Below are links to our 2005 Key Contact Questionnaire and a list of Arkansas Legislators. If you have a close relationship (or you’re willing to renew a former acquaintance) with a current or new member of the U.S. or Arkansas House or Senate, and you are willing to help as needed from January 2005 through March or April when the Session ends, please complete all of the questionnaire and return it to ATLA Headquarters.
For our key-contact program to work effectively, two elements are essential to our program:
1) your relationship with the legislator must be genuinely close and you have his/her “ear”; and,
2) you must be willing to be available to the ATLA office at all times by authorizing your secretary or paralegal to interrupt you for a call or provide us with a phone number where we can reach you at any time day or night.
Our key-contact system is purposely not overused in order to maximize its effectiveness. Many times, the key-contacts for a specific Legislative Committee are the only members we will call. As a result, you may hear from us several times during the Session or not at all.
Your participation is so important to our Legislative program. You are our “key” to “educating” legislators on the issues affecting the civil and criminal justice systems. Please help if you can.
Key Contact Questionnaire (in PDF format)
Legislative Primer & Key Contact Guide
For more infomation contact Matthew Hass at firstname.lastname@example.org
The members of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association are facing an ever increasing flow of Legislation both State and Federal, and unprecedented governmental participation in personal and professional life.
Our association, in order to keep abreast of change and to protect our members and the clients they represent, must aggressively monitor the activities of the General Assembly and periodically call upon our members to help with our program. This booklet is designed to give you the information you need to assist our organization in its legislative effort.
Lobbying is merely the organized, formal and legitimate effort to influence what government does. It is one of the basic and honorable means by which people and groups of people can come to their government and make their needs and philosophies known. While the means may vary, the ends sought by lobbying are identical and equally legitimate as accepted political activities. Legislators rely heavily upon lobbyist to obtain accurate information about the hundreds of issues brought before them during the course of one Session. Those lobbying members of the Legislature must be honest and straightforward revealing all sides of the issues. Once a confidence is broken or a misrepresentation is made, that lobbyist will never regain the legislator’s trust.
|THE LAWYER’S ROLE
The Arkansas general Assembly meets for sixty days every two years and in Special Session when called by the Governor.
In advance of the legislative session, local trial lawyers should invite their law makers to lunch or dinner in order to have an opportunity to discuss issues which may arise during the forthcoming session. Such dialogue, if properly developed, will be beneficial to both the Association and to the legislator.
ATLA’s key-contact system is extremely effective as a grassroots lobbying network. A telephone call from the right person at the right time will very often pick up a crucial vote. ATLA members are strongly encouraged to keep the headquarters notified and updated with key-contact information.
CONTACTING YOUR LEGISLATOR
ATLA believes that contact with legislators either in person or by telephone is the most effective way of communicating the concerns and positions of ATLA. It is extremely important to respond immediately to the key-contact request as soon as ATLA headquarters notifies you or your office.
ATLA members serving as Key-Contacts will be given all the information needed to convey ATLA's position to the legislator (Bill number, issues involved, ATLA's position, etc.)
Contact by mail or fax is the next most effective method of communicating with your legislator. It serves as an excellent follow-up to the personal or telephone contact (key-contact system volunteers must always use the telephone or personal visit since time is of the essence.) Most representatives and senators are concerned with the opinions of their constituents and intelligently constructed letters often serve as the basis of a "yes" of "no" vote.
The following is a guide to writing effective letters to senators and representatives:
I. Your senator should be addressed as follows
Senator John Doe
Arkansas State Capitol
Little Rock, AR 72201
Dear Senator Doe: (or John if you know him well)
Your representatives should be addressed as follows:
Representative Mary Doe
Arkansas State Capitol
Little Rock, AR 72201
Dear Representative Doe: (or Mary as the case may be)
II. Write on your personal or professional letterhead and sign your name over your typed signature.
III. Be sure that your return address is on the letter - not just the envelope.
IV. Identify your subject clearly. State the name of the legislation about which you are writing. Give the House and/or Senate bill number, if you know it.
V. State your reason(s) for writing. Your own personal experience is your best supporting argument. Explain how the issue affects the citizens of Arkansas...not just your practice.
VI. Avoid stereotyped phrases giving the appearance of a form letter.
VII. Don't ask the impossible. Do NOT threaten! Don't say "I'll never vote for you again unless you do such and such." This will harm the cause more than help it.
VIII. Ask the legislator to state his or her position in the reply. As a constituent you are entitled to know.
IX. The timing of your letter is important. If possible, begin to encourage approval or disapproval of an issue before it is even introduced. Sometimes legislators may reserve judgment - and their vote - until the sentiment of their constituency has crystallized.
X. Thank the legislator if you are pleased with the vote. Everyone appreciates a complimentary letter and remembers it. If the legislator votes contrary to your position, don't hesitate to let him or her know - in an acceptable manner. They will remember that, too.
DO BE FAIR. Remember your legislators represent all their constituents... those you consider liberal and those you consider conservative. Don't condemn legislators just because they support a piece of legislation which you think is too liberal or too conservative.
DO BE UNDERSTANDING. Put yourself in a legislator's place. Try to understand their problems, their outlook, and their aims. By doing so, you are more likely to help them understand your profession and problems.
DO BE REASONABLE. Recognize that there are legitimate differences of opinion. Never indulge in threats or recriminations.
DO BE FRIENDLY. Don't contact your legislators only when you want their vote. Invite them to your meetings. . .perhaps as a speaker. Take pains to keep in touch with them throughout the year. Set up a regular luncheon meeting with several of your colleagues 3 or 4 times a year and discuss current issues with your legislator.
DO BE THOUGHTFUL. Commend the right things which your legislators do. That's the way you would want to be treated.
DO BE COOPERATIVE. If your legislators make a reasonable request, try to comply with it. You can help them by giving the information they need. Don't back away for fear you are "getting into politics".
DO BE REALISTIC. Don't expect that everything will go your way and don't be too critical when it doesn't.
DO BE ACCURATE AND FACTUAL. The mere fact that you are in favor or against a piece of legislation isn't enough.
Legislators work extremely hard. Don't ever forget to say thanks. When your legislator responds to you let him or her know you appreciate it.
The legislative experience of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association is that the members of the General assembly are hard-working, honest men and women. In order to maintain the relationship we have, all Arkansas lawyers must address themselves to the legislative problems confronting the citizens of this state. If you have any questions, contact ATLA at (501) 376-2852
Your part in the legislative process is essential and allows your point of view to be heard. Legislation is enacted or defeated at home, not in the Halls of the STATE CAPITOL! Please sign up and be available to help when the call comes!