It can feel overwhelming to get involved in politics. It can feel overwhelming to go to the Capitol, talk to legislators and even consider testifying for or against bills.
Here is a quick guide that might help ease your way.
- Use a parking app- There are a few different parking apps that will allow you to choose a spot and reserve it ahead of time. That way you know how much to expect to pay, and how far you will need to walk to get to the Capitol building. This is especially helpful on high traffic days such as testimony days.
- You can enter the Capitol on the Northside (takes you to the first floor) or under the east steps (takes you to the basement). Be prepared to have your bags searched and you will need to go through a metal detector.
- You may bring food, drinks, electronics, strollers, wagon, etc. You may not bring weapons, political signs or wear political clothing, buttons, etc.
- If you will be staying long it is wise to bring a battery charging bank for your phone and other electronics as outlets can be hard to find. Sometimes a power strip is handy too if you have more than one item to plug in at a time. Bring plenty of snacks and water and comfortable shoes.
- Entering the galleries: There will be a Sargent at Arms (an employee that is tasked with maintaining decorum in the gallery). The public is always welcome in the gallery. You must enter and exit quietly, take a seat and stay seated until you leave and keep noise to a minimum. No shouting, clapping, cheering, etc. is allowed ever.
- If you would like to speak to your legislator and they are working on the house or senate floor you may write their name on a card or piece of paper and ask the Sargent at Arms to pull them from the floor. Your legislator may or may not choose to come out depending on what they are working on at that time.
- Your children are welcome to come to the Capitol with you. Be prepared to bring things to keep them occupied, such as books, stickers, paper, crayons, etc. Balls, cars, and toys that make noise are not recommended.
- If you choose to bring electronics to your children, please bring headphones for them as well. That way they can enjoy their movies or games without distracting others around them or being too noisy. Also, it can get loud in the hallways so they will be better able to hear if they have headphones.
- You will want to bring snacks and drinks for them. Please be sure to clean up after yourself and your children. A good rule of thumb is to leave an area better than you found it. Throw away the trash, wipe up crumbs and spills and return chairs to their original locations.
- Please be sure to keep a close watch on your children and do not let them climb on the railings or furniture and help them learn to use their inside voices and walking feet.
- If you are planning to testify for or against a bill prepare ahead of time. Write your testimony and practice it several times.
- Begin your testimony by stating your name and who you represent (if you are representing a group or company), which bill you are speaking about and whether you are for or against it. Also, be sure to thank the chair by name and members of the committee (as a whole).
- Most testimonies are allowed to be only 2-3 minutes in length. This length is determined by the legislator that is chairing the committee and they may not inform anyone of the exact time until the hearing begins.
- Some committee chairs will allow a public hearing to go until every person from the public has had a chance to speak. Others will cap the hearing at a certain time limit and set other boundaries as to how many pros and how many against will be allowed to speak. This is fully within their rights and responsibilities to do.
- While attending a public hearing you can not wear political clothing or signs. All attendees must be quiet and respect decorum. No shouting, booing, cheering or clapping is ever allowed.
- Become familiar with the leg.colorado.gov website. This website is a valuable source of information about legislators, bills and more.
- It is very important to know who your own legislators are and become comfortable with emailing, calling and speaking to them.
- It is helpful to study the faces and names of the current legislators so you can recognize them and begin conversations with them in the halls, elevators or out on the street.
- It would also be helpful to become knowledgeable about how a bill becomes law. Once a bill is dropped, it is quite a process and it is explained on the leg.colorado.gov website.
Don’t forget that the legislators are people too. Always speak to them as you would like to be spoken to. Use kindness and respect. Approach them just like you would approach any other professional relationship. They work for you, and it is ok to share your opinions and ideas. Share your personal stories with them and even ask questions. This is your house, make yourself comfortable, but always remain respectful and courteous to others.
Representative: legislator representing a house district.
Senator: legislator representing a senate district
(There is a difference and it is important to know so that you can address your legislators appropriately)
Chamber: There are two chambers of the legislature: the house and the senate. They both have a floor for the legislators and a gallery for the public.
Dropped: When a bill is introduced in one of the chambers it is referred to as having been “dropped”.
Decorum: Good and proper behavior. The behavior expected while at the Capitol and especially in the galleries.