How To Effect Legislation Report

Conservation & Reform: Making A Legislative Difference

New laws are being formed each year! With fishing rising in popularity, and anglers traveling to various areas to enjoy the sport of fishing more and more, we need to be concerned with conservation and regulations in every state.

The American Catfishing Association is a member organization with a priority mission for conservation and regulation reform throughout the nation, and with the intention to represent catfish anglers and their families within government when we can, and within the extent of the law. But each and every angler has the responsibility and the right to share their views, as an individual. For the most part, we have found that elected officials know nothing of the fishing world and welcome the input into the legislative process.

This guide was written in an easy to understand way so anglers across the nation can get a better understanding of the process to effectively cause positive change to current regulations.


The basic premise of government in the United States was stated simply by Abraham Lincoln in The Gettysburg Address: “a government of the people, by the people, for the people...”Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by the governmental process, not knowing where to turn to solve a problem or how to influence a policy decision.

This guide explains how to effectively participate in the legislative, or law-making, process. The legislative process is most effective when people share their views with their elected representatives. By lobbying, average citizens can influence an elected official’s or committee’s position on an issue.

Influencing the legislative process begins with informed citizens. Keep up on the issues and know who the elected officials are who make the decisions at each level of government — whether it is the City Council, the County Board of Supervisors, the State Legislature or Congress.

You can influence your elected officials by communicating your views. However, the most effective way to communicate your objectives is to assemble a group of like-minded catfish anglers and experts within your state.  Appoint a lead person or chairperson to your group. Make sure as a group you prevent individuals from attempting to go it alone.  Ensure moving forward you remain highly professional.  The ACA prohibits any member from threating or defamatory remarks or underhanded efforts and as an association will use every means possible allowed by law to abstain and/or prosecute such defamation.

Once you have assembled your group.  Write a letter or make a phone call to your legislator’s office. Many legislators hold regular public forums where you can ask questions and express your views. You may also make an appointment to talk to a legislator or a staff member.

By actively participating, you can become part of the process. You can influence the decisions that establish policy and create policy and law.

Get To Know Your Legislators

It is important to become familiar with your elected officials. This is easier than you might think. Although state and national representatives split their time between their home districts and either at your state capital or Washington, D.C., legislators and their staff are readily available. Elected officials typically have offices in both communities.

Many legislators hold public meetings to get to know the people they represent – their constituents – and to learn about their concerns. By understanding the issues in a community, a legislator can more adequately represent constituents.

The easiest way to meet your legislator is to attend public meetings or to make an appointment to see your representative.

Form Letters

Correspond With Your Elected Officials

Contact from citizens can greatly influence a legislator’s position on issues. Hearing concerns from the community helps to inform legislators on issues of importance to their constituents. It also helps them to establish useful resources on particular issues affecting their citizens, and it allows them to effectively represent their constituents.

Legislators are contacted not only by their constituents, but by citizens throughout their district, state or nation. Most legislators respond promptly. However, due to the large volume of letters and phone calls they may receive, they often respond only to residents of the communities they represent. Listed within these pages are some helpful guidelines to use when writing your letter.

Do's & Dont's

Sample Form Letters

* More examples of sample form letters can be found on our Form Letters page.

Additional Form Letters

View and download several examples of more form letters, along with tips on writing them.

Mistakes Made When Corresponding With Elected Officials

Addressing an elected official with an incorrect title, for example, confusing a State Senator with a United States Senator. Letters are either returned to you or lost in the mail in these cases.
  • Forgetting to include your address and phone number. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for a legislator to answer your letter.
  • Writing lengthy letters which do not clearly state your concerns or position on a piece of legislation.
  • Not writing legibly. The office needs to be able to read your name, address and your concern.

How To Lobby

It is important to know the steps in the legislative process to understand how an idea or issue becomes a bill, and how a bill becomes law. After reviewing the legislative process, a strategy must be plotted to increase the chances of the bill’s passage or defeat.

Most states are a bicameral (two house) legislature. The Assembly members (most common 2 year terms) who serve limited to extended terms, and the Senate members (most common 4 to 6 year terms) who serve who serve limited to extended terms.

Know your subject matter.  Have factual information on hand. In the case of catfish conservation and regulations, remember that not only scientific information and reporting will be necessary, but the enhanced economic impact the sport of catfishing can bring to the nation, a state or region.  Find positive information from other states or regions to show the positive results of proper conservation and regulations. In short, DO NOT approach this important legislation without having the facts!

The bill process begins with an idea which often comes from an individual or group who brings the issue to a legislator and asks the legislator to author a bill. The individual or group becomes the bill’s sponsor.

The proposed legislation goes to a Legislative Counsel. They draft the actual bill text. After the author reviews the bill, along with the sponsor, it is then introduced, given a number, and read the first time in the house of origin.

