Guest, Matt Revel Gives Audience a Behind-the-Scenes Peek at How Voters Can Weigh in On Legislation at Various Points in the Process
Georgetown, Del., Feb. 9—Matt Revel, Director of Policy and Communications for the Delaware State Senate Republican Caucus, gave valuable insight last Monday, Feb. 7, into how Delaware constituents can make their views heard regarding pending legislation in the General Assembly.
These Monday “Calls to Action” are hosted each week by Jane Brady, Chair of Delaware State Republican Party.
The topic for the first “Call to Action” in February centered on how to impact legislation while still in process. As was noted, citizens are often told to "reach out" to their Legislators to let their voices be heard, but a vast majority don't really know how. During an hour-long Zoom call, Matt answered several frequently-asked-questions about the legislative process, and specifically how Republicans make their thoughts known to their Legislators.
Below are some of the main questions on voters’ minds, and Matt's guidance on each one.
Question: Where can Republican voters find out what their senators are working on?
Revel: Much of the communications is on a dedicated Facebook page, www.facebook.com/desenategop, but voters can also do a quick Facebook search, simply entering the keywords "Delaware State Senate Republican Caucus," and typically the page will appear as the first result. You can also do the same search on most social media sites.
As for researching the legislation itself or finding a bill you may agree or disagree with, that’s on the Delaware legislative website, legis.delaware.gov. It’s a comprehensive website, but it requires a little practice to master. Information on this was presented last year in another “Call to Action.” This is available at DelawareGOP.com. Click on “News” at the top and “Call to Action” in the dropdown. There you will find “Using the Legislative Tracker” by Matt Revel.
Question: Letters to the editor—are these generally sent by legislators, or do you have a group of people that you call upon to draft and send these?
Revel: It depends. Op eds are often penned by a specific Legislator for positions or topics they feel very strongly about. It doesn’t need to be about a piece of legislation, however. Recently Senator Pettyjohn, for example, wrote a letter to the editor in the Delaware State News about the internet infrastructure. Apparently, some of the money being used by the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) was diverted to flesh out the state’s internet infrastructure, causing some controversy. More recently, Legislators have written letters pertaining to the revised vaccine mandate code at Delaware Tech. Because various constituents were denied well-reasoned exemption requests, several Legislators weighed in proposing revisions to the code. Dr. Brainard, President of Delaware Tech, noted this during his presentation to the Joint Finance Committee on Thursday and mentioned that there may be some changes coming.
Question: If someone has a burning desire to be heard on an issue, what should they do as constituents to be sure that their opinions are considered?
Make a phone call to the Legislator’s office. You’ll probably end up talking to staff, but the vast majority of time you’ll get to speak to someone. You can feel confident that over ninety-nine percent of the time you’ll get a call back to acknowledge your opposition or support for an issue, and that your feedback will make it to the Legislator.
Email is another very effective form. Email your Legislator. This is one of the best ways to reach out because, a) your opinion is in writing, offering a higher chance that your Legislator and the staff will see it. Behind the scenes, each Legislator's staff will tally up the emails for and against an issue, and high numbers have a surprising impact on Legislators engaged in a floor debate or in committee.
Pre-COVID, another effective way to make your opinion known is to go to Legislative Hall and meet directly with your elected official. Delaware may be the only state where you as a constituent can sit on the floor during session and have access to your Legislator. It’s a unique form of representation that we have, showing up in person. In 2018-2019, there were various firearm bills going through the General Assembly, and, as they went through committee, large numbers of voters came to Legislative Hall to voice their opposition. It is powerful, when you're a Legislator or staff member when you exit your office and see multitudes of people in the building supporting or opposing a bill. The effect is real and has significantly impacted legislation when it occurs.
You can also write a letter to the editor yourself in your local newspaper. These always make it back to the Legislators. Legislators definitely notice when the public is engaged on an issue, and these letters also make a difference.
Question: Is it more effective to reach out to the sponsor of the bill, or is it better to interact with your particular representative?
Revel: Either approach works. It’s always effective to reach out to the sponsor, but if you want to reach out your representative, call them. Again, as staff we’ll actually tally up the number of calls or letters for or against a bill, especially In that Representative’s district. It makes a difference when a Senator says, “We received over 100 calls, and only 2 were in opposition.” Or vice versa.
Question: Tell us about some of the hot-button issues that you’ve gotten a lot of contact from constituents about for this General Assembly or that you think are coming up that people should be aware of.
Revel: A definite hot-button issue this year was Senate Bill 58, introduced by Senator Lawson. That’s the bill that would prohibit the Governor from requiring vaccination as a condition of an emergency or medical treatment of any sort. It would also prevent the forced quarantine of an individual. In Delaware we haven’t yet faced forced vaccinations or quarantines, but you do see that in other jurisdictions.
Another controversial bill which will soon be brought to the Senate floor is SB 1. This bill would set up a trust fund into which both employees and employers would pay into a fund entitling employees of private businesses of 12 weeks of either paternity- or medical leave. We’ve heard from a number of small businesses who fear that this might cause them to have to shutter their operations. The bill has already been through committee and will probably make it to the Senate floor after the break. The sponsor of this bill, Senator Sarah McBride, to her credit, is open to compromise and to maybe adding in some amendments to make it less difficult for employers.
After discussing other political issues making headlines, Ms. Brady ended Monday’s Call to Action by thanking Revel for his insight, noting that having experts like him on staff helps all constituents, and especially those on this call, better understand the political repercussions and implications of upcoming legislation.
The full recording of the call can be found on the Delaware GOP website.
About The Delaware Republican Party
The Delaware Republican Party is the party of personal responsibility and respect the dignity of every individual, born and unborn. We believe in free enterprise and personal liberty, as guaranteed by the Constitution. We promote fiscal responsibility, the rule of law and a strong national defense.
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