RISE

Policy & Advocacy

Advocacy Tips & Tools

Creating change through policy and advocacy can’t be done alone. Here are some advocacy tips and tools that you can use to help progress the economic and social empowerment of people impacted by the criminal justice system.

How a Bill Becomes a Law in Nebraska

Nebraska has the only unicameral style government in the United States. This gives us one house (the Senate) to introduce and pass bills. Watch this video produced by Coalition for Strong Nebraska (CSN) to learn how laws are made in Nebraska.

Here is a resourceful chart How Laws Are Made In The Unicameral that can help track what's the bill status in the process.

Tips on How to Lobby

Lobbying is an attempt by individuals, organizations, or special interest groups to influence a public official or decision in government on specific issues. Creating change through policy calls for advocates to contact their elected officials and educate them on the topics they are concerned about.

Here are some tips provided by Coalition for a Strong Nebraska (CSN) on how to contact your elected official when specific legislation is proposed.

Check out their How to Lobby handbook to get more detailed information on the tips below.

Face-to-Face Meetings

  • Setting up the meeting - Contact the senator’s office and speak with the Legislative Aide (LA) about the bill you want to talk about. Then ask the Administrative Aide (AA) to schedule the meeting with the senator.
  • During the meeting - Be prepared with 2-3 talking points. You may only have 15 minutes to meet with the senator. 
  • Meetings During Legislative Session - The legislative session constantly changes. If the senator cannot make the meeting, reschedule or discuss further with the LA. 
  • Timing is Everything - Senators are often focused on bills that they proposed, are in committees they are a part of, or coming to the floor for debate. 
  • Be Prepared to Explain the Impact of the Bill - Explain how this bill will affect you and others in your district. 
  • Educate and Advocate - Share data and personal stories of clients to connect the bill to day-to-day lives. Advocate by clearly urging the senator to support, oppose or amend the bill. 
  • Fact Sheets - If you have a 1-page fact sheet about the issue, it is helpful to share with the senator and their staff. 
  • If You Don’t Know the Answer - It’s okay to tell the senator you can do research and get back to them with the answer. 
  • Ask How You Can Help Them - Before leaving the meeting, ask the senator what you can do to support their work on a particular bill.
  • Thank You Note - Follow up with a thank you note and any information requested.

Calling

  • Determine If You Want to Speak to an AA or LA - If you want to leave a brief message with your legislative position speak with the AA. If you want a more in depth conversation about the bill and the senator’s position, speak with the LA.
  • Identify Yourself - As a concerned member of the public, start your call with your name and the name of the senator’s district you live in. 
  • Refer to the Bill Name and Number - Let them know which bill you are calling about. 
  • Use Your Own Words - You will likely have talking points, but convey why this issue is important to you. 
  • Voicemail Is Your Friend - If you have to, leave a message. Leave your name, district you live in, bill calling about, your position, and how you can be contacted. 
  • Be Brief and Respectful - Remember aides are busy and have feelings, too. Be kind and respectful. 
  • Thank You Note - Thank a staffer for their time. It can help them remember you and keep you in good graces.

Emailing

  • Who Are You? - Let the senator know if you are one of their constituents. They like to hear from the people they represent. 
  • Refer to the Bill Name and Number - Include the bill name and number in the subject line and body of email.
  • Use Your Own Words - You will likely have talking points, but convey why this issue is important to you. 
  • Avoid Sending Form Emails - These can be briefly counted. Personalize the form or send your own email.
  • What Do You Want Done? - Describe the impact of the legislation and how it will harm or improve the lives of individuals across the state. 
  • Show As Much Knowledge As You Can - You don’t have to be an expert. Share what you know and remember senators are learning, too. 
  • Make Your Position Clear - Be specific about what you want the senator to do - support, oppose, amend a specific bill. 
  • Say Thank You - When the senator votes as you asked, send a thank-you note.

Don’t forget to read Coalition for a Strong Nebraska’s How to Lobby handbook for more information!


Tips on Writing Letters to the Editors

A letter to the editor is a letter sent to news publications from their readers about issues that are of concern to the readers. These letters are great advocacy tools because they can reach a wide audience and draw attention to other sides of an issue that an article did not discuss.

Here are tips from ACLU of Nebraska about Writing a Letter to the Editor! Get more details from their handout by clicking on the title.

  • Keep it short and one subject - Typically aim for 200 words. 
  • Make it personal - Don’t worry about being an expert. Share your story or personal experiences. 
  • Send letters to weekly community papers too - Policymakers normally monitor the publications in their district. 
  • Be sure to include your contact information - The newspaper may call to verify your identity before publishing your letter.
  • Make references to the newspaper - If there was a specific article you are writing in response to, refer/mention the article in your letter.

The ACLU of Nebraska has also included contact information for news outlets across Nebraska to send your letter to the editor. Visit the Writing a Letter to the Editor handout for more information.


Find Your Elected Officials

Finding your elected official can be a little confusing. Here are a few search options to find your different elected officials.


Upcoming Events & Articles

As America is dealing with COVID-19, civil unrest and a great political division, we would be remiss to not mention that 2020 is an historical election year. Elections are important especially because the elected officials’ duties will include enacting policies that affect people who are currently and formerly incarcerated.

In Nebraska, people who were arrested, awaiting trial, convicted of or on probation for a misdemeanor can vote!

When a person completes their 2 year waiting period after finishing their sentence requirements, they DO NOT need documentation to prove their legal right to vote! This means just REGISTER and VOTE!


Policy & Advocacy: Contact

Contact Jasmine Harris, Director of Policy & Advocacy

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