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Ten Tips on How to Visit with Your Legislator

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 legislator.

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 promised.

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.

Additional points

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.

More Guidelines for Effective Lobbying

More on Political Responsibility

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172 • Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. 888-735-3448, (718) 980-4400 • Fax 718-980-6515
mail@priestsforlife.org