We are already three weeks into Maryland’s annual 90 day legislative session, and that means you only have 68 days left to contact your state representatives to tell them why you support harm reduction! Not sure how to go about doing that? Read our guide to legislative advocacy below, and consider joining us for our advocacy day March 7 (details at the end!) or other upcoming events. Follow us on Facebook for event announcements.
–Tricia Christensen, BHRC Legislative Advocacy Coordinator
Email me with questions or to register for Harm Reduction Advocacy Day: firstname.lastname@example.org
How Maryland Activists Can Influence Their Legislators
WHY is it important for me to talk to my legislators?
- They want to hear from you! You are their constituent, and they were elected to represent your rights and interests in the state legislature.
- You can change their mind! It can take as little as a couple phone calls and one heartfelt story to convince your legislator to support your cause.
- If it is an issue they don’t know much about, you may be the only person they hear from on that issue. If you establish a relationship with them you can even become a trusted resource.
WHO are my legislators?
- You have one state Senator, and one or more Delegate(s). If you don’t know who they are, you can find out at MDElect.net. Simply enter your current address.
HOW can I contact them?
- In person
- You can call their office to schedule a one-on-one meeting in their office in Annapolis. This is the most effective method. But, January to April is the busiest time of year, so don’t be offended if they cannot meet.
- By phone
- Simply pick up the phone and call your legislator’s office! Make sure to state that you are a constituent, and leave a message with staff.
- Email and social media is the least effective method of reaching your legislator, but it is still better to make your voice heard than not at all! If online is the only way to contact your legislator, try to craft a personal email. Pre-written form letters are often considered to be junk mail.
- AND! Some legislators (especially tech savvy ones) actually care what constituents write to them on Twitter! Find out if yours has one.
- Committee Hearings
- Anyone can submit written testimony in support or against a bill. If you have the time and interest, you can also sign up to testify in person.
- For instructions on how to testify:
- Go to the General Assembly of Maryland committee list
- Click on the committee where your bill will be heard.
- Scroll all the way down to “Further Information” where you will find “Witness Guidelines and Committee FAQs”.
WHAT do I say?
- State your name and neighborhood.
- If there is a bill on your issue, state the bill number and whether you support or oppose
- Explain why this issue matters to you. Include a personal story if you have one.
- ALWAYS REMEMBER: The purpose is to educate, NOT ARGUE.
- If your legislator agrees with your position, make sure to thank them!
- If not, remain kind and courteous. You can say that you hope they’ll change their mind.
- Make sure to leave them your contact information so they can follow up with any additional questions or concerns they might have.
ONE MORE THING!
You can join us for Harm Reduction Advocacy Day where we will do the leg work for you – we’ll arrange transportation from Baltimore City, provide snacks and lunch, and set up meetings and activities with legislators and their staff. All you have to do is REGISTER HERE and attend!