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Friday, February 17, 2006LOBBYING BY PERSONAL VISIT
LOBBYING BY PERSONAL VISIT
One of the most effective ways to lobby legislators is in face-to-face visits with them. It's difficult to predict a legislator's availability when the Legislature is in session. But if legislators know that their constituents have traveled from a distance, they will generally try to see them. It is always best to call first and make an appointment. Contact both your Representative and Senator. Here are some suggestions for your visit.
1. Be on time for your appointment. But don't expect legislators to be on time; they often have hearings or meetings they cannot anticipate and cannot leave.
2. Before the appointment, practice a three-minute statement with the information you want to present. This will help you to be concise about what you want and why you want it.
3. It is usually best to visit your legislators in a small group, three people is optimum. Never plan on staying more than 10-15 minutes. Going alone may be unsatisfactory because legislators may try to out-talk you or you may reach an impasse too quickly.
4. If you are a constituent, begin by telling the legislator that. Let your legislator know if you are working with others on the issue, if you are active in the community, or if you are representing members of an organization.
5. Present the legislator with a Fact Sheet and a copy of the bill. Include amendments if any are being proposed. Remember that your issue is probably one of dozens she/he is having to deal with. The information you provide to the Legislator will go into a bill file and will be available for reference at a later time.
6. Talk to legislative staff, preferably, the Legislative Assistant, and present the same information and materials. Establishing a relationship with key staff is very important. They typically have the ear and the confidence of the legislator and are most likely going to be doing most of the leg work on the issue. They are also more accessible to you on an on-going basis.
7. Be clear about what your position is and what you would like your legislators to do. Identify your bill by name and number whenever possible. Give the legislators some key words: "This is about having a National Nurse teach Americans ways to live healthy."
8. Be firm but courteous as you express your position. Do not try to force your legislators into changing their minds or committing themselves when they don't want to, but it's fair to ask them how they stand on the issue.
9. Follow up your visit with a thank-you letter. Use it to restate your position.