HOW TO: Meeting with your legislators



Relationship-building through face-to-face meetings is essential to the ongoing process of educating and emotionally engaging our state legislators. By relating in person, talking about the spiritual bases of our advocacy, talking about the issues, and telling powerful stories, we invite them to become champions for our issues

A truly powerful meeting with a legislator is built on much more than factual information and straightforward requests. It involves speaking, listening, and asking questions in ways that invite us and the member of Congress to be vulnerable, to be moved, and to engage their own spiritual sensibilities.

Here are some tips and resources to plan and practice for meetings. If you need information or support, contact the coordinator for UU Voices –, 360-339-4240.


  1. Call in advance. If possible, call at least a month or more in advance to schedule your meeting.
  2. Be prepared with information. Make a list of what you want to say to the aide. Having notes in front of you during the call will definitely boost your confidence. You will be asked for the date(s) you had in mind, what you would like to speak about, and approximately how many people will be attending, so be prepared with that information.
  3. Get connected. Call the Legislative Hotline to get the district office phone number for your legislators – 800-562-6000 to connect with your legislators’ offices.
    1. Call again to confirm. Reconfirm the meeting a week in advance.

    2. Meet regularly with your legislators. Meeting once or twice per year can really pay off in the attention legislators give to your calls on specific bills during the session.


    Before the meeting:

    • Do your homework. The better prepared you are the more likely you will be to be effective.
      • Research their voting records and find out what bills they sponsor and what committees they are on.
      • Decide which issues you will discuss and be clear about the ways that your UU values have informed the positions you are advocating for. This one action is the key to standing out in the legislator’s mind and is more likely to persuade her than logical arguments.
    • Be clear about the purpose of meeting. The purpose of your meetings should be to powerfully engage your legislators on issues and inspire them to action. You are there to move them closer to becoming champions for our issues and to provide legislators who already share our positions with powerful moral arguments. This is a process that requires passion, persistence, and good organization on your part. You want your meeting to be a meeting that your legislator does not forget.
    • Be prepared: create an agenda that is limited in scope and includes stories and other illustrations. Keep in mind that the story or video you include should only be several minutes long, so choose wisely. Also, know the other side of the coin. There may be very articulate arguments against your request. Be prepared and do your homework on any opposition. Have talking points prepared to defend your position.
    • Practice for the meeting. After you create an agenda, each person with a speaking part should create a brief two- or three-minute laser talk and practice it with another person. Be brief, clear, and to the point – and don’t be afraid to show your passion.
    • Choose a manager for the meeting. The manager will keep the group on task, keep track of time, and make sure all the requests are covered.
    • Choose one person to be the secretary. The secretary’s role is to take notes and write down any commitments your member of Congress makes. Record the member’s reactions and objections, especially highlighting when he or she is particularly attentive or enthusiastic. Following the meeting, the secretary can coordinate thank you notes as well as follow-up plans.
    • Share inspiration within your group. Prior to the meeting, allow time for group members to spend a few minutes speaking about why they each care about the issues, and the outcomes they hope to achieve. This will help you set your head and hearts to the task you’re about to undertake.

    At the Meeting:

