We've all heard it. Every day there's some pressing issue or another that requires attention and action, that demands you "call your representatives!" But which ones? Who are MY representatives? What's the difference between all of them? Let's dig in ...
I mean, we have a state senators assemblymember, senators, congressmen/woman, a governor ... what do they all do? How do they all work together?
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The U.S. Government has two levels: State and Federal. State has more local control — basically its responsible for what the federal govt. doesn't have direct jurisdiction over. Both the federal and state levels have legislative branches mades of of two houses:
FEDERAL Legislative Branch
FIND YOUR HOUSE REP/Congresswoman/man HERE (by zip code)
FIND YOUR SENATOR (use dropdown menu to click your state)
STATE Legislative Branch
FIND YOUR STATE SENATOR & ASSEMBLYMEMBER HERE (for California) — if you're not in CA, google: How do I find out my assemblymember in "STATE" and a page will pop up for you.
If they do all of that, what does a governor do??
While our elected reps focus mainly on proposing and voting on new legislation, our state governors' — a state's highest-ranking elected — roles vary based on the constitution of each state but can range from signing bills into law, serving as commander in chief, influencing state legislation, etc.) Think of them as "the president" of your state — they lead the executive branch of your state.
Did you know that your representatives WANT to hear from you? They want to be (safely) accessible to you. They can't solve issues if you don't tell them what your issues are. This is how democracy works. Your representatives are counting on you to speak up. Contact them when you are in support of legislation they're advocating for — these calls and emails matter. They help your representative make the case of need and demand. Similarly, let them know if you DON'T agree with legislation they're pushing forward.
Did you know that you can schedule meetings with your representatives? Folks, they're not celebrities. You elected them. They are here to serve constituents' needs — that is the whole point of their job.
BUT WHAT DO I SAY?
Our representatives aren't expecting you know EVERYTHING about a bill/legislation. That's their job. There's no requirement that you be the most informed constituent in the room to get to talk with your reps about issues that affect you. You know what your points of pain are regarding issues — share with them your personal stories, your concerns about legislation, or ask questions. This is one of those "there's no dumb questions" scenarios. Don't intimidate yourself out of making sure your voice is heard — otherwise it never will be.