With temperatures still in the 90’s, it’s hard to believe that in just a few short months, it will be winter and the start of another 40-day session of the Georgia Legislature, which begins on January 13, 2020.
One of SVdP’s goals for 2020 is our Legislative Advocacy Initiative. With the help of SVdP supporters across the state, we want to reach out and get to know as many members of the Georgia Senate and House as possible and make them more aware of the work we do both statewide and in our individual conferences.
An average session of the state legislature sees more than 2,000 bills introduced, but only about 300 signed into law. Many of them address issues that are important to the work we do. Many more could be, but they never gain the traction needed to pass. Legislators want citizen input to help them decide which bills to support and the best time to contact them is before the busy session begins.
That makes the fall the ideal time to start an advocacy program in your conference. With summer behind them, legislators turn their attention to the new session and most are eager to hear from the public. Meeting with your elected senator or representative is easier in the fall when there is more time to discuss topics and suggest possible legislation. “If you want to be part of the process, your elected officials need to hear from you,” says State Rep. Doreen Carter, who is also the CFO of SVdP Georgia. “They want to know what issues are important to their constituents and they need time to do research and possibly draft legislation.”
Rep. Carter offered these suggestions:
- Call your elected officials and set up a meeting to discuss the issues that are important to you and SVdP. Click HERE to find out who your representatives are.
- Introduce them to SVdP. Many of them may not know exactly what we do.
- Find areas of mutual concern.Let them know about some of the problems our caseworkers are experiencing in the community related to poverty.
- Relate a few real-life stories of neighbors in need that you have heard and ways that you or SVdP were able to help.
- Keep in mind that your goal is to establish a permanent working relationship with your legislator and assist them in identifying and solving the problems our clients deal with on a daily basis.
Rep. Carter added that SVdP has a powerful tool you can use when you are explaining the challenges faced by many of our neighbors. “I recommend the Advocacy Toolkit that is available on our web site to help guide you through the process.”
This initiative is already working. St. Vincent de Paul at St. Benedict Conference in Johns Creek set up a meeting with their new State House Representative, Angelika Kausche. “We had a productive meeting, sharing information about poverty in the district and citing actual cases involving our clients,” said Rob Ortner, President of the St. Benedict Conference. “Rep. Kausche was very receptive and even agreed to accompany one of our caseworkers on a home visit to see the needs in our community first hand. I think we made an impact.”
This is a great start and we invite you to be part of the Fall Challenge. It begins with a call to your legislator and an introduction, followed by an in-person meeting and sharing of information. It could be the start of a very meaningful partnership between SVdP and our lawmakers and yield future legislation that will benefit the clients we serve. Be sure to tell us about your experience by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.