    • Connect with your legislators and their aides. Think of some questions beforehand that you would like to ask. The purpose is to have them inspire themselves by speaking about something they have done, experienced, or believed in passionately. You might do this by asking why they got into public service or by pointing out something you have learned about their past and asking them to share about it. Briefly share your own vision and concerns.
    • Acknowledge your legislator. It is rare that our representatives and senators hear the words “thank you” from their constituents. Always thank them for the supportive actions they have taken or just be sure to thank them for taking the time to meet with you. And taking time to thank a good legislative aide, especially in front of the aide’s boss, is always appreciated.
    • Be concise in stating why you are there. Summarize your concern about the issues in five minutes or less. Use your moving story or short video to provide a more personal angle on the issue.
    • As necessary, summarize opponents’ arguments on the issue. Never attack. If you don’t know the answer or how to respond, tell the aide or congressperson you will get further information.
    • Use the stories, personal accounts, or videos you have prepared to present the big and small picture. One of the most powerful ways we can advocate for our issues is to have someone speak who has been directly affected by these issues and can tell their experiences. If you do not have someone with personal experience, share the story of a friend or simply tell them why you care about this issue.
    • Make specific, clear requests, and ask for an answer. Often, the main reason constituents have unsatisfactory encounters with their elected officials is that their requests are not clear and specific enough. Your legislators need to know what you want them to do (e.g., what bill you want them to sponsor, etc.). Make your request in the form or a yes or no answer; this will elicit some kind of response, which is what you want. In addition to the specific requests you bring, do not be afraid to ask your representative or senators what else they think they could do on your issue, whether they say yes or no to your original request.
    • Know your next steps. At the meeting, ensure that the next steps for follow-up are clear, regarding what your group will do next, what the legislator/aide will do next, and which aide you should contact for follow-up. If your legislator has agreed to take action on your initial request, be prepared to ask him or her to take a more profound action. For example, if your member has agreed to sign on to a piece of legislation, ask if he or she would be willing to talk to other members within a committee or state delegation to encourage their support. Or perhaps your legislator would consider writing an op-ed for the newspaper on the issue. Explore the options.
    • Leave behind concise materials. Put brief summaries of background information and requests in a folder and leave them with the aide. See that the folder and each page of information are clearly labeled with your contact information and mention UU Voices and include a brochure.

    After the Meeting:

    Send prompt thank you notes. Go over the issues you discussed and confirm the requests you made.

    • Follow up on requests. The most brilliant meeting is futile without timely and persistent correspondence with the aide to make sure actions are taken and requests are followed through.
    • Be a resource on our issues. Legislators and their aides will appreciate your trustworthy efforts to become involved and will look to you for information about the issues you discuss with them. Keep in regular contact with them by sharing updated information, stories, and opportunities for action. Your consistent meetings and correspondences are crucial to motivating and equipping them to be champions for the end of poverty.


    Sample Agenda for a Meeting

    1. Introductions. A specific partner should facilitate this opening section.

    Key steps within the Introductions:

    • Allow each participant to say who they are and what they do in the community.
    • Ask the legislator and aides to introduce themselves with a specific question, such as, “What was your vision in coming to the Capitol?”
    • Overview the issues you would like to discuss.
    • A typed agenda and requests for the meeting is ideal.

    2. Acknowledgements. Acknowledge your member of Congress for any previous actions that support our values that you have identified in your research. Ideally one person should be assigned this task.

    3Presentation of our issues and requests. This is a great chance to involve everyone. Each person should have a prepared section of the presentation and one or two people should be assigned to field legislators’ questions and arguments.

    If it’s appropriate, make specific requests and ask for their answer right then. If they are unwilling to make a commitment, set a date to follow up. Also, carefully record any questions, objections, promises, or concernsParticularly at a first meeting you may want to engage in an sharing your values and positions around a set of issues, rather than advocating for specific legislation.

    4. Plan for follow-up. During the meeting, set a specific timeline for follow-up with the staff. Be sure to have someone record your plan for follow-up.

    Adapted from the website for RESULTS with permission. 

UU Voices for Justice Has Some Wins in 2014 Legislative Session

Let’s Keep Our Voices Resounding in Olympia
This session you and UU Voices for Justice have shared UU values with state lawmakers and acted for justice with some success. Always a win. Though there are many excellent liberal advocacy groups with whom we collaborate, none brings the message of Unitarian Universalism to the forefront and few are able to lobby consistently through through the years that it takes to make an unpopular issue one whose time has come.

To become a part of this growing chorus become a member.

Green = win; Red = loss; Yellow = partial victory

Economic Justice

  • OPPOSED SSB 6524 and HB 1303, renewing for 20 years the high tech tax preferences. The Senate bill was defeated on the floor and the house bill did not make it out of committee.

  • Raising minimum wage to $12 over 3 years (HB 2672).

  • Transparency and accountability for corporate tax breaks (EHB 2201) passed the House and came very close to passing the Senate. Got good press.

  • Narrowing tax breaks for extracted fuel, increase in revenue to education (HB 2465)  

Immigration Justice

  • Dream Act was the first bill to make it through both chambers and the first bill the Governor signed.

