Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Preparing for the 2016 General Assembly Session

Next week marks the start of the 2016 General Assembly. It’s going to be a tough year for public education with the always challenging biennial budget process and several pieces of school choice legislation including the charter school constitutional amendment. With a continued focus on education by the General Assembly, it’s important to have a strong, coordinated message that is communicated regularly to your local legislators. 

During session, VSBA needs your assistance and active support to engage the public and your elected officials. The VSBA Lobbying Team are your daily boots on the ground, but legislators want to hear from YOU! Your voice as a constituent and local leader is extremely valuable to them. So how do you communicate effectively, create a strong message and stay on topic? Below are a few how-to tips for you to utilize during the sessions and throughout the year with your advocacy work:
  • Make personal, face-to-face contact with your legislators whenever possible. Remember to call ahead when you will be in town to meet with your legislators. If you can’t travel to Richmond, don’t hesitate to pick-up the phone to have a conversation with them. The personal interactive is key to developing and continuing that strong relationship. 
  • Time is always limited when meeting with your legislators. Be prepared by knowing the issues and having facts to support your position. If you don’t know an answer to one of their questions, be honest and follow-up with the answer after your meeting. 
  • Be sure to know the basic legislative process. Your input about the local impact of legislation can be helpful at any time. However, be sure about when and to whom to lobby. Depending on where the bill is in the legislative process, concentrate your efforts on the appropriate members.
  • Always remember to be courteous to your member and respect their time limitations. 
  • Legislative aides are an important part of the process. Even when you can’t talk directly to a legislator, speaking with their legislative aide is vital. They are most often advising the members on specific bills and preparing them each day for session. 
Over the next few months, VSBA will be calling on you through various action alerts. When we put out an alert, we ask that you follow up with a call or email to your legislator(s) urging their support or opposition to a bill. Also, don’t forget to share VSBA’s legislative priorities and express your opposition to the charter school constitutional amendment. 

You can stay up-to-date on the happenings at the General Assembly through the VSBA Legislative blog, Facebook, or Twitter account. We look forward to seeing you at the 2016 VSBA Capital Conference on February 10 and 11 at the Richmond Marriott.