Meeting Do's and Don'ts

MEETING WITH LEGISLATORS:  DO’S AND DON’T’S


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!

© Stephen Ulrich 2013