  • TRUST Act never got a hearing in committee. It is a win on one level, however. Along with our legislative priorities, our annual meeting determined that we should work directly, wherever possible, with groups most affected by the legislation. As a part of the strategy coalition for the bill we have worked sided-by-side with migrant community groups to lobby. We are planning to build for next year. One strategy is to gain the support of local law enforcement while organizing at the county level for a detainer policy in those counties. Please call Voices if your congregation would like to work in your county.


  • The Oil Transportation Safety Act (E2SHB 2347) passed the House and failed to make it out of Senate Rules.
  • The Carbon Tax initiative was withdrawn from consideration this year by its sponsor.

Criminal Justice

  • Death Penalty. No legislative action but Gov. Inslee announced a moratorium on executions. It’s a step forward and very heartening, so it gets colored green.

  • Background checks for all gun sales, Initiative 594. Both 594 and 591 received hearings in both chambers and huge publicity. Ultimately, the legislators took no action and it’s up to the voters in the fall. We still have a lot of work to do to support it. Consider asking your congregation to endorse it.

  • Domestic violence gun ban (EHB 1840) is on the Governor’s desk.

We’re in the finals now. One email covers the surviving bills.

 house in sessionWe are nearing the end of the first part of the 2014 legislative session. There are several bills that Voices has a position on that will likely survive to a vote in at least one Chamber, in addition to the Dream Act which has already passed both chambers. Here is a sample email which combines all of our bills whether they are currently in the House or Senate. This email emphasizes our values as Unitarian Universalists which is what makes what we say unique. You may wish to marshal more detailed information on some of these bills.

Dear Sen. or Rep {your legislator’s name}

As your constituent I would like to urge your vote for the following bills.

  • SHB 2201, accountability and transparency in state tax preferences
  • HB 2672, raising the minimum wage over 3 years to $12
  • SHB 2347, Oil Transportation Safety Act
  • ESHB, 1840, making certain temporary restraining orders a bar to gun purchases

I urge you to oppose the following bills:

  • SB 6430, to extend for 20 years the high tech R&D tax incentives
  • SB 6267, to extend the high tech tax incentives for one year

As a Unitarian Universalist I recognize the preciousness of the web of all life of which we are but a part and the importance of doing all we can to support that which supports life. Thus, I urge your support for SHB 2347, currently in the House. I’m very thankful to its sponsor,  Rep. Farrell. SHB 2347 adds some much needed safety measures to the transport of oil.

ESHB 1840, which has passed the House and is now in the Senate, protects individual lives by requiring the surrender of weapons during the length of certain restraining orders for domestic violence and a bar to gun sales. As we know the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence and the children involved is that time after the law becomes involved but before disposition of the case.  Washington is one of a handful of states that don’t provide protection at this time. This law would remedy that. I’m thankful to Rep. Goodman for sponsoring this.

In addressing the need for a raise in the Federal minimum wage, the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Rev. Peter Morales, and the Rev. Bill Schulz, president and CEO of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), issued a joint statement. They pronounced the inequity in compensation for low wage workers and the resulting poverty for people who work very hard every day as a moral outrage. We are called as Unitarian Universalists to honor the dignity of every human being. A fair living wage is foundational to living with dignity. I urge you to support a vote on HB 2672 this session and applaud Rep. Farrell’s championing of this bill so necessary to the state’s economic recovery, as well as human dignity.

This state’s regressive tax system which is the worst in the nation militates against human dignity by loading our tax system in favor of corporations. There are several bills before the legislature now that either make the situation worse or make incremental improvements.

Perhaps most important for support is Rep. Carlyle’s  SHB 2201 which makes accounting for the corporate tax preferences we have enacted in the past more transparent. This helps legislators make more informed choices about future tax preferences. The fact that our state offers a higher level of corporate tax breaks than most states is very troublesome. Two bills before the Senate now would continue high tech R&D tax preferences that have not proven themselves. I urge you to oppose SB 6430 and SB 6267.



Get email addresses from the Hotline 800-562-6000: or online at

Spreading the Word on Facebook

Social_RedOur success in lobbying the legislature requires you and your UU friends. Facebook can motivate quick phone calls that can change votes, if enough of us do it.

To be most effective, we need to be strategic in the way we interact with Voices’ Facebook page. For those who are Facebook pros, here’s a quick reminder.

