Successful Tips with Legislators
SUCCESSFUL TIPS WITH LEGISLATORS
1. Get to know your legislators personally. If you are perceived as a loyal constituent, your views and opinions will have a more positive impact.
2. Contact your legislators on specific issues.
a. Meet them in the district.
b. Write a personal letter or short note.
c. Telephone them.
3. If you are representing an Association:
Understand the Association's positions. If you are unclear about a position, obtain the correct information.
Educate the legislator about your position.
When you differ from the Association's position, make the difference clear to your legislator.
Forward the legislator's concerns and views to the Association leadership.
4. No legislator will agree with you 100% of the time.
a. Try to understand the legislator's positions
and votes on a full range of issues.
c. Thank them for their support.
d. Accept their decision politely when they do not support you.
5. No legislator has time to learn about every bill, law or regulation.
Explain your concerns and views assuming that legislators have a limited understanding of the issue and little time to learn about it.
Offer to provide them with additional information. Follow through on this offer.
6. Legislators are busy.
a. Make appointments to see them in the
district or the Capitol.
b. Be on time.
c. Keep visits short - 15 minutes to ½ hour is adequate.
7. Prepare well for legislative hearings and meetings.
Prepare a written text. Distribute copies of materials to committee members.
Be brief - 5 minutes should suffice.
Address the proposals directly.
Be prepared to answer questions.
Prepare amendments before the hearing, if necessary.
Ask questions of legislators if you do not understand. Their answers may be more valuable than your testimony.
Be polite and courteous at hearings and meetings. No booing or clapping.
9. Know the opposing arguments - legislators need to know what the other side says.
10. Get to know key staff people. If you can't talk to the legislator, talk to an aide.
Things to Avoid
1. Never address a legislator as Mr. or Ms. - always address them as Representative or Senator.
2. Never mix personal, political or partisan concerns with industry or association issues. Discuss personal issues on personal time.
3. Never threaten legislators with political reprisals. If you want to defeat a legislator concentrate on the next election.
4. Never imply or demand that your political efforts or contributions buy a vote or legislative support - it is image and will backfire.
5. Never attempt to embarrass a legislator. It is in bad taste and will serve only to embarrass you and your interests.
6. Never "burn your bridges" with a legislator. You may not need them today but you will certainly need them tomorrow.
7. Never allow an association to become a voting block for partisan efforts. Allow equal time for both points of view.
Never misstate an association's position on issues. Misstated positions will destroy the credibility of an association. If you disagree with the association's position, do not represent your position as that of the association.
8. Never insist that a legislator vote for or support a proposal. "Request' is the proper word.
9. Never alienate a legislator's staff or friends. They may aid in the decision process to support or oppose your position.
10. Never cry wolf - legislators hear wolves howling on most issues and you will lose credibility when you overreact.
11. Never argue with committee members at a public hearing. The time for persuasion is in a private - meeting.
12. Never forget to say thank you. A letter of support and thanks after a vote will be long remembered.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR WRITING TO YOUR LAWMAKER
Letters from district residents have become an important form of voter contact and one of the prime sources lawmakers have for understanding constituency views. Your state legislators need to hear from you on issues that are important to you. If you follow a few simple rules, writing an effective letter will be an easy task.
1.. Write legibly or type your letter. Make sure both your letter and your signature are readable.
2. Include your exact return address on your letter as well as the envelope to ensure that your letter can be answered.
3. Use correct form in addressing your lawmakers. Address members of the State Assembly:
Representative (Use full name, like John T. Smith)
(Use complete Madison or District address)
Dear Representative (Use last name only, like Smith)
Address members of the State Senate:
Senator (use full name, like James P.Jones)
(Use complete Madison or District address)
Dear Senator (Use last name only, like Jones)
4. Identify clearly in the first one or two sentences the subject or issues that concern you. State the Assembly or Senate bill number, if you know it.
5. In your own words, explain how the issue affects you, your family or your profession. Your own personal experience is your best supporting evidence. Try to be specific, but brief. Back your position with reliable facts and figures. Clearly state whether you are for or against a proposal.
6. Avoid sentences or phrases that give the appearance of a "form" letter. If your letter uses the exact same language as other letters on your issue, it will have less impact. Again, your own words are always the best.
7. Politely but firmly ask your elected officials to support your position.
8. Don't threaten your elected officials by saying they will lose your vote if they don't support your position. This strategy usually backfires. You can say, however, that you are a voter and the issue you are writing about is very important to you.
9. Ask your lawmakers to respond to your letter and to state their specific position on the issue.
10. Be courteous and thank the lawmakers for considering your position on the issue.
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