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ABC State Licensure Handbook

January 2015


How to Lobby Your Legislator

Things to remember before you launch your lobbying campaign. State legislators are very busy people who must juggle many different issues at once.

When you lobby these individuals, be aware of the questions legislators ask themselves:

  • Does this make sense? A legislator who by definition is pressed for time will ask him or herself how the desired action measures against common sense.
  • Is this narrow self-interest or in the interest of a broader constituent group? Legislators are far more receptive to general public good than narrow special interests.
  • How will this affect my district? All politics are local and every legislator wonders how a proposal will play at home.
  • Will it help me politically? Who will be the supporters and who will be the opposition? Legislators want to know whether an issue will help or hurt their reelection chances.
  • Are there any constituents who know or care about this? Nothing compares to hearing from the people who vote for the legislator.
  • Become their expert resource on O&P—not only for your initiative but also as future issues arise.
  • Above all ALWAYS CLOSE THE DEAL. Be persistent with the legislator and at the end of the meeting ask for a decision as to whether the legislator will support your bill. If the legislator puts you off, ask when you can expect him or her to make a decision. Call back or visit again at that time.

Here are some ineffective lobbying measures to avoid:

  • Legal memos. Legislators have neither the time nor the patience to wade through a legal document.
  • Glossy kits with lots of inserts. It may look nice, but given the time constraints on most legislators, a glossy kit is far less effective than bullet points on a piece of paper.
  • Jargon filled communication. Legislators don’t know – and don’t want to know the profession’s jargon.
  • Letters that only refer to bill numbers. Time pressed legislators do not have the time to look up a bill number to see what you are talking about.
  • Picketing, rallies and demonstrations. Use substance over showmanship.
  • Petitions. Use only as a last resort, their effectiveness is questionable.

Here are some effective lobbying measures that are time tested:

  • Having important and powerful people meet with the legislator. Legislators like to feel important. Meetings with important people fill this desire.
  • Personal letters from constituents that start “As your constituent I urge you to…” Nothing works like hearing from a constituent/voter. Bullet points in the letter make it even more effective.
  • Personal visits and/or phone calls by constituents. These work best when the legislator has the time to listen so they can learn about the issue. Remember to keep your message and request simple.