legislator Profile
Name of legislator: ______________________________________________
Email address: _________________________________________________
Federal (Congress) or State legislator2: ☐ Congress ☐ State legislator
Political affiliation: ☐ Democratic ☐ Republican ☐ Independent ☐ Other
Name of staff person handling stroke survivor issues (usually the healthcare aide):______________________________________________
Is this a new legislator (i.e., new to this particular office)? ☐ Yes ☐ No
are three of her/his top policy interests?
(Resources: Visit www.stroke.org/find_legislator to find your legislator’s website. You can also search their name on Google.)
Indicate whether this legislator supported or opposed your issues in the past: (Resources: The legislator’s website or www.votesmart.org.)
Notes about any previous contact you have had with this legislator (e.g., meetings,phone calls, fundraising, etc.):
Did you support thiscandidate? ☐ Yes ☐ No ☐ Did notknow of candidate
If yes, did you actively support him/her (i.e., volunteer on his/her campaign,attend a fundraiser or set up a meeting)? ☐ Yes ☐ No
Do you know this legislator personally? ☐Yes ☐ No ☐ Somewhat
Note any personal connections to this candidate (e.g., "went to school together," "worked together," etc.):
Note any other relevant information about this legislator:
1 Members of Congress work on laws and regulations that apply to all states. State legislators work on laws and regulations that only apply to their state.
2 Members of Congress work on laws and regulations that apply to all states. State legislators work on laws and regulations that only apply to their state.