Guest Comment: Communication key to influencing lawmakers
Each January, 125 representatives and 40 senators return to Topeka to address the needs of Kansans and establish a budget for the next year. The 165 individuals plus five state-wide elected officials are sent to Topeka because they won the vote in November. But as a citizen of Kansas your work isn't done there. You need to make sure your elected officials follow through on promises made and keep the priorities established during their run for political office.
It's important that we elected officials know how you feel about various issues affecting our state. As issues are discussed, you will want to stay informed and let your representatives know where you stand on the issues. To assist you, I have compiled seven helpful suggestions to help you stay connected.
Get to know your representative and senator
If you befriend them before you need their help, your relationship could come in handy when you are faced with a difficult legislative matter. While legislators will do their best to help everyone, like anyone, turning down a friend is a harder thing to do.
Write. Call. E-mail. Fax. The only way to be heard is to communicate.You can write your legislator at: Senator/representative name, State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th Avenue, Topeka, KS 66612-1504. You can also call the Capitol operator at (785) 296-0111 during session to get specific information about your representative or you can go online at www.KsLegislature.org to find out just about anything you ever needed to know about the Kansas House or Senate.
Understand the issues
The more you know and understand about your issue the better chance you will have to make a strong impact on your legislator. Legislators deal with numerous issues during a typical session so any information you can give them on the specifics of a bill is appreciated.
Meet with lawmakers when they are back in the district
When legislators are in Topeka, their schedules are extremely busy between committee meetings and session. By setting up a time to discuss your issue back in the district, you will have a better chance of having their full attention, plus you will be in familiar and comfortable surroundings. Most lawmakers "return home" each weekend and many hold public forum meetings.
This is a good time to visit with them.
Be honest and accurate
When supplying information to your representative ensure that it is correct and relevant and that you stay focused on the issue at hand. If you don't, you run the risk of not being believable and then you will have defeated your entire purpose.
Seal the deal
Once you have provided your input on an issue try to get your legislator to commit to voting for your position. If they will not commit, stay in contact with them until they get the information necessary to make a decision.
Respect your legislator
Even if you are unable to persuade them on your issue, understand that they represent a vast number of people who all have varying opinions on the issues. The job of a legislator is to strike a balance between everyone and do what he/she feels is the best for their district. Remember, our system of government is built on compromise so nobody can win 100 percent of the time. Be patient with the system.
I hope you take time to get to know your legislators and express views on the issues that are important to you. They represent you so do not hesitate to call, write or contact them.
If I can ever assist you, please feel free to call my office at (785) 296-3171 or visit me online at www.KansasStateTreasurer.com.