CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS

PERSONAL VISITS

Meeting with an elected representative is an effective way to convey a message about a specific legislative issue. Below are some suggestions to consider when planning a visit.

Plan your visit carefully: Be clear about what it is you want to achieve; determine in advance which member you need to meet with to achieve your purpose. Keep in mind that legislators tend to be most receptive to constituents from their own districts.

Make an appointment: Recognize that legislators and officials have multiple demands on their time. Contact the Appointment Secretary/Scheduler and explain your purpose and who you represent. It is easier for the staff to arrange a meeting if they know what you wish to discuss and your relationship to the area or interests represented by the member. If the legislator's calendar is full ask to meet with the staff aide handling the issue. Often legislative staffs are more knowledgeable about the details of particular issues than legislators themselves.

Be prompt and patient: When it is time to meet, be punctual and patient. It is not uncommon for a representative to be late, or to have a meeting interrupted, due to the member's crowded schedule. If interruptions do occur, be flexible. When the opportunity presents itself, continue the meeting with a member's staff.

Be prepared: Know the issue and facts behind the issue. Take time in advance to learn about the legislator's constituency, political situation, and positions on related issues. Members are required to take positions on many different issues. In some instances, a member may lack important details about the pros and cons of a particular matter. It is therefore helpful to receive information and examples that demonstrate clearly the impact or benefits associated with a particular issue or piece of legislation.

Try to get the legislator to state his or her opinion on the issue: Depending on the response, press your point firmly, but politely; preserve a mutually respectful relationship for future issue.

Be political: Members want to represent the best interests of their district or state. Wherever possible, demonstrate the connection between what you are requesting and the interests of the member's constituency. If possible, describe for the member how you or your group can be of assistance to him or her. Where it is appropriate, remember to ask for a commitment.

Be responsive: If asked questions for which you do not know the answers, promise to follow up with the necessary information - and do so.

Be courteous: Follow up the meeting with a thank you letter that outlines the different points covered during the meeting, and send along any additional information and material requested. If you should obtain additional reports or information that would be useful to legislators, send those documents with a brief personal cover note; that will help establish you as a useful resource. Eventually, you may even find officials calling you for information, help, or your point of view on new issues.