No Senate vote on health care before the August work period: what does this mean for you? It means there will be some perfect opportunities to share your views on this and other critical legislative initiatives (financial services, for example) while members of Congress and their staff are at home during the August district work period. Here are three quick and easy things you can do in the next few weeks to enhance your advocacy efforts by leaps and bounds.
1. Attend a townhall meeting: If history is any guide, your legislators will be holding what are called "townhall meetings" left and right during August. These are two to three hour sessions hosted in the community where the legislator provides information on what is happening (or not happening) in DC and constituents have an opportunity to comment and ask questions. Call your legislator's office (you can find contact information at www.congress.org or call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121) and ask them when they will be holding these meetings. And then go!
2. Ask your legislator or a staff person to visit your facility, group or project: Pictures often speak louder than words, so consider whether you can actually show a legislator something in the district that demonstrates why you feel so strongly about the policy issues you're advocating on. If you can't get the legislator, get a staff person -- they actually handle most of the day to day work and it's essential to build a positive relationship with them. For tips on setting up site visits, visit my FAQs page at http://ping.fm/f7HkJ
3. Do your homework: August is almost always a good time to "catch up" on paperwork, projects, etc. Why not use a few minutes of that catch up time to learn about your legislators? Go to www.congress.gov, for example, to look up the bills they've introduced. Once you know some of the policy issues they care about, you'll have a much better shot at drafting a message they might find compelling.
Don't get caught up in the "Dog Days of Summer" (unless there are actual puppies involved). Instead, take some time to connect with legislators while they're home. You'll be ready to hit the ground running in September after taking a few steps today to prepare.