Email Advocacy Tools

We’re winding up the fifth season of the year, mud season, the period after the snow melts, and before the ground dries out a little, in spite of April showers. In our neck of the woods, this also means legislature season, when the part-time Vermont legislature goes at it hammer and tongs for the first five or so months of the year. They are supposed to be finished in a couple of weeks, but the session often slides till the end of May and even into June.

I’ve been paying more attention this year, because somewhere buried in the budget bill H0347, (that means the bill orginated in the House of Representatives) between Section 218 and Section 224, is an appropriation for the Vermont Software Developer’s Alliance. This group, which has been running on volunteer power for almost three years, now wants to hire an executive director, and we have crafted a message about workforce development and job creation which seems quite compelling. More on the vtSDA some other time, maybe.

But tracking the progress of our budget line item on the Vermont Legislature web site has proved challenging. The first problem are the search screens. If you know the bill number, you are in good shape, but if not, you can attempt a keyword search.The application, apparently written using Macromedia ColdFusion, (based on the .cfm extension of the web pages), seems snappy, but rudimentary. But it is a good start.

Virtually all senators and representatives use eMail. You can also call the Sargeant-At-Arms at the statehouse, I gather this is sort of a concierge, and they will write down a phone message on a pink slip of paper which will then be delivered by a fifth grader (yes…a the state version of a congressional page) to the legislator on the floor. You can even eMail the S of A, and they will print out the eMail and send it along with the pink slip for delivery. And you send copies to multiple legislators. For some reason, this quaint process reminds me of the X-ray wallah in India. If you have a bone fracture, you can get an X-ray from a guy with a portable X-ray machine on the street in Mumbai. You get your film, and then you go to the doctor to get your broken bone seen to.

So then, you track down the eMail addresses and phone numbers of those representatives to whom you wish to contact directly. Many, maybe most, won’t respond to eMail or return phone calls unless you are a constituant from their district. But, if they did…

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group uses an application from Capital Advantage which allows them to set up “action alerts”, with talking points, which then will walk you through the process of creating an eMail for your legislators. You can, of course also put in your own text.

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