Included is a list of “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” for meeting with your legislators.
Get to know your own Representative and Senator. No one has more influence with a legislator than a voting constituent!
Personal communications with your legislator are the most effective. In-person contacts, telephone calls, hand-written notes are the most likely to get the legislator’s attention.
Be sure your legislator knows who you represent, or what group you are a member of when you contact him/her about an issue. This is particularly important when contacting a legislator from a district other than your own.
Be polite, be brief, be specific (using the bill number if possible) in your communications. Offer to answer questions or to get more information if you are asked a question. It is much better to say that you don’t know the answer, but will get back with it, than to give a wrong answer or misleading information!
Be a good listener and hear out what the legislator has to say on the issue.
Respect the legislator’s right to disagree and to vote against your issue.
Know how the process works: the committee system, the timetable, how bills come for a vote, etc. Let the legislator know that you have done your homework!
Be pushy. If you are told that a legislator cannot see you, ask to make another appointment or leave a note and follow up at a later time.
Be sarcastic, critical or threatening. And don’t embarrass or continually argue with a legislator. Don’t say to a legislator, “You promised me….” If anything, say “I understood you to say….”
Extend your visit beyond a reasonable amount of time.
Be misleading with a legislator – either about the facts, the extent of the issues or the opposition to your position.
Try to tell the legislator how to vote on a bill. Instead, point out how a vote one way or the other will affect the issue…and the legislator’s constituency.
Show anger or resentment toward a legislator who votes against you. The legislative process is a long and on-going one, and chances are that you will need to gain the support of that legislator another time on another issue!
Don’t forget to say “Thank You!” to the legislator or policy-maker and to the staff…and don’t forget to follow up with a hand-written Thank You note!