Tips from a former Austin Legislative Staffer

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Tips from a former Austin Legislative Staffer

Postby Charles L. Cotton » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:51 am

The post below offers very good advice about contacting elected officials to promote or oppose bills pending in the legislature. The only thing I would add is to coordinate your contacts with recognized Second Amendment organizations with proven track records in Austin. Timing is everything in politics.

Chas.

formerstaffer wrote:Coming from someone with experience working on legislative staff here is a bit of my mini-guide to dealing with your Representative:

You (the legislative staffer) always answer a letter without a direct answer to the status of something so a constituent can't later call you a liar and get you in trouble with your boss. If you try and be honest, tell them the process, explain what is going on, etc... many constituents will turn whatever you give them around and try to screw you. Sad fact, I got bit a couple times and it put my job at risk so I wrote some very carefully worded form letters, ran them past my boss, and used those whenever someone e-mailed on an issue.

Also, they get 100s of emails a day and most of the time the big boss doesn't read them. Our office read every one and we provided our boss a summary of what was going on and provided a generic response to the constituent. If we knew where the boss stood, we told you. If we didn't, or the boss didn't agree with you, you got a form letter like you got. However, her office could be swamped right now and is just sending out form letters to everything covering their own rear so their boss doesn't get his ear chewed off by some constituent that slips through the carefully laid filter about how he/she never responded. It taking more than a few hours to respond is normally a sign that a good office is swamped and unable to get back to you.

Also, your best bet is to e-mail a staffer and not the representative directly. Establish a relationship with a staffer and get their e-mail, or use the directory at http://www.texastribune.org/directory/ to find a Legislative Assistant/Aide/Director or Chief of Staff.

I answered most e-mails as fast as I could type a response. Legislative staff bust their rear (out of session I averaged 60 hours a week, in session it could be 100+) and get paid very very little to do so (You can look up any state employee's salary at http://www.texastribune.org/library/dat ... -salaries/). As terrible as this sounds, forgive them if providing you an up to date position on a bill isn't their priority when they are monitoring legislation, lobbyist and constituents trying to slip pass their desk to bother their boss, organizing the calendar for the office, talking to state agencies to try and help people with serious problems, and barely have time to take a bite of the lunch that has been on their desk since noon and it's nearly 6 at night.... Give them time, or give them a call, and you will get a much more thorough answer.

Friendliness is key. Political staff are vain, and wield a lot of power, so show them that you know they are important and you will get rewarded. Want insider information? Call up and be lucky enough to get an intern on the phone and sweet talk them. Unless you know the boss personally (and I mean more than meeting them at a townhall) don't expect to talk to them. Staff does all the grunt work (which constituent work is), the boss busts his or her rear on everything else. High maintenance, or rude, constituents always went on the bottom of my stack. I dreaded having to call someone I knew was going to yell at me and be unreasonable.

Also, use http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/ to find who your representative is. There were several reps in my boss's district and I hated having to deal with someone who we didn't even represent (unless they were nice, in which case I would still go out of my way to help them). Staffers can work miracles. I got a guy from getting the answer "you have to re-take the CHL class (and the 10 hour, not the 5 hour refresher), reapply, and we won't refund your original fee" to "Your license is in the mail" in a few days without every speaking to my boss about it.

Your letter was well worded, but if you can't call always personalize an e-mail. If I thought they sent me a form letter, or I got more than one of the same letter, they got a form response.

That said, Concealed Carry on Campus will pass. It's free and provides conservatives with browny points with their constituents. Look for it to have 130 co-sponsors and pending it getting killed by some new Democratic technique or a point of order by some clown it passing this session. Same with anything else that doesn't cost money and conservatives like (hence all the illegal immigration legislation). However, since it was pre-filed it means it will be more closely scrutinized and some liberal gun hater has a better chance to find a point of order on it.

Also, don't bother asking me who I worked for or on what side of the aisle. I'm sworn to secrecy and I'd screw myself if anyone ever found out I gave insider information.
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