Steps to be Successfully Involved in the Legislative Process

(Information provided by the California State Senate.)

Get Involved

Laws passed by the Legislature have a direct impact on your life. If you are concerned about issues, let your legislator know. You have knowledge that can help your legislator.

The Process

Get to know your legislator. Get to know your legislator’s staff. If you have a relationship with your legislator, your letter or visit will have more impact than if you are a stranger.

Do Your Homework

If you are proposing legislation, know what your problem is and how you might resolve it. Meet with others who share your common goal and establish a unified position.

Know Your Opposition

Sometimes it is better to compromise than to lose your bill.

Write to Your Legislator

Address your letter properly. Elected representatives are addressed as “The Honorable” followed by their name. Write about one subject only. Be brief and to the point. Use your own words. Explain what the impact will be and why your legislator should vote as you ask. Write legibly, be courteous, and remember, timing is critical.

Visit Your Legislator

Learn as much as you can about your legislator, especially which committees he/she serves on. Be prepared. Be on time for your appointment and stay within your allotted time. Avoid arguments. If you can’t answer a question, say so. Let your legislator know that you will get the information and get back to him/her. Always be honest. Ask your legislator for his/her support. Leave a written position paper and ask for advice on how to proceed.

Gather Support

Your legislator has one vote. Encourage other members of your group throughout the State to contact their legislators. Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper. Get on a local radio or TV talk show or hold a workshop.

Committee Hearing

You can attend hearings and testify on a bill. Ask your legislator which policy committee your bill has been assigned to. Send a letter in support of your bill to the committee. All committee hearings are open to the public. To find out when your bill is scheduled to be heard, check with your legislator.

You can participate in the hearing by testifying on behalf of your bill. If you plan to testify, be sure to notify the author. You should also:

  • have a flexible schedule,
  • prepare your remarks in advance,
  • be brief, specific and to the point,
  • be prepared to answer questions, and
  • be polite.

After a bill passes the appropriate committee(s), it goes to the full House. Floor sessions are open to the public; however debate is limited to legislators.

Once a bill has passed both houses, it goes to the governor for signature. Let the governor know your position.

Access to Information

If you are interested in obtaining copies of bill spending or passed by the Legislature, analyses of bills, a bill’s status in the legislative process, legislative deadlines for current two-year legislative sessions, a record of votes in a committee or on the floor, veto messages for bills vetoed by the governor, a legislator’s biography, or information on items included in the state budget, you can contact your legislator’s district office, or visit www.sen.ca.gov.

Download “The Legislative Process: A Citizen’s Guide to Participation”