Last week I participated in CSEC Lobby day at the Georgia Capitol. It was an incredible day filled with networking, advocacy, and excitement as we played a small part in promoting legislation that fights human trafficking.
One of the bills we are promoting is House Bill 141. This bill mandates the posting of the Polaris Project National Human Trafficking Hotline in a variety of places around our state. The hotline poster will be placed in bus stations, train stations, unlicensed massage parlors, truck stops, rest areas, and other businesses known to be hot spots for human trafficking.
Our team at Not for Sale Georgia has worked on getting this hotline out around the state in a grassroots, volunteer run effort, so this piece of legislation is very important to us. In fact, I testified today on behalf of our volunteers and organization to the House Judiciary committee, encouraging them to push this legislation forward.
We anticipate that HB 141 will pass through committee soon, which will mean it will be up for a vote by the House of Representatives. It’s important that our reps know that we care about ending human trafficking. But the idea of talking to your elected officials can be daunting for some. So I thought I’d write a brief summary on how you can start the process to reach out to your elected officials for any bill (but if you want to practice on HB 141, I won’t be disappointed) I’ll use it as an example for the steps below.
1. Register: If you aren’t registered to vote, make sure you do that first.
2. Who are they?: Use Project Vote Smart (www.votesmart.org) and enter your address to find out who your state elected officials are.
3. Research: Look up the legislation you’re interested in to make sure you know what the bill’s status is. It’s a bit pointless to advocate for a bill that has already passed through the chamber! Use www.legis.ga.gov to look up bills. Here is the link for HB 141. As you can see, it’s last status was second reader at the House. It’s now in committee.
4. Reach out: Send your elected officials an email, telling them that you are concerned about human trafficking in Georgia and that you’d like them to support HB 141. If a bill has an ‘HB’ it means it came out of the House. If it has an ‘SB’ that means it originated in the Senate. Make sure you know the difference. I’d start by reaching out to House Reps if you are promoting a House Bill, as it needs to pass through the House before your senators will vote on it. Make sure you tell them that you are a constituent. You can ask to have a meeting with them, or you can simply ask them to call you. You can also make a trip to the capitol and either drop by your elected officials’ offices, or page them while they are in session. I’ll share about that at another time.
5. Follow Up: After that phone call or meeting, make sure you write a brief thank you email or note. Tell them that if they have any additional questions that they can always call you or email you. And follow up again later on, just to check in. Remember, your elected officials work for you. It’s completely acceptable and beneficial for you to follow up with them and communicate with them regularly.
I’ve heard several elected officials say that a personal email or phone call from a constituent will get their attention. If multiple people reach out, they’ll pay close attention to the issues that their constituents care about. Your representative and senator want to hear from you. It takes a few minutes and is very beneficial in the long run.
Have you ever lobbied your elected officials? How did it go? What would you add to my steps?