by MCF Director of Public Policy Ann Geddes
The goal of legislative advocacy is to inform and to influence a legislator about their vote on a piece of legislation. Legislators actually do listen to what their constituents have to say and you have more power than you may realize. Legislative advocacy is not difficult, but there are a few things you should know before you begin. Your voice matters!
The Maryland Legislature is composed of two legislative bodies – the Senate and the House of Delegates. In order to advocate, you need to know who your legislators are.How do I identify my legislators?
This site will provide you with the names of your Maryland Senator and Delegate(s) and information you need to contact them by phone, mail or email.How do I find out about legislation?
You can easily learn about and track legislation through the internet. Go to the website www.mlis.state.md.us. This page gives you information on how to track a bill by bill number, by one or two subjects, or by sponsor. You can also learn about behavioral health legislation by signing up for policy updates from the Mental Health Association of MarylandHow can I effectively advocate?
You may write or call any legislator in the State, but you will have much more influence with the legislators that represent your district.Writing to your legislator:
- In your letter or e-mail, include your full name, address, email address and phone number so that your legislator can respond
- Make clear what your position is and what you want your legislator to do
- Use your own words. It is best not to use form letters, but if you do, make sure you personalize them.
- If you have personal experience relevant to the bill, tell your legislator how the issue affects your loved one or family – we have found this to be particularly impactful
- Request a reply
You can also advocate via phone. When you call, you will likely speak with the legislator’s staff person, who will relay your message to your legislator. Make clear what your position is and what you want your legislator to do. It helps to write down your main points before you call. If you would like to discuss the bill more fully with your legislator, ask that your call be returned.Visiting in person:
One of the most effective ways to lobby legislators is through face-to-face visits with them. Here are some recommendations for visiting with legislators.
- To meet with your legislator in Annapolis during the session, call the legislator’s Annapolis office in advance to arrange an appointment
- If you cannot meet directly with your legislator, meet with their aide. Legislative aides are important sources of information to legislators
- It is usually best to visit your legislator in small groups with a common goal
- Always be courteous when dealing with your legislator. Do not become argumentative, even if you disagree
- Be clear about your position and what you would like your legislator to do
- Ask your legislator how they plan to vote
- Thank your legislator for their time, both at the meeting and in writing afterwards
This year, nearly 2,500 bills have been introduced in the Maryland legislative session. Many of these relate to mental health, substance use, education, criminal justice and health care. They are now coming up for a vote in the full House and Senate. While you will not be able to meet with your legislators at this late date in session, you still have time to call or write them about bills that are important to you.