HOW TO REACH OUT House Retirement YOUR LEGISLATORS Committee Members LRTA encourages our members to reach out to their respective representatives and senators and form a good working relationship with them. Why? Legislators represent you. However, legislators often represent many constituents (upwards of thousands). If you want legislators to hear what you have to say, you need to take the first step of forming a relationship with them.
Making the first move...
First, gather your legislator’s contact information and decide how you will reach out to them. The best way to find the legislators that represent your district is to go to the Louisiana Legislature’s website: https://legis.la.gov/legis/FindMyLegislators.aspx Once you input your information, you can click on your representative’s or senator’s webpage, which contains their contact information. You should find their mailing address, email address, and phone and fax numbers. Now, it’s time decide how you will contact them. Keep in mind, during legislative sessions, it is harder to speak to legislators directly. Don’t be discouraged if you can only reach their staff.
Steps for calling your legislators: 1.When the staffer picks up the phone, politely say hello and introduce yourself as a constituent. 2. Briefly explain that you are calling regards to a specific issue or bill and ask if you can speak to someone regarding the issue. 3. If the staff member or legislator is unavailable, ask to leave them a message. See the tips below for leaving a voice message. 4. If you are able to speak to the staff member or legislator, reintroduce yourself as a constituent and state the issue or bill you are calling them about. 5. Clearly state what position you would like for them take (support, oppose, etc.) and provide background information as to why. The legislators may be unfamiliar with the issue and will need to understand why they should take the position you are asking of them. It’s not enough to just ask them to take a certain stance or position. 6. Be prepared with articles and research if you need to rebut their argument or back up your position. Offer to send them the research you are citing. 7. As the conversation closes, thank the legislator or staff member for their time and consideration.
If you have to leave a message, reintroduce yourself as a constituent. State the issue or bill you would like to speak with the legislator about. Make sure to include what position you would like for them to take. Ask them to return your call and leave a good phone number for them to call you back at.
Tips! • To avoid confusion, only address one bill or issue in the phone call. • Remain calm and polite on the phone. You may be firm when discussing the bill or issue, but do not become confrontational. • If the legislator or staff member asks a question that you do not know the answer to, it is ok to say “I’m not entirely sure, but I will find out more information and get back to you.” • Send a follow-up email or letter to thank the legislator for speaking with you and reiterate the position you hope they will take on the bill or issue you spoke with them about.
Note: LRTA is not encouraging face-to-face meetings at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following material is for educational purposes only.
How can you meet with a legislator in person? • You may schedule an appointment with their staff to meet with the legislator. These appointments can be difficult to come by. • You may see legislators in more casual settings such as at social or political events. • LRTA Districts and local Units often invite legislators to their meetings. While you may not have the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation, it is still a great idea to introduce yourself and say hello to your legislators.
Steps for speaking with your legislators: 1. Introduce yourself as one of their constituents. If you have a personal connection to the legislator, this would be a good time to mention the connection. 2. Ask them if they have time to discuss a bill or issue that’s important to you. You will need to gauge the situation at this point. If the legislator seems busy or is unable to talk, offer to follow up with them later or set up a meeting with them. If they offer a business card or phone number, keep it in a safe place. 3. If the legislator is able to speak with you or have a casual conversation with you, talk about why the bill or issue is important to you. Explain why you want them to take a certain stance or action on the bill, and offer to send them formal research and articles (if necessary). 4. The conversation can brief (and may need to be). As you near the end of the conversation, thank the legislator for taking the time to listen and talk with you. Leave contact information for them to follow up with you.
Letters and emails
While not as personal, letters and emails are a great way to reach out to legislators. See our tips for how to write letters and emails to legislators on our website, www.lrta.net.
Remember! Not every interaction with a legislator will feel or be successful. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be discouraged if you cannot personally speak with a legislator or if a legislator seems uninterested. Your efforts are noticed. Making the first move is not always easy, but the risk can be worth reward. Taking the steps to interact with your legislators will still make a large impact and show there is power in our numbers! Effective communication is a two-way street. When we want legislators to take action, we need to let them know. When they take the desired action, make sure to take some time to thank them (via email, letter, phone, etc.)!
What to say if... Before you speak with your legislators, make sure you familiarize and educate yourself on the bill or issue. Just like some legislators are not aware of the issues, some legislators will be on the opposite side of the issues. Below are some tips on how you might respond to questions your legislator could ask.
Why is changing from a Defined Benefit plan to a Hybrid plan bad?
First, hybrid retirement plans do not offer benefits greater than or equal to our current Defined Benefit plan. This is due to the lower accrual rate of the DB portion of hybrid plans and the volatility of the DC portion. To date, no retirement system has successfully implemented a hybrid plan. Hybrid plans would also financially harm the retirement system. The retirement system would receive less funds because employer and employee contributions are split between the DB and DC portions of the plan. This means less money to pay off the debt and other expenses. Changing from a DB plan to Hybrid plan undermines the financial stability of the system.
The debt is so high. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why we need to change.
The debt is scheduled to be paid off by 2027 (as required by a constitutional amendment passed in 1987). The state is obligated to pay off the debt by this date, no matter what. Switching to a hybrid plan does not eliminate or even address the existing debt. In fact, research shows states that switched to hybrid retirement plans before paying down the debt actually increased the debt. There is no research that shows hybrid plans provide better retirement benefits than our current defined plans and reduce existing retirement debt.
How could a constitutional convention affect teacher retirement?
Currently, the Louisiana Constitution guarantees lifetime retirement benefits to TRSL retirees. The state constitution has included this guarantee since 1973. If a constitutional convention occurs, this guarantee could be on the negotiating table. The convention would have the potential to remove this guarantee. Removing this guarantee would affect retired teachers receiving benefits and the future retirement benefits of current teachers. A constitutional convention could also remove budgetary protections from other areas of the constitution like the funding for education. Inadequate or inconsistent funding would affect the school systems’ ability to pay the employer’s cost to TRSL. Removing the constitutional guarantee or budgetary protections already established in the current constitution are two major consequences that could occur from a constitutional convention.
DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT OUR OTHER RESOURCES! How to Write Letters to Your Legislators: https://issuu.com/lrta/docs/ howto_letters How to Write Emails to Your Legislators: https://issuu.com/lrta/docs/ howto_emails Talking Points: Articles and Research: www.lrta.net/articles