As the new year begins, lawmakers around the country are headed to their state capitals to get to work. If you’re a freedom-loving activist living in a state with a legislative session this year, chances are you have several goals, from getting good policy passed to stopping bad policy from seeing the light of day.
But you’re not the only one with an agenda—big-government supporters and paid lobbyists will be hard at work pushing policies that restrict freedom and make it harder for families to get by.
Don’t worry, though. With the right tactics, you and your community members can take on the opposition effectively. Here are some top tips from our presentation Impacting Your Legislator, part of our Insight to Action series.
Know the bill numbers
The quickest way to build credibility is to use the bill number when talking to lawmakers and aides about legislation. First, it helps them know exactly what bill you’re advocating or opposing. Lawmakers deal with hundreds of similar bills every session, so it’s important to make sure you’re clear. Second, it shows you’ve done your research and have been following the process. You can usually find the bill information on your state legislature’s website.
Staffers are your best friends
Legislators rely heavily on their staff to summarize bills and give recommendations as to how they should vote. Don’t worry if you can only get a meeting with an aide. Bring simple, easy-to-understand handouts that explain your position and give brief arguments making your case. Leave the materials with the aide after your meeting so they can use them as they put together briefs for their legislator.
Get used to the walk-and-talk
The legislature moves fast, especially in states with short sessions. Your lawmaker will likely have a busy, rapidly changing schedule. Even if you get a meeting scheduled, the lawmaker might get called away at the last minute and not be able to attend.
If you want to talk to lawmakers, the best option might be to catch them between meetings and walk with them to their next appointment. Even if you get only five minutes, they’ll be a captive audience. This approach works best if you’ve already developed a relationship with the lawmakers and their staffs.
Raising your voice, making insulting or insensitive comments on a lawmakers’ social media pages, using offensive terms—these are all ways to ensure legislators and their staff won’t take you seriously. Stay calm, professional, and confident when talking with lawmakers and aides. You’ll get a lot farther.
To learn more about influencing legislators from top-notch trainers with on-the-ground experience, join us for an upcoming Impacting Your Legislator presentation. See what classes are coming up near you.