From January to March every year, members of the state legislature review, debate, veto, and pass hundreds of bills alongside lobbyists, advocates, and community leaders.
Legislative Session is one the most popular times for South Dakotans to connect with and lobby their lawmakers. But it shouldn’t be the only time.
Trying to raise issues and build meaningful relationships with our lawmakers during session can be challenging. This is the busiest time of year for legislators, so their time is limited.
That’s why we’re encouraging you to connect with legislators year-round. Here’s how to get started.
First, find out who represents you in the South Dakota House and Senate by visiting sdlegislature.gov. The South Dakota Legislature’s website contains resources to identify your lawmakers and gather their contact information. Once you have your lawmaker’s information, save it to your phone or on a notepad for future reference.
When contacting your lawmakers, whether by phone or email, keep in mind that your message should contain a few basic elements such as why you’re contacting them and how they may be able to address the issue you have to present. Concise, polite, and straightforward messages, are important.
Be sure to mention any personal experience you have with the issue or impact it has had on you, such as your education, training, or career. Next, explain how the issue you’re raising has broader impacts on your community. The more people you can connect to this issue, the better your lawmaker will understand it’s impact. Keep in mind that you are the expert on issues facing you and your community. Don’t be afraid to take the time to educate your lawmakers. They don’t know what they don’t know.
Meet with your legislators
Our state legislature is made up of citizen lawmakers, that means our legislative body is comprised of real people who live and work in your community. So, chances are you may be connected to them by a close friend or family member. Use your connections, if you have them, to your advantage when setting up a meeting.
When contacting legislators about your particular issue or idea, be sure to note in your email or at the end of your phone call that you would be willing to meet in person or via Zoom to chat further.
If you do set up a meeting, make sure to prepare. Note what you’d like to talk about, how they can help, and what you are hoping to see change or be improved upon. Make sure that you have a clear goal ahead of this meeting and outline how you’d like the conversation to flow. Keeping organized and well-prepared will show that you mean business.
Follow-up and maintain your connection
A successful meeting ends with a list of next steps for both you and the lawmaker. After your meeting, make sure to send a follow-up card, email, or phone call thanking them for their time — and remind them of the tasks you agreed upon. Keeping persistent and polite communications will ensure you accomplish what you set out to do.
Keep it going
Beyond meeting and connecting with elected officials, there are numerous ways you can advocate for issues facing your community, such as:
- Supporting a nonprofit or issue driven group
- Write letters to the editor
- Share your ideas on social media
- Follow your lawmakers on Twitter and other social media platforms, if they have one
- Attend rallies or town halls
- Educate yourself on the legislative process
- Follow our bill tracker
- Get your friends involved by hosting letter writing parties
- Share this page with your friends on social media