This year’s public policy priorities
- Choice in education among top priorities this session for Catholic conference
- Initiatives to end poverty needed as much as ever
Communicating with legislators
Who represents me at the Minnesota Legislature? Click here to find out.
- Be brief; never write more than one page.
- Make sure your letter is neat and easy to read (type or print).
- Make sure you understand the legislative process (see “How a bill becomes a law,” below).
- Identify the issue at the top of the letter and cover only one issue per letter. If you have more than one issue that needs to be addressed, write separate letters for each issue.
- Remember: You’re the expert; make your letter informative.
- Identify yourself and the reason for your expertise.
- Get right to the point. For example, you may wish to begin your letter like this: “I hope you will support (oppose) HF or SF___.” Give your reasons for supporting or opposing the measure. Tell your legislator why you think the bill, if it becomes law, will help or hurt you, your children, your business or your community. Explain what it means to you.
- Use terms they will understand and avoid using abbreviations.
- Offer to be of assistance. Offer to testify if there is a hearing regarding the issue with which you’re concerned.
- Ask for a reply if you want one. However, keep in mind how many meetings and hearings your legislator must attend. They will call or write to you as soon as they are able.
- Be polite and reasonable. Lawmakers can’t please everyone. They may disagree with you. Try to respect their views. Don’t lose your temper, even on paper. Tell your legislator what you think and why, but be polite.
- And finally, be sure to say, “Thanks.”
- Don’t use form letters or postcards. Use your own words. Legislators say, “I’d rather get one short, simple, handwritten letter than a hundred form letters that organizations urge people to write. The letters come in stacks 300 deep. Even if they’re handwritten, they’re word for word the same.” Also, use personal or business stationery, or a plain sheet of paper.
- Don’t threaten legislators. Legislators say, “Some folks don’t know how you stand on an issue, but they’ll attack you right off the bat. They’ll say, ‘Vote for HF____ or else,’ and you may already think it’s a wonderful idea. Or they’ll write, ‘Why aren’t you supporting this bill, you fool?’ and you’re the sponsor of the bill. Threats and insults don’t work.”
- Don’t address a legislator as “Congressman.”
A few more tips:
- Make an appointment. It’s best to let your legislator know when you’re going to be at the Capitol so he or she can arrange to spend some time with you. Call or write.
- If you’re calling about a specific piece of legislation, find out the House or Senate file number and status before you contact your legislator. For help, call House Index at (651) 296-6646.
Source: Minnesota Legislature website: http://www.leg.state.mn.us
How a bill becomes a law
The idea for a new law is drafted as a bill and introduced by sponsors in both the House and Senate.
The House holds committee hearings on the bill to discuss it and make changes if necessary.
After the committees finish their work, the full House of Representatives votes on the bill.
The Senate also holds committee hearings on its version of the bill. These can go on before, during or after the House hearings.
Just as the House does, the full Senate must vote on the bill.
If the House and Senate pass the same version of a bill, it is sent to the governor for action. If the language of the bills differ, then the differences have to be worked out by a conference committee.
If the House and Senate can’t reach an agreement on the language, they can work out the differences using a conference committee.
If the House and Senate pass the conference committee report, then it goes to the governor where it can be signed into law or vetoed. (A veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote.)
Source: House Public Information Services
Resources to stay informed and get involved
Minnesota Catholic Conference
- Visit http://mncc.org for news and information about a variety of topics and issues of interest to the state’s Catholic community. You can find links to bishops’ statements and other documents as well as background on Catholic social teaching.
- From the home page, you also can join the Minnesota Catholic Advocacy Network (MNCAN), a service of the MCC that provides newsletters, legislative updates and action letters on issues of concern to Catholics. You can friend the MCC on Facebook or follow it on Twitter @MNCatholicConf.
Joint Religious Legislative Coalition
- The JRLC is a Minnesota interfaith public interest group that is authorized and governed by four sponsoring members: the Minnesota Catholic Conference, Minnesota Council of Churches, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, and Islamic Center of Minnesota.
- Visit the JRLC web page at http://www.jrlc.org, scroll over the “Membership” bar and then click on “subscribe to e-news” to sign up for an e-newsletter to keep you informed about JRLC activities and opportunities to learn and act around a variety of social justice issues.
Catholic Charities Office for Social Justice
- This office of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis works with state lawmakers, Catholic parishes, citizens and other nonprofit organizations to advocate for the needs of those living in poverty.
- Visit http://ccspm.org, click on “Advocate/Educate” and then on “Become an advocate” to sign up for email action alerts when lawmakers need to hear from you about issues such as affordable housing, early childhood education and health care.