7 Tips for Success at a Legislative Forum

posted by EMILY HOLLEY on Tuesday, February 14, 2017

It’s the sixth week of the Iowa Legislative session and bills addressing environmental issues have been introduced. Now is the time to communicate directly with your legislators. Even if you have spoken or emailed before, now is the time to make the ask for them to support legislation that is crucial to permanently protect Iowa’s natural resources and continue our state’s progress in renewable energy development. Legislative forums, held across the state each week, are the best opportunity to raise these issues. We have provided you with tips and sample questions that will help you be a successful advocate.

  1. Find out who your legislators are and when they will be holding forums:
    Iowa House Democrats                                   Iowa House Republicans
    Iowa Senate Democrats                                  Iowa Senate Republicans
  2. Arrive there early. As you may have seen from news stories, legislative forums in the Des Moines metro and across the state have seen an increase in attendance. Arriving 15 to 20 minutes before the slated start time will allow you time to find a seat. You may even have the chance to talk with your legislator one-on-one. Bring a card, or something with your contact information.
  3. Follow the rules. Increased attendance at forums and the sheer volume of issues being discussed at the Capitol have resulted in some events issuing rules so that the event goes smoothly and doesn’t go over the allotted time.
    One rule example is that legislators will only answer questions that have been submitted prior to the start of the forum and pre-screened. Arriving early and phrasing your question strategically will be important under these circumstances.
  4. Be confident.  Remember that your legislator was elected to serve and take input from constituents.
  5. Be Iowa nice! If you’re called on, start by thanking your legislator for attending the forum and encouraging discussion on issues that they may or may not support. Introduce yourself, and maybe say how long you’ve lived or worked in the district. Even if you and your legislator don’t see eye-to-eye on water quality or renewable energy tax credits, being polite and respectful will legitimize your question and our issues, and your legislator is much more likely to take the issues and you seriously.
  6. Do your homework. A good question for a legislator marries facts and personal stories or demonstrates how the issue directly affects district residents.
  7. Follow up. Send a quick email to your legislators after the event, thanking them for their time and for answering your question. If they disagreed with you, a polite email gives you another opportunity to raise the issue with them and provide them with more information.
    There may be an opportunity to even follow up with a letter to the editor.

Suggested Questions to Ask Your Legislator:

“Sen./Rep. _____, renewable energy has become a source of pride for Iowa, providing between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs across the state and millions of dollars in investments in our state and communities. Will you support extending renewable energy tax credits this session so that our state can continue to be a leader for the nation in renewable energy?”

“Sen./Rep._____, I am concerned for the safety of my drinking water and for safety of recreational waters that my family and I enjoy; I am not alone. I am tired of going to [Name Your Lake] lake in this area and see beach closure signs.  A recent Des Moines Register poll shows that 56% of Iowans support increasing the sales tax by three-eighths of 1 cent to fund water quality and outdoor recreation projects. Will you support legislation that funds the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust and solutions to our water quality problems that are tied to goals, monitoring and accountability?”

For more information, you can sign up for our legislative news bulletin, an email run-down of environmental bills at the Capitol; or you can visit our website. Now that we have given you tools for success, it’s time to take action! Commit to attending a forum over the next few weeks. 

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About The Author

Emily joined the Council in November of 2016. As the Council's Communications & Outreach Director, Emily works with all departments to craft the Council's messaging strategies and manages the website. She also works to extend the Council's outreach to all Iowans. 

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