Lobby Day Office Visits
“We, in America, do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” Thomas Jefferson
A visit to your legislator’s office can be very effective in influencing how he or she votes on the topic of interest. Most people aren’t comfortable talking with the legislator, or member of the staff in a face-to-face office meeting, but with a little preparation, it can be very rewarding.
Whenever a constituent contacts his or her legislator, by phone, email, letter, or in a face-to-face meeting, it’s called lobbying. To lobby simply means “to solicit or try to influence the votes of members of a legislative body.”
Citizen lobbying activities are critical and known for affecting the policies of a community, state, and the nation. It’s a powerful activity where even the most inexperienced “lobbyist” can have success.
Real Impact has prepared tips for your visit to your legislator’s office.
Preparation to Visit Your Legislator’s Office
1. Read the proposed legislation of focus. The language is sometimes difficult to understand because the jargon used by the legislature, but it is still worth the time to read. Underline or highlight important phrases and sections.
2. Do your research. An online search about the legislation can give a helpful understanding about the bill’s pros and cons. Nonprofit organizations are also valuable sources for information.
3. Schedule your meeting. Call to make an appointment. A meeting with the legislator’s aide will be scheduled if the legislator is not available. The clerk will ask the reason for your visit along, with your home address and phone number to confirm the visit is with a constituent.
4. Use notes. Prepare main points for discussion. Preparing will show concern and commitment. Citizens are not professional lobbyists and are not expected to know every detail about the proposed legislation but enough to know why it’s supported or opposed. Note, it’s not unusual to have as little as ten minutes of the aide’s time to discuss a bill.
How The Visit Will Proceed
Greet the receptionist, identify yourself, and state the reason for your visit.
If you’ve made an appointment, the receptionist will inform the legislative aide of your arrival.
Unscheduled visits may be slightly different. Explain that you wish to speak with someone about a particular piece of legislation. You may not have the opportunity to speak with an aide but only the receptionist.
During your meeting with the legislator or aide, identify the bill by number and author.
Explain what the bill will accomplish and your support to the opposition of the bill. Make it personal. Explain how the law will affect you or your family directly.
Prepare a material to leave with the aide; a copy of the bill, a news article, or pertinent information supporting your viewpoint.
Ask for a “Yes” or “No” vote on the bill and the legislator’s position. If the legislator’s position is unknown, ask for a written response stating his or her position.
Always be courteous. It’s a great opportunity to build a relationship with the legislator’s staff even if the legislator does not vote your way. A positive relationship can be beneficial when you visit the legislative offices about future issues.