In both houses, the bills are assigned to policy committees by the Rules Committee. If the bill has any fiscal impact, it must also go to a fiscal committee after it is heard in the policy committee.

A bill goes through the house of origin first, and then repeats the process in the second house. If both houses cannot concur, it goes to Conference Committee.

Once the bill has been introduced, the next step is to figure out who on the committee is sympathetic to your viewpoint and which members need to be persuaded. To evaluate the members’ views, look at their interests, voting records and constituencies, as well as their media coverage.

Never assume you know how legislators will vote on an issue. Always check with each legislator to make sure all questions have been answered. More time should be spent with the members who are undecided or who are inclined to vote against you.

When lobbying, remember that legislators are most responsive to their own constituents. Whenever possible ask supporters to contact their own representatives. This is most important when a bill is before a legislative committee.

On most issues, the legislators have done their homework on a bill before the committee hearing and have decided their position. At the hearing itself, the only additional votes to be gained are those by members that are undecided. This means that you should follow up your written position on a bill with a phone call or personal visit to those undecided legislators a day or two before the hearing, either in the national or state capital or in their district office.

The most persuasive argument you can use is to tell a legislator how a bill will affect his or her district.

  • Be aware of the member’s interests and district concerns.
  • Present issues in a clear and concise manner.
  • Be available to answer questions and provide testimony when needed.
  • Offer to help the member with passage of a bill important to him or her.
  • Provide the necessary follow-up after each stage of the legislative process.

Lobbying In Person

  • Talking to a legislator in person can be extremely helpful in getting the vote you want on a bill. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Find out which legislators are on the committee that will be hearing the bill. (Ask your representative for a list of who sits on each committee.
  • Set up appointments with committee members to discuss the bill; because of time constraints on legislation, it is often easier for a constituent to get in than for a non-constituent.
  • Be honest with the scheduling person about how much time you need.
  • If a member is unavailable, ask to speak to his or her key aide.
  • Have printed material FACTS available.
  • At the meeting, be prepared to quickly present highlights of the bill. Be prepared to list other supporters and discuss the issues which concern the opposition.
  • If the legislator does not agree with your position, be gracious about the difference in views and ask if there are any amendments which would make the bill acceptable. Suggested amendments must be taken back to the author and other supporters of the bill. After a decision is made on the amendment, make sure you get back to the member who suggested the amendment. If the member does not have suggestions for amendments, thank him or her for taking the time to listen to your views.

Testifying On A Bill

  • Contact the author of the bill and indicate that you would like to testify.
  • Coordinate your testimony with others who are testifying on the bill so statements before the committee will be brief and not redundant.
  • Be prepared to answer questions on the bill from members, especially on those issues which are of concern to the opposition.
  • Finally, be sure to thank the committee chairperson and the committee members for the opportunity to express your views.

Tools of Effective Citizen Advocacy

Find out about issues or legislation important to you and the catfishing community. The best source is probably the media. Most newspapers, radio and TV all report on legislation of concern to the public. Most organizations and interest groups publish newsletters. Many of these public interest groups have advocates in the Capitol who have access to the most up-to-date information.

In addition, your legislator’s district office staff can help you track down legislation of interest to you. To receive copies of bills, you can also write directly to the Legislative Bill Room usually found at your state capital.  They will provide you (sometimes free, sometimes they may charge) for a copy of your bill(s) of interest.

Stay Current

Newsletters and the media are very helpful. There are also official legislative publications found in public libraries and on the Internet.

Call your legislator’s district office to get an update on the status of legislation. Also, feel free to visit the office at any time to use the resources available.

Types of Legislation

  • SB – Senate Bill (AB – Assembly Bill) – bills require a majority vote. If there is a fiscal impact, they require a two-thirds vote.
  • SCA (ACA) – Senate (Assembly) Constitutional Amendment – requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and a vote by the people.
  • SCR (ACR) – Senate (Assembly) Concurrent Resolution – relates to general matters of concern to the Legislature.
  • SJR (AJR) – Senate (Assembly) Joint Resolution – conveys to the federal government views of the Legislature.
  • House Resolutions – matters of concern to one house.

Communicate With Your Legislature

Letters are extremely effective. Give your legislator all of the reasons why you support or oppose a particular piece of legislation. Be sure to include your name and address. Send it to either the National or State Capitol office or to the district office. Telegrams, postcards, petitions, phone calls and personal letters all help.

When to Contact Your Legislator

Each bill is heard a minimum of several times before passing the Legislature — in the policy committees and on the floor of each house. However, you should contact your legislator as early in the session as possible.

Use the ACA Online Resources

When the ACA website is complete, it will have a complete index of every state and federal legislature including its members, member contact information, districts and committee(s) that oversee environmental (fish and wildlife). Additionally, the ACA website will include an index of every state’s fish and wildlife commission and commissioners.

A Sample Bill Guide (California)