Meeting With Legislators

Included is a list of “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” for meeting with your legislators.

Do

  • 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!

Don’t

  • 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!