Toolkit for year-end in-district meetings

The elections are over! And the blue wave washed over our statehouse as well. We have regained the Democratic supermajorities in both the state Senate (28D-12R) and Assembly (60D-20R) and have a new governor. The next two-year legislative session kicks into gear on January 7, 2019 (the first Monday of the year).

We want to start the session off strong and demonstrate to our lawmakers that we are a force for accountability by setting up in-district office meetings. There are four primary goals for these meetings that will be the main pieces of your agenda.

  1. Thank them for voting the way we wanted on our top bills from last year
  2. Hold them accountable for votes that did not support our progressive values
  3. Tell them what we expect of them in the next two years – with very specific asks so that we can monitor their performance against our goals
  4. Learn what their legislative priorities are for the next two years

Before we get into the details of those topics, let’s review a few documents to brush up on how the California legislature works and how we can be effective constituents.

  • First and foremost is the brand new state advocacy guide Indivisible States: Empowering States to Resist the Trump Agenda that shows us
    1. how we can use our constituent power to influence California’s policy agenda, and
    2. how states can resist the Trump administration and how to develop strategies and tactics for effective advocacy.
  • Indivisible CA: StateStrong also has some fantastic guides (you may have noticed that we’re very modest) on how the California legislature works and how we can plan our meetings with our legislators to our best advantage:
    1. Hold Your California State Representatives Accountable – an overview of the CA legislative process and how to set up effective meetings with your legislators
    2. How to Research a Bill Using LegInfo – how to use the maze called “leginfo,” the official website of the legislature that is the portal to all the goings-on in the Capitol.
    3. Need a refresher on the bills that Indivisible CA: StateStrong tracked this year? Here’s the list with the final results.

Holding our legislators accountable for their votes on passed bills

In the last session, the legislature was generally aligned with our goals. Of the 23 bills we were tracking, 9 died in the legislature, 10 were signed into law, and 3 were passed by the legislature but vetoed by Governor Brown.

Below are five of toughest progressive bills to pass last year. Research your member’s voting record on leginfo, thank your legislators if they voted our way and make sure that they understand that you are not happy if they didn’t.

  • SB 1421 — Police misconduct records (Skinner): Permits public disclosure of records of police officers using firearms or other weapons, or involved sexual assault.
  • SB 822 — Net Neutrality (Wiener): Prohibits internet service providers from blocking, throttling, and prioritizing paid tiers of traffic if they use state-provided funding or infrastructure, like utility poles.
  • SB 100 — 100% Renewable energy (De León): Establishes a state policy that renewable and “zero-carbon” generating facilities supply all electricity procured to serve California end-use customers no later than December 31, 2045
  • SB 1100 — Gun purchase age limit (Portantino): Raises age to 21 for buying a gun and prohibits anyone from buying more than one gun per month
  • SB 10 (oppose) — Money bail reform (Hertzberg): Was heavily amended. The Marshall Project summarizes why we’re not celebrating SB 10 in its final form.

What do we expect our legislators to do in the next session?

Bills to ask for support

While many of the bills we were following passed last year, there were several that died in the process and will likely be re-introduced this session. After holding your member’s accountable for bills that passed last session, make sure you research how they voted on the following bills and let them know whether you were happy to disappointed in their vote and ask that they support these bills in their new form in the upcoming session.

  • AB 3131 — Police demilitarization (Gloria): Requires police and sheriffs to hold open public hearings and transparency reporting when acquiring military-grade equipment. Indivisible CA: StateStrong proudly co-sponsored this bill with the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy & Policy, American Friends Service Committee, and Anti Police-Terror Project. Read our response to Governor Brown’s veto here.
  • AB 931 — Police use of deadly force (Weber): Permit lethal force by police only when it’s “necessary,” meaning when there’s no other way to prevent “imminent” injury.
    • Died without a vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee
  • SB1186 — Police Surveillance (Hill): Police use surveillance equipment against communities of color. This bill would regulate the process.
    • Died in the Appropriations suspense file
  • SB 320 — Abortion at student health centers (Leyva): Requires every student health center at public universities to offer abortion by medication
    • Passed by the legislature but vetoed by Governor Brown
  • AB 2965 / SB 974 — Health4All (Arambula/Lara): Extends Medi-Cal to all those eligible, regardless of immigration status
    • Died in the budget process
  • AB 2066 — Immigrant EITC (Stone): Remove eligibility barriers to immigrants for California Earned Income Tax Credit
    • <Died in the Appropriations suspense file
  • B 651  — Petition DISCLOSE Act (Allen): Requires state and local initiative, referendum, and recall petitions to include a statement identifying the three largest contributors of $50,000 or more
    • Ordered to the inactive file

Bills to ask for opposition

There were two important bills that were not on our original list, but that popped up on our radar during the year that we ended up mobilizing to oppose. Although these two bills died in the legislature, we expect them to be resurrected in the new year. Let your legislators know that we oppose these bills and that we expect them to do everything they can to block them from moving forward.

  • AB 813 (oppose) — Grid regionalization (Holden): This bill would have forced California to join a regional electrical grid that would have been under the control of Trump’s coal-loving Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Although this bill passed the Assembly almost unanimously, the Senate Appropriations Committee decided to shelve it, for now.
  • AB 84 (oppose) — Dirty money in politics (Mullin): This was blatant attempt to give the party caucus chairs in each house the unfettered ability to collect political campaign contributions and to use those funds to provide unlimited contributions to state candidate committees. After an outpouring of opposition from over 100 Indivisible groups throughout the state and numerous other good government advocates, this bill died in the Senate.

Although these two bills died in the legislature, we expect them to be resurrected in the new year. Let your legislators know that we oppose these bills and that we expect them to do everything they can to block them from moving forward.

Other bill ideas

You may be surprised: your legislators could ask you for ideas for bills to propose in the coming session. Come prepared with a few priority issues that your group has identified as important to your group. Across the country, Indivisibles tend to prioritize democracy reform, healthcare, and environmental issues as their top issues.

If you’d like to suggest policy changes, connect with partner groups outside of Indivisible whose values you share and who have expertise on the topic. They may already have well-thought-out policy suggestions that you could support. Last year, California StateStrong co-sponsored AB 3131 with the ACLU, and that partnership was extremely important for building our credibility. We benefited immensely from their experience and could not have done it alone. Once your group has identified its priority issue(s), we recommend you do some outreach to other, non-Indivisible organizations focused on that issue. Maybe even invite a representative from that organization to speak at your meeting.

Finally, let us know if you are interested in reaching out to larger non-Indivisible organizations about potential partnerships — we may already have a contact for you!

Check out these resources from Indivisible about how to be a good partner:

What are our legislators’ priorities in the next session?

This is the section of the meeting that allows our legislators to describe their priorities for the upcoming session. We suggest you put this at the end of the agenda — politicians love to talk about themselves and if this is earlier in the meeting they can derail your agenda.

Do a bit of research into what they have said publicly about their plans. Check their official website (or campaign website for newly elected legislators) for press releases and other statements and do a quick search for their name in the local newspaper. A Google search is usually much better than the newspaper’s own search engine. The syntax for site-specific Google searches is “Topic” site:www.sitename.com, for example: “Toni Atkins” site:www.sandiegouniontribune.com. Then use the “Tools” menu to restrict the search to the last month or so.

Having even a little information about their plans for next year already will make the conversation more of a discussion than a lecture, and your representatives will know that you’re ready to hold them accountable for what they say.

Preparing for and conducting your office visit

Check out the section on district office visits in Indivisible States for details on how to prepare for and execute a successful office visit!

Use our TEMPLATE memo and customize it as a leave-behind for your legislator!

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