By Kate Brennan
Maine’s legislative session starts in January and usually ends in April or May. This is the time when our elected officials decide what bills should and shouldn’t pass. Input from the people they represent–including you–is one of the most important factors they consider. That’s why engaging your state legislators from home, and coming to Augusta when you can, is so important. When we all build power together, we’re able to have an impact on the policy decisions that change lives.
Some of the big issues legislators will consider in the upcoming session include housing, General Assistance, and support for families with low incomes (TANF). Maine Equal Justice leadership teams and staff have been meeting with key legislators about these priorities. We need help from residents to make sure policies favorable to people with low incomes get passed and funded. In this article we will focus on how to contact legislators. There are other ways to make your voice heard–a full set of ideas is on our website at www.maineequaljustice.org/get-involved/take-action/.
Your legislators are the people who are elected to represent your geographic area (district) in government. Each district in Maine has two state legislators. Your state legislators are usually approachable and easy to get in touch with. You can find who your legislators are here.
Make sure to provide your name, address, phone number, or email address when you reach out, so your legislator can get back to you. You’ll want to tell them why you are interested in a particular issue or bill, and explain why it’s important to you and to your community. Share brief examples from personal experience, and mention a specific piece of legislation if you’re supporting or opposing one. Legislators receive a lot of information, so being clear and concise is important.
The legislator’s job is to represent you, so they need to listen – and they will. Lawmakers are generally grateful for your input. Include a clear ask in your communication, for example: “Can I count on you to vote yes on this bill?” or “Can my neighbors and I meet with you next Monday at 2:00?” Be courteous and respectful, but don’t be intimidated. Remember, they work for you! End the conversation on as positive a note as you can, even if you and the legislator disagree. Building a relationship for the long term could be important to your efforts in the future.
- In Person In-District: You can request a meeting with your legislator in your district. Many legislators also host town halls, which are open forums to hear from their constituents. Be sure to get on your legislator’s mail or email list so you can be notified when these meetings occur.
- In Person at the State House: When the legislature is in session, it’s often possible to find and speak to legislators in the halls of the State House. You can pre-schedule a meeting at the State House with your legislator, or you can show up at the State House unannounced, and locate your legislator. But remember that if your legislator is not expecting you, they might have limited time to talk.
- Phone: You can call your legislator at their home or on their mobile phone. They are public officials and share their contact information as part of their role. You can also call your legislator at the State House anytime. During the legislative session, this can be an effective way to get an important message to your legislator. If they are not available, leave a voicemail. To find a representative’s number: 1-800-423-2900; senator’s number: 1-800-423-6900.
- Email: To find the email addresses for your legislators: http://www.maine.gov/legis/
- Postal Mail: Mail your letter to your legislator’s State House address when the Legislature is in session. They will be sure to receive it in a timely fashion. Letters should be addressed as follows:
Legislature-Clerk of the House
Maine State House, Augusta, ME 04330
- Social Media: Social media is a great tool to use to contact your legislator and express your positions on an issue that matters. You can tweet your legislator, tag them in a post, or post directly on their Facebook page.
- Letter to the Editor: Writing a letter to a newspaper is a great way to build support for issues that are important to you – politicians and state leaders do read the letters section of their local paper to find out what community members are feeling.