“What’s the most effective way to influence a legislator,” we asked a member of the General Assembly last summer. His response was quick and emphatic, “A visit is worth 100 letters!”
Another legislator told us, “Twelve or fifteen letters will get my attention, but phone calls are better. And, visits — even better.”
On a busy day in Springfield last spring, a legislator said, “I can’t talk about this issue right now. Make an appointment at my district office, and we’ll talk then.”
So, we took their advice and made district visits with legislators, a total of 22, during the months of summer and fall. We talked about PCG’s Common Good Agenda and our legislative priorities, and legislators told us about their interests and priorities. We discussed the state budget, and learned, not surprisingly, that legislators have a wide range of ideas about solutions for the current revenue crisis in Illinois. Through our conversations, we identified some strong differences of opinion, but we also found some common ground for working together.
We learned a lot about issues and priorities. We also discovered how easy it is to make district visits. Setting up appointments went smoothly, and legislators from both sides of the aisle welcomed us to their offices. The atmosphere of the district offices was calmer. Legislators were generous with their time, and we had stimulating, thoughtful conversations at every visit. They told us about the concerns and challenges in their individual districts and shared their perspectives on state-wide issues. And, they made it clear that calls and visits from the constituents in their districts are of paramount importance.
We urge you to begin having conversations with making your state representative and senator. Get started by:
• Going to www.ilga.gov to identify your elected officials.
• Signing on to the petition (letter) posted on the PCG web site.
• Participating in the January 13th call-in day
• Coming to Springfield on February 16th to help deliver the faith letters and signatures to members of the General Assembly.
The well being of Illinois depends on an open and frank discussion of the hard decisions we must make to address the state fiscal crisis. Commit yourself to communicating with members of the General Assembly once, twice, multiple times over the next five months and make that first call on Wednesday, January 13, 2010!
Remember — it’s not that difficult!