1. Like the page.

2. Visit it often and like posts.

3. Share interesting and important posts to your own timeline and to your congregation’s page or other pages and groups.

Doing these three things will almost guarantee that you see Voices in your newsfeed and are able to know instantly when you need to make a 2 minute phone call to your legislators.

If you have been to Voices and aren’t seeing us in your newsfeed, you need to make sure that you “like” the page. It’s just under the banner. Make sure you have clicked “like” under some individual posts and clicked on “share” a few times.

That will spread the word and give us the kind of participation that we need to influence the laws our state enacts.

Take action NOW to address massive deportations! Monday 2/10 rally and email campaign

Rally Monday in Olympia with Familias Unidas Per Justicia or email campaign to end holds in our jails for non-criminal migrants.
While a thousand UUs are gathering in North Caroline to speak truth to power, we have our own moment here.
Your letters, phone calls and emails were a success in getting a meeting with the Speaker of the House on HB  1874, the TRUST Act.

2014 MLK Lobby Day ParadeHe made a promise in that meeting to bring the issue forward with the caucus on Monday. Join UU Voices for Justice, Familias Unidas Per Justicia and many other groups for a rally of support at 10:30 on the Capitol grounds, north corner of the Legislative Building. Look for the Voices banner and join us. Bring your own banner and join us.

HB1874 Addresses federal immigration policy enforcement and  does the following:

  • Prohibits law enforcement officers from detaining an individual on the basis of an immigration detainer unless he or she was previously convicted of a most serious offense or violent offense.
  • Prohibits state or local law enforcement officers from arresting or detaining an individual based on an administrative immigration warrant.
  • Prohibits law enforcement officers from making an individual available for interview by a United States immigration enforcement agent, unless the individual has signed a written consent indicating knowledge of who the interviewer is and the possible legal consequences of providing information to such an agent

Please send an email to REP. LUIS MOSCOSO, the sponsor of the bill, thanking him for his leadership and ask why this bill hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing yet. Please cc: SPEAKER FRANK CHOPP, MAJORITY LEADER PAT SULLIVAN, AND PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE CHAIR ROGER GOODMAN.

Rep. Luis Moscoso –
Speaker Frank Chopp –
Majority Leader Pat Sullivan –
Rep. Roger Goodman –

Here’s the invitation from FAMILIAS UNIDAS POR LA JUSTICIA!
Monday February 10, 2014
On the Capitol grounds in Olympia WA
Meet at the North corner of the Legislative Building
On Cherry Lane SW at 10:30AM

Come and listen to grassroots leaders, including farm workers from Familias Unidas por la Justicia that are mobilizing for HB1874, members of families that have had loved ones deported, some after what we think are contrived traffic violations, the perfect intersection of racial profiling and anti-immigrant Homeland Security agents.


Please send an email to REP. LUIS MOSCOSO, the sponsor of the bill, thanking him for his leadership and ask why this bill hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing yet. Please cc: SPEAKER FRANK CHOPP, MAJORITY LEADER PAT SULLIVAN, AND PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE CHAIR ROGER GOODMAN.

Rep. Luis Moscoso –

Speaker Frank Chopp –

Majority Leader Pat Sullivan –

Rep. Roger Goodman –

HB1874 Addresses federal immigration policy enforcement and  does the following:
*Prohibits law enforcement officers from detaining an individual on the basis of an immigration detainer unless he or she was previously convicted of a most serious offense or violent offense.
*Prohibits state or local law enforcement officers from arresting or detaining an individual based on an administrative immigration warrant.
*Prohibits law enforcement officers from making an individual available for interview by a United States immigration enforcement agent, unless the individual has signed a written consent indicating knowledge of who the interviewer is and the possible legal consequences of providing information to such an agent.

Homeland Security’s program that instead of providing security has raised the level of fear for farm workers in rural WA State. Immigrant farm worker families are asking that this bill be heard in committee and allowed to move on to vote this session. There is no immigration reform in sight in WA D.C. and we must do something in WA State –
stop the gridlock in Olympia!

e-mail for more info and for carpooling from Whatcom and Skagit Counties



ACTION ALERT: Urge your Reps to support the TRUST Act

Call now or Write

Now that the Dream Act has passed the House, it’s time to call or email your legislators about the TRUST Act, a very important priority you selected in November. [The legislative page for the bill is here.]

