Check the US & State Status page frequently to find out whether your state is in session or not or when it is expected to convene or adjourn.
Check for new legislation regularly from the very beginning. Some states allow you to see what is known as a bill draft request so you have an idea of what kind of bills are going to be filed later. Other states prefile their bills ahead of session. Others prefile but don’t show the bills to the public until the sessions convenes. The rest don’t have bills available until their session starts. It is important to stay on top of new bills immediately as some have hearings just a day or two later.
Once you find out about a bill, review the bill status to find out what committee it is sent to and all legislators on that committee. Then, review the committee meeting page for any upcoming meetings (sometimes meetings are on the bill page). Also, monitor for any amendments or substitutes that may get introduced. Follow the bill until the session has adjourned.
MEETING WITH LEGISLATORS
WHEN NOT IN SESSION
Schedule a meeting with your own legislators when the legislature is either in extended recess or adjourned for the year to discuss your views about exotic animals and share facts and research that you have. This is when the legislators have a lot more time to sit down with you instead of being rushed from meeting to meeting.
WHEN IN SESSION
Schedule a brief meeting with your own legislators to share your stance on a specific bill that was introduced. If a bill is seeking sponsors, talk about why they should not sponsor that bill. Only talk about one bill (or set of companion bills) each meeting.
For more, see our online Government 101 Guide Meeting Legislators page.
Send letters to committee members, your legislators and the governor every step of the way. Write do not sponsor letters to your own legislators as soon as a bill is introduced. Submit letters to committee members when a bill is referred to a committee. Write to your legislators again when a bill reaches the Senate or House floor. Send veto requests to the governor for a bill that you oppose or requests to sign a bill you support into law.
In addition to letters, you can call the legislator or governor and leave a brief message about your stance on the bill. Usually you will get an aide that will take a tally of all call received (for, against, and neutral) and forward your message.
For more, see our online Government 101 Guide Contacting Legislators page.
Prepare written testimony for committee meetings. It can be submitted on its own or with oral testimony. Each state has its own rules for written testimony, including how soon before a hearing it must be submitted, how many copies you need if you also testify, and to whom it must be sent.
If at all possible, attend and give oral testimony during the meeting. Have your testimony prepared ahead of time, but be ready to amend it during the meeting in case someone else already discusses it. Either discuss a new part of the bill or expand on what was said.
For more, see our online Government 101 Guide Hearings & Testifying page.
For those with no experience with lobbying, we recommend you first check out our lobbying brochures. They briefly cover the following topics:
Lobbying brochures can be found here.
Next, learn your state’s specific legislative process (how a bill becomes a law). Does it go straight to a committee? Does it have one or two readings first? Some states even do joint committees where a bill will go to a committee, and if approved, goes to both chambers at the same time for approval.
Each state's bill-to-law process can be found on that state's page under State Pages. Select your state and bill to law process link is on left side.
Learn when your state meets and for how long. Some states meet only a couple months and others all year. Some states meet 1 year and others for 2 years. Know when your state convenes and is expected to adjourn.
General information about when states are in session can be found on your state's page under State Pages.
STATE LEGISLATURE CITIZEN LOBBYIST ARTICLES
Many states have a publication that tells you the how to testify at one of their committee hearings and to read their bills and understand their bill information pages. These articles can not only provide you with details on what you need to submit or have to testify and deadlines, but also some policies they have about testifying. Also, be sure to check any visitor guide as it may contain information on what can or cannot be brought in.
Attend or participate in any lobbying courses or activities online or in your area.
DETAILED CITIZEN LOBBYIST GUIDES
There are many citizen lobbyist guides online that teach people how to lobby. For UAPPEAL, we have an animal specific Government 101 Guide, most of which is online.
MANEUVERING STATE LEGISLATURE WEBSITE
It is important to know how to maneuver around your state legislature’s website to look up bills and hearings and find your legislators. Also, be aware that legislatures can change their site every legislative session, which requires figuring out how to find them again.
Each state has a set of legislative deadlines that must be met each year. They include deadlines for when: a state can start and end prefiling bills for the next year, convene date, recess breaks, introducing bills, passing bills in the committee of origin, passing bills in the chamber of origin (crossover deadline), passing bills in the committee of the 2nd chamber, passing the 2nd chamber, transmitting bills to governor, governor signing deadlines, and final adjournment. Some dates are mandatory and others can be extended by a majority of the legislature. Be sure to find your state’s legislative deadlines for the year.
General deadline information can be found on your state's page under State Pages.