January 6, 2017

 

How to Effectively Communicate with Your Legislator

 

Communication is a key component for getting your district noticed and it doesn’t apply just to the general public. With Legislative Day just around the corner we decided to provide some Do’s and Don’ts to help you better communicate with your local Legislators and other state and federal representatives.

DO:

1.  Remember that time is precious. Get to the point soon and focus on your issue.

 

2. Know the Bill number/ budget amendment reference/or name of the legislation or regulation in all communication.

 

3. Know your issue. Demonstrate, through tangible evidence supported by facts, that a particular action is both desirable and justified. Couch your arguments in long term investments.

 

4. Explain in simple and straightforward terms the logic supporting your position.

 

5. Invite your lawmakers and their staff to your board meeting and local events.Include them on distribution of your SWCD annual report.

 

6. Remember that the lawmaker’s staff is as important to you as the lawmaker.

 

7. Understand that you and your lawmaker sometimes will have to compromise. Assess what you can realistically achieve and work on the rest later. Working with lawmakers is an investment that may not pay off immediately.

 

8. Follow-up with letters, calls, etc. Make a commitment to your cause. A thank you is always in order and appreciated.

 

9. Invest 30 minutes to contact (by letter, phone, email, office visit, etc.) an elected official six times a year. This will make you more legislatively effective. Stay on top of developments relating to your issue so that when new and relevant information becomes available, you can pass it along.

 

10. Remember you and your lawmaker need each other.

 

DON’T:

1. Underestimate lawmakers. With very rare exceptions, they are honest, intelligent, and want to do the right thing. Your role is to inform them on what you think is right.

 

2. Confuse the issue. Two or three issues are about as much as you should cover in one letter, call, visit, etc. Never leave lawmakers out on a limb supporting your issue and then change your position after they have publicly supported a position you asked them to take.

 

3. Underestimate the weight given to letters, emails, phone calls, office visits, etc. 

 

4. Use jargon. You’re not speaking to you colleagues in the office. Your lawmakers may have little or no knowledge of your issue or its jargon. It’s impossible for every lawmaker to know every bill, chapter, and verse.

 

5. Say you’re contacting your lawmaker because your district told you to do so. Lawmakers respond to people not districts.

 

6. Ever lie. Anything less than full honesty will erode your lawmaker’s ability to commit to you and your issue. If there are some rough spots, acknowledge them early and work on avoidance strategy together with your lawmaker.

 

7. Forget the other side of the issue. You can be sure that lawmakers have at least one of their constituents who will have a different position on your issue, and like you expect to have their voice heard.

 

8. Break a promise. This is a cardinal rule of politics. If you tell a lawmaker you will do something, then do it. Keep your word. Keep all commitments and promises in a timely manner.

 

9. Expect commitment on the spot. Most lawmakers are thoughtful and deliberate, who make a point of seeking all sides of an issue before taking a position.

 

10. Never forget that you and your lawmaker need each other.

 

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