Legislative Tools

LOBBYING YOUR LEGISLATOR

Arranging the meeting:

  • Find out how to contact your legislator.

  • Make appointments with those whom you want to lobby.

  • Attempt to meet with legislators who represent electoral districts that are particularly affected by your issue.

  • Ask how much time is available so you can use it to your best advantage.

Preparing for the meeting:

  • Have two or three well-prepared speakers.

  • Prepare a brief written summary of your case to give to the legislator, your organization’s credentials and your area of work.  You may also present longer documents, but the written summary is crucial.

  • Agree on the order of speaking and the issue each speaker will address.

  • Rehearse your presentation (to each other or just in front of the mirror).

  • Assign someone to take notes.

  • Arrive at least five minutes early, or more if you have to go through security in the building.

Presentation and discussion with the legislator:

  • Introduce everyone in your party and explain why you wanted to meet and find out how much time the legislator has for the meeting.

  • While presenting your issue it is important to have facts and statistics that show you have done the relevant research.  Have a few stories that illustrate your arguments, as stories personalize the issue and may resonate with the legislator more than statistics.

  • Try to keep your conversation focused on a few basic points.  If the legislator changes the topic, gently return to your main point.

  • Ask the legislator if he/she has any questions and do your best to answer them.  If you do not know the answer, say so and offer to find the answer and get back to the legislator.

  • Don’t lose your temper.  Don’t get angry, discourteous or sarcastic.  On rare occasions, a legislator is hostile to your concerns.  If that is the case, reiterate your key points and end the meeting.

  • Try to get a commitment.  Ask the legislator to do something concrete to show support for your issues.  For example, you may ask him/her to:

    • Speak on the floor of the chamber when the bill comes up for a vote

    • Raise the issue in a party caucus or help get the issue discussed in the party caucus

    • Invite the legislator to address your group or a local meeting that you are hosting.

After the meeting with the legislator

  • Write a thank you note.

  • If there were requests for more information, make sure they are followed up on.

  • Keep a record of what was said at the meeting on file, especially noting any commitments the legislator made in the meeting.  These notes can be useful for preparing for future meetings, holding a legislator to the position he/she enunciated, and tracking where various legislators stand on your issue.