The State of the State and Legislator Contact Info

— by Marla Turner, NSDP Secretary

Last week, Governor Sandoval delivered his annual State of the State address. Not surprisingly, it was long on promises and short on funding for the things he promised. You can view the text of his speech. The governor’s budget also asks for tax hikes on the middle class. After his address, State Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis gave the Democratic response View it here or read the text of his speech.

Legislator Contact Information
Last week I shared information on how a bill becomes a law and how to track its progress through the process. This week, I want to make sure you have all the contact information you need.

  • The 2013 Legislator section lists all the members of the legislature and their contact information including websites, Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also get updates on all their tweets by subscribing to TBN’s Twitter feed of Nevada representatives.
  • The Nevada Legislature’s website has a new tool that lets you contact your legislator about a specific bill. Check it out.
  • Another helpful tool is the Guide to Legislative Advocacy published by the League of Women Voters of Las Vegas Valley. I’m proud to say they’ve included The Blue Nevadans’ Dos and Don’t for contacting your legislator in that publication. The guide is a large file so give it a minute to download.

Final Preparations for 77th NV Legislative Session
As legislators prepare for opening day on February 4th, much work is going on behind the scenes. Both the Senate and the Assembly seating assignments have been made. Committee assignments have been announced and meetings are already underway.

But as we approach the day, a visit to the Nevada State Government’s organizational chart puts everything in perspective.You may be surprised to learn that the governor is not at the top.

Legislative Bill Tracking 101

— by Marla Turner, NSDP Secretary

With the new Congress sworn in and the Nevada Legislature set to start on February 4th, it’s a good time to refresh ourselves on how bills become law and how we can track their progress. At both the federal and state levels, the process of getting a bill signed into law is a complex one.

To start, you’ll want to set up your online legislative accounts and take some time to review the bill drafts that have been submitted. Then you can decide on which bills you want to track. When finished, you will receive email notifications about what’s happening to the items you’re interested in. This will help you determine which legislators you want to contact and when.

How a Bill Becomes Law
Federal – Every few years, the U,.S. government prints an updated version of “How Our Laws Are Made.” The 2007 version is a bit formal so you may wish to check out U.S. Government Info’s more concise version instead.

NevadaThe 2011 Legislative Manual describes in great detail how a bill works its way through the legislature.

Bill Drafts
The majority of Nevada’s bill draft requests (BDRs) have already been submitted. Each Assembly representative and Senator may submit a few more BDRs through the 8th day of Session and Standing Committees have until the 15th day of Session.
How to Track Bills
Congress
To follow the status of all Congressional bills and their incarnations, visit the Thomas Library. You can also track bills at GovTrack.US.  You can also track and send comments about various bills using POPvox. To be able to send comments regarding a bill being considered by congress, you’ll either need to register for a log-in or use a social media account to log into POPvox.  It does, however, come in handy to view what other people, groups, corporations are saying about any particular bill.

House of Representatives
Visit the Document Repository to see the bills waiting to be considered on the House floor.  You can also check roll call votes, status of  “discharge petitions,”  bill summaries and their status, bill text, and bills that have been passed into law at the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Senate
Track all Senate legislation, nominations, and votes here.

NV Legislature

  • Check out NELIS to get info on all the bills, committees and budget activity.

Tips for Contacting Your Legislator

There will be times when you want to let your elected officials know how you feel about a certain issue. It’s important to be judicious about this because you want to be as effective as possible. Think about which issues are truly important to you: if you contact your legislator about every issue all the time, you will not be taken seriously.

Here’s a list of helping Dos and Don’ts for contacting your legislator. Thank you to Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel for reviewing the following list and making some helpful suggestions.

DO…..

  • Be respectful and courteous. There are plenty of ways to adequately communicate your feelings on a subject without resorting to personal attacks or profanity.
  • Let them know if you are their constituent. As the session moves along, they will hear from more and more people. Those who are their constituents will get top priority.
  • If you are referring to a specific piece of pending legislation, cite both number and title.
  • Do your homework. Know your subject matter. You do not need to be an expert, just a reasonably informed and concerned citizen.
  • Tell your own personal story about why the issue is important to you. Make it a story they can repeat.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Keep your comments short. No one wants to read a whole page or more of single spaced diatribe.
  • Offer to get more involved (such as testifying at an appropriate hearing).Let them know you will help them.
  • Leave or send written materials that back up your position if possible.
  • Do the ASK. (1): Request their commitment to your philosophy. (2): Ask for a direct response.
  • Give your contact information so they can get back to you.
  • If meeting with them in person, send a written thank-you note for their time.
  • And remember to THANK THEM if they vote or act how you want them to. .

Remember, it is up to you to educate your legislator about why you support or object to certain legislation. Think of yourself as a kind of consultant: you have insights that will help the legislator better understand the ramifications of a bill or issue, so tell them how it will impact you in real, personal terms.

DON’T…..

  • Use a form letter. That defeats the purpose of all of the above.
  • Contact a legislator at odd hours and times – legislators are human and they need their sleep and family time.
  • Corner them at inappropriate times – church, dinner, at a red light, etc.
  • Address them incorrectly. Know their titles and use them accordingly. A U.S. Senator is not Mrs. Smith, but the Honorable Senator Smith.
  • Discuss multiple issues at the same time.
  • Guess or bluff the answer to a question if you don’t know. You will lose all credibility. Tell them honestly that you don’t know – but that you’ll find out and will get back to them. And then do it. Get back to them.
  • Cite references that you haven’t seen, don’t have tangible documentation, or that you have no first-hand knowledge of.
  • Be confrontational or threaten them in any way.
  • Burn your bridges with a legislator. While they may not support you today, you may need them tomorrow.

Happy legislating!

Camping Out at the Legislature


Bob Fulkerson, director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), addresses campers at the Legislative building in Carson City Tuesday, May 17. At right is Gim Hollister, former chair of both the Douglas Democratic Central Committee and the Rural Democratic Caucus in Nevada, who set up his tent and joined several organizations camped on the Legislature grounds Monday and Tuesday nights to advocate for the Democratic tax package.