1. Get to know him or her beforehand.
Do a little research at the library. Dig up their biography or resume and
learn about their family life, schooling, interests and associations. Find out
what legislative committees they sit on. Discover common bonds.
2. Make an appointment.
Find out when your legislators will be in their districts, and when they will
be in the capitol. Once your meeting is scheduled by phone, send a confirmation
letter. Then, be on time for your appointment.
3. Present your issue(s) briefly and persuasively.
If you're talking about a particular legislative proposal, have the bill or
bill number with you. State your position on the issue clearly and support your
position with facts. Have some background material with you to leave with the
4. Be polite.
Be calm, reasonable and respectful. Be politely firm. Threats or open
antagonism are never helpful and are often counterproductive.
5. Be accurate.
If you're asked a question that you don't know the answer to, don't guess.
Tell your legislator you'll provide that information later...and do so. Giving a
legislator misinformation will only erode your credibility.
6. Use personal example.
If the issue to which you speak directly relates to your life, your job or
any firsthand experience, make sure your legislator hears your story. Parents,
teachers, doctors, counselors all bring with them invaluable experience.
7. Try to secure a specific response.
Politely ask for your legislator's position on the issue in question. Make
whatever other requests of him or her you desire, e.g. speak to his or her
colleagues to generate support for the issue. You will not always obtain a firm
answer, but you should try.
8. Don't ignore the legislator's staff.
Legislative aides strongly influence a legislator's vote on specific issues
by "filtering" the information he or she receives and by giving direct advice.
Get to know the legislator's staff and communicate with them often.
9. Follow up.
Always send a letter of thanks to your legislator after a personal meeting.
Thank him or her for any commitments made and press again for commitments as yet
"unmade." Restate your position on the issue you spoke of. Send any materials
10. Meet again!
Your initial meeting should only be the beginning of a long-term working
relationship. Continue to meet with him or her on a regular basis to provide the
critical information only you can provide. Get on your legislator's mailing
lists and keep up-to-date on his or her actions.
Priests for Life would like to add the following two points to this advice:
1. Ask important questions that force the legislator to think and respond,
rather than spending most of the time doing the talking while the legislator
simply listens and responds with a nod or a "Yes, I see." Once you ask a key
question that is not
a yes-no question, keep quiet and wait for a response.
2. Priests of the district which the legislator represents should come to see
him/her, possibly in small groups. The presence of several clergy obviously
represents a large number of voters in the district.