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Communicating with Your Legislator: Dos & Don’ts

Do:

  • Remember that your role as an advocate is to be a source of information for your legislator.
  • Be friendly, reasonable, and courteous.
  • Develop a plan.
  • Your homework. Know as much as possible about the issues. Supporting your views with as much background information as possible will make your opinion much more powerful.
  • Attend legislative committee meetings.
  • Identify yourself and explain how you are related to the issue.
  • Be prepared to answer your legislator’s questions regarding your issue.
  • Know the position your legislator has taken on your issues. They will automatically respect your opinion and be more inclined to listen and respond to your views.
  • Be accurate, concise, and constructive. Quality is more important than quantity.
  • Be passionate about your issue.
  • Identify a legislative bill by number or title. This will help your legislator know which bill you’re discussing if there are multiple bills on the same issue. Provide a copy of your bill for your legislator if necessary.
  • Know both sides of the issue.
  • Know the legislative and budget processes that your issues will undergo as legislation.
  • Know the legislative rules and calendar.
  • Establish a rapport with your legislators. Make a personal visit to the capitol or attend a fundraiser. Your legislators will be impressed that you took the time to do so.
  • If appropriate, invite your legislator to your place of work.
  • Compliment or chastise you legislator as necessary, but always politely.
  • Stay visible. Be persistent. It’s a virtue.
  • Lobby other lobbyists and network with other groups who share your interest.
  • Count your votes again and again and again.
  • Remember that today’s opponent is tomorrow’s ally.
  • Know the two priorities of a legislator: get elected and get re-elected.

Don’t:

  • Be rude or threatening. This will get you nowhere.
  • Begin on a righteous note of “As a citizen and taxpayer….”
  • Claim to wield vast political influence. Emphasize the issue, not your title.
  • Apologize for taking your legislator’s time. If you are brief and to the point, they will be glad to hear from you.
  • Know only part of the story concerning your issue.
  • Simply repeat what someone has told you to say. This will only discredit you.
  • Send form letters or group postcards. They are worthless.
  • Ask for specific amounts of funding, if this applies to your issue. Instead, inform your legislator as to the importance of sufficient funding.

Download this document and additional tips on letter writing (pdf)