Capitol Update: Want to be heard in Topeka? Rep. Xu offers tips for effective communication with legislators

Rep. Rui Xu.

Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Tom Cox, Rep. Rui Xu and Sen. John Skubal are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Rep. Xu’s filing:

Given that this upcoming week is turnaround week, which means that bills must pass through the House (or Senate) by Thursday night to stay alive, I thought it would be a good time to pass on what I’ve learned in the first 6 weeks on how constituents can be really effective in contacting their representatives. Some ways are definitely better than others, and having very recently been on the constituent side of this interaction, I thought I would give my new perspective from the representative side:

  • Make it personal – Many emails that we get are very obviously copy/pasted from one central source, or use some service to send bulk emails to legislators, and these simply don’t have the same effect as a simple, personal, and heartfelt email from a constituent. I try to respond to every email but the personal ones will always get first priority.
  • Use CCs for greater effect – If you’re emailing another representative (say, a committee chair to request a hearing on a bill), it’s always helpful if you CC me on it as well so I can keep up with what’s important to my constituents. On the flip side, if you’re emailing me about an issue that’s important to you but I might not be on the relevant committee, it can be effective to CC the committee chair as well (apologies to the blown-up inboxes of committee chairs as a result of this…) to let them know that there’s demand about this issue.
  • Small but organized groups are very effective – If you can, try to find other like-minded constituents to reach out as well. If I’m receiving 5 emails a day from different constituents and they all want me to vote a certain way on an issue, you can bet that I’m going to pay attention to that.
  • Come testify – If there’s an issue that is VERY important to you, then I think that it’s important that the committee hears your point of view. The testifying process is, indeed, a very onerous one for most working people (you have to delivery 50 copies of written testimony 24 hours in advance of the hearing and then have to drive the hour to Topeka the next day), but if that’s something you’re willing to do on your issue, my office will work with you to get those copies printed out and handed in the day before.
  • Come shadow and learn the process even more! – Recently, Representative Woodard was talking about how we have a legislative page program for middle/junior high aged children, an intern program for college-aged children, but we don’t have a similar program for adults who want to learn more. He proposed an informal shadow program, and I love that idea. I would first check to see if your representative is interested in a similar idea but if not, I would be happy to try to fit you into my schedule as allowed. The more that you all know how the system works, the more effective you can be in participating in our democracy, and I am thrilled to be a part of that.

As always, it is a true honor to represent the 25th District in Topeka. If you have any questions, of any kind, you can reach out to me on Facebook, Twitter, email, or even call or text me at 913.535.8691.