Prime sponsor is Rep Luis Moscoso. Other sponsors are: Representatives JinkinsAppletonRobertsReykdalHuntRyuPolletFarrell. It’s important to thank them and let them know how important the bill is to you.

Sample Phone Call: Give the aide your name, say you live in the rep’s district and urge your representative to support HB 1874, the TRUST Act. The TRUST Act will provide essential safeguards to address serious concerns raised by the Federal Secure Community program’s detrimental effects on public safety, community policing, and civil liberties.

Say something like: I support it because as a Unitarian Universalist I have covenanted to work for justice, equity and compassion and our immigration policies do not represent those values. Important points:

  • Current collaboration with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement through honoring their detainer hold requests to local jails destroys the community trust needed to prevent and solve crimes;
  • Local governments (and taxpayers) have to pay for additional days in jail that usually extend far beyond the 48 hours of the detainer request. A recent UW study indicated that on average those with ICE detainers stayed in jail 29 days longer than others, principally because judges are reluctant release people on bail who had ICE detainers.
  •  Their is no review prior to issuing these detainer requests giving rise to people being detained who are citizens or in the country legally.
  • Few of those who have detainers placed are actually dangerous criminals. According to a report prepared by Syracuse University, only 8.6% of the individuals detained by ICE as a result of S-Comm and related programs had been convicted of serious offenses and only 23% had any kind of criminal record.

Find out who your legislators are, then call or write.

Or use these handy shortcuts:

Contact your legislators directly by phone or by e-mail.

Phone the Legislative Hotline, 1-800-562-6000, and operators will connect you to your Senator’s or Representative’s office.

E-mail your Representatives or your Senator by using this format:


The TRUST Act must pass the Public Safety Committee. If you see your Rep’s name below, it is key that you call very soon so we don’t run out of time in this short session. In addition, your calls/emails are especially needed if you’re in the 43rd District, Seattle. Rep. Frank Chopp (D) is the Speaker. (360) 786-7920. He will make key decisions about all legislation.

Goodman, Roger (D) Chair (360) 786-7878
Roberts, Mary Helen (D) Vice Chair (360) 786-7950
Klippert, Brad (R) * (360) 786-7882
Hayes, Dave (R) ** (360) 786-7914
Appleton, Sherry (D) (360) 786-7934
Holy, Jeff (R) (360) 786-7962
Hope, Mike (R) (360) 786-7892
Moscoso, Luis (D) (360) 786-7900
Pettigrew, Eric (D) (360) 786-7838
Ross, Charles (R) (360) 786-7856
Takko, Dean (D)                                                                  (360) 786-7806

The House Could Pass the Dream Act This Afternoon

According to Publicola’s Morning Fizz “the Democratic house, in a loud political statement for opening day, plans to pass the DREAM Act again this afternoon.” The Dream Act is one of our issues.  It is one of our issues. The session will be only a few hours old when we have our first victory! It will still have to pass the Senate.

In our broad category of Immigration Justice we have the TRUST Act. It will take the active lobbying of all of us to get it passed. Voices is working directly with the prime sponsor on strategy. Look for specific information for contacting your reps and senators in the next two days.

Carbon Washington delays ballot initiative

The Carbon Tax was one of our Legislative Priorities.

From their blog:

By  on December 20, 2013

Hello carbon tax friends: Our vision in this campaign is to find common ground that can bring the left and the right together on a revenue-neutral carbon tax that would improve the environment and the economy in Washington State. We are still firmly committed to that vision, but it has become clear to us that we will not be able to put this on the ballot in November 2014, so we have decided to step back from that target and re-evaluate.

In the weeks ahead we will provide more information and more details on next steps, but for now we want to let you know and to thank you for all of your support. We wish we had better news to share, but we will be back, and we hope you’ll still be there with us.

Comments and questions are welcome below as part of this (moderated) blog post.

The CarbonWA Steering Committee

We’ll keep you posted.

The Work of Christmas

When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
Solstice sun in snow
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with       their flock
The work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the brothers [and sisters],
to make music in the heart.
Howard Thurman

Thank you for joining us in the work of Christmas in 2013.