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Making the Most of State Legislative Sessions

February 276 minutes to read
Image representing the state legislative sessions

While the origin of the term “all politics is local” is up for debate, it was the late Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill — first a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and later Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress — who turned it into a household phrase decades ago. He even included it as part of the title of a memoir he co-authored. Why? Because he knew, probably more than anyone, the difference between legislating at the state and federal levels.

At the state level, legislation has more of a direct impact on people. And, accordingly, their legislatures are far more productive than the one in the U.S. Capitol. On average, they introduce roughly 20 times the amount of bills proposed by Congress during a legislative session and, in turn, pass many more laws.

Once again, we ask, “Why?” Well, for one, state legislators are never far, literally, from their constituents, and their relatively narrow focus allows them to tackle multiple local issues, resulting in more bills. They also grapple with far less partisan gridlock and because of the immediate—and, in some cases, basic—needs of their constituents, place a premium on efficiency.  

For these reasons and more, it’s important for all of CiviClick’s clients—businesses, trade associations, nonprofits and advocacy groups—to know what’s cooking at the state level, where, as 2024 gets underway, legislative sessions are kicking into gear. In fact, you can check your state’s schedule here as we share, below, the best ways to ensure your voice is heard in state legislative halls.

Prepping for State Sessions: The Basics

While most legislative sessions have already begun, it doesn’t hurt to know how to prepare for them—so that either this time around or during the next session your organization’s efforts can help influence how policies and laws are shaped.

First, a primer. Bills are introduced between January and October, depending on the state. Usually, pre-filed bills are introduced earliest. These are bills from previous sessions that haven’t yet been voted through, and they reflect what’s top of mind among the political parties and leading legislators. Which means you should keep an eye on them.

After a bill is introduced, it’s time for committee assignments, which are related to the bills’ topics of focus as well as the approvals required for each. The committee’s chair decides whether a bill will be heard and debated, a process that can include public testimony for and against the bill. If a bill doesn’t make it out of committee, it won’t be voted on. Otherwise, it heads to the floor for debate and voting.

There are two key aspects to preparing for state sessions: knowing your state’s policy trends and putting together a bill-tracking process. CiviClick helps its clients with the latter, but you can also invest in bill-tracking software or keep tabs via the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Included in the tracking process is the monitoring of bills, press releases and social media posts relevant to your organization’s interests. It’s also important to be aware of the discussions taking place between legislators and others at official meetings and events. This is why it’s important, if possible, to have a solid government relations strategy, which also helps with following what’s become increasingly important during legislative sessions: online discussions.

The point is, the more prepared you are going into a state legislative session, the better your chances of knowing when and where to speak up.

The Arrows in Your Quiver

Once a session is underway, and if you know how you’re going to approach it — via a campaign, advocacy, lobbying or maybe all three — it’s wise to be prepared in other ways.  

Craft a mission statement. The statement should share the following: why your organization is advocating for specific legislation and why it matters; the policy objectives you’re hoping to achieve; and how you plan to achieve your goals.

Whip up a foolproof communications plan. Maybe your business or organization has a communications director or just a one-person staff who might need help from CiviClick. Whatever your situation, you’ll need to know how you’ll communicate with your employees, members, supporters and fellow advocates during a legislative session.

Ensure that your digital presence reflects your mission. Update your social media profiles—on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram and LinkedIn—regularly. Use video and other visuals to continually engage and educate supporters before and during sessions. And update your website, so that it, too, reflects your policy goals for the session.

Set a legislative timeline. If you know which bill or bills your organization is focused on, find out when they’ll be discussed, debated and/or testified about in committee and, if they go this far, on the floor. A timeline will help ensure that your people are prepared when policy issues officially pop up for discussion.

Arrange a lobby day. Lobby days are an essential part of any organization’s advocacy efforts. It provides you and your supporters with face-to-face time with legislators, so that you can share well-rehearsed, poignant stories and talking points with them as they prepare to discuss a bill in committee or on the floor. There is no substitute for a human connection.  

During the Sessions

If you’ve put most, if not all, of the pieces mentioned above into place, you should be as prepared as possible for your state’s legislative session. You should also be thinking about a few other things.

The news cycle is 24/7, which means responses to legislative maneuvers need to be perfectly timed. In this context, researching, focusing on constituent concerns and setting legislative goals is crucial. So it behooves any business or organization to connect with key legislators and their staff to advocate for your concerns ahead of the news cycle. That way, when an issue arises publicly, you can elevate your position to the forefront of the conversation.

Hearings are also essential. They can be informal, a meeting between interested constituents and elected officials, or formal—e.g., committee hearings. Whatever the format, hearings allow for experts in your corner to provide legislators, their staff and the public with essential information. And they examine the legislation’s positive and negative impacts.

For these reasons, it’s absolutely crucial to pay attention to legislator and staff data while planning for and participating in a legislative session. Because the session is the busiest time of year for legislators, staff may be the main point of contact. And staffers provide legislators with information, research and news on the bills at hand.


Now that state legislative sessions are well underway, it’s best to be mindful of the many ways your business or organization can prepare itself to have a say on which way votes for laws you either favor or dislike go. Know which bills are up for debate, where legislators stand on them and your best opportunities for sharing your expertise and/or opinion.

And marshal your own forces to help them exert pressure. At the state level especially, lawmakers are virtually face-to-face with their constituents, so your organization’s communications plan, which should include a healthy digital component, is crucial both before and during sessions. Ours is, after all, a participatory democracy, and the best, most effective way to participate is to remember what Tip O’Neill once preached: “All politics is local.”