A guide to working more effectively with your legislators

  1. Consider Yourself an Information Source. Your legislators have limited time, staff, and interest on any one issue. You can fill the information gap.
  2. Tell the truth. There is no faster way to lose your credibility than to give false or misleading information to your legislators.
  3. Know who is on your side. It helps your legislators to know what other groups, individuals, state agencies, and legislators are working with you on an issue.
  4. Know the opposition. Anticipate the arguments the opposition will use and who they will likely be. Provide your legislators with this information and with the answers and rebuttals they will need.
  5. Share personal connections with your legislators. If you have friends, relatives, or colleagues in common let them know. It will help them remember you.
  6. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. If your legislators want information you don’t have or ask something you don’t know, be honest and then offer to get the information that will help them.
  7. Make a specific demand. If you want a vote, information, answers to a question—whatever it is—make sure you ask for it directly and get an answer.
  8. Follow up. Find out what action your legislators took on the issue in question. Thank them for the support or ask for an explanation as to why they did not support your position.
  9. Don’t burn any bridges. Be sure that no matter what happens on the issue, you leave on good terms with your legislators. You work best with your legislators when you have built a relationship with them. At the State House, your strongest opponent on one issue may be your strongest ally on another.
  10. Remember, you are the boss! Your tax money pays for legislators’ salaries, pays for the paper they write on, the phones they use. You are the employer and they are the employees. You should be courteous and respectful, but don’t be intimidated. They are responsible to you and, nine time out of ten, you’ll find that legislators are grateful for your information and perspective.

Reprinted by permission of:
the Maine Women’s Lobby, 124 Sewall Street, Augusta ME 04330