DMHAS: Legislative Lobbying

Legislative Unit

THREE EASY STEPS FOR EFFECTIVE LOBBYING


Contrary to the perception of many people, effective lobbying is not something that can only be done by "experts". Lobbying can be easy, as well as stimulating and fun. It can also be done through phone calls and/or letter writing.  All you need to be an effective lobbyist are three things:
1.  A Few Basic Facts:
-- What is the substance of the legislation you are supporting (or opposing)?
-- Why is it so important?
-- What will happen if this passes and becomes a law (or does not pass)?
-- How much will this change cost?
Any national, state, or local substance abuse organization is able and willing to supply you with the facts. Also, contact the agency in your state which has responsibility for substance abuse efforts and ask them for the addresses of local SA organizations/groups which can be of assistance.  Some suggestions include:

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
P.O. Box 2345
Rockville MD 20847-2345
(Tel.) 1 - 800 - 729-6686 FAX: (301) 468-6433

Federal Drug, Alcohol & Crime Clearinghouse
(Tel:) 1 - 800 - 788-2800

Connecticut Clearinghouse
334 Farmington Avenue
Plainville, CT 06062
(Tel.) 1 - 800 - 232-4424
Internet: http://www.ctclearinghouse.org

Drugs Donít Work!
30 Arbor Street
Hartford, CT 06106
(Tel:) 1 - 860 - 523-8042

For mental health lobbying, any national, state, or local mental health organization is able and willing to supply you with the facts. These include the National Mental Health Association and its state divisions and local chapters, the National Council of Community Mental Health Centers, your state Council of Community Mental Health Centers, your Local Community Mental Health Centers, and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

2.  Believe in Your Cause:
If you are convinced of the need for this legislation to be passed/defeated, are dedicated to the cause, and are determined to "see the job through, no matter how long it takes," then you will be an effective lobbyist. Remember, it is better to say "no" than to agree to lobby for something when your heart isnít in it.

3.  Use Common Sense in Your Approach:
Whether lobbying face to face, by letter, or by telephone, an effective lobbyist follows these common sense principles:

DOís:
-- Be brief
-- Be prepared
-- Be clear & concise
-- Be honest
-- Be accurate
-- Be persuasive
-- Be timely
-- Above all, be persistent!

Bring a very short fact sheet with you to leave with the Legislator; include on it your name and phone number. Try to be "local" -- talk to the representatives for your district about the issue or include someone in your group who is a constituent of that Legislator, if possible.

DONíTís:
-- Donít be argumentative
-- Donít promise rewards
-- Donít make demands
-- Donít knock the opposition
-- Donít try to "bluff" when you donít know an answer
.                                            

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  CHECKLIST FOR EFFECTIVE LOBBYING

BE BRIEF  -  BE PREPARED  -  BE PERSISTENT

 1. Make an appointment, stating the time required for your meeting, who will be present, and the subject of the meeting. Try to include at least one person in the group who is a constituent of this particular Legislator. Keep the size of the group small.

2. Have a specific purpose in mind (i.e., what are you hoping to accomplish by this meeting).

3. Prepare for the meeting. Gather the basic facts on the issue and prepare a one-page fact sheet. If others are going with you to the meeting, agree in advance on who will "break the ice".

4. Expect to be nervous the first time you meet with a Legislator face to face (and maybe the second time, too).

5. Be on time.

6. Introduce yourself (and any others with you), even if you are sure that your Legislator remembers you.

7. Cover only one topic. Be brief; state your case within 5 to 10 minutes, presenting the facts in an orderly, concise manner. Make sure that you clearly state the impact this matter has on your program, your community, the State, etc.

8. Do not become argumentative. Simply ask for a favorable (or open-minded) consideration of the issue, or for a favorable vote.

9. Expect that there will be questions which you are not able to answer. Do not attempt to "bluff" a response; instead, say you will find out the answer and get back to the Legislator.

10. Offer to be of assistance in getting additional information on the matter.

11. Get up, leave your fact sheet, and thank your Legislator for the time and courtesy offered in meeting with you. Do not linger unless the Legislator chooses to prolong the meeting.

12. Report back to your organization(s) on the meeting.

13. Follow up with a thank-you letter for the time and attention given, and indicate that you would appreciate hearing about the issue which was discussed.

14. If the Legislator has asked for additional information, make sure that you get back to him/her with the answers and/or information requested during the meeting!     

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CHECKLIST FOR WRITING A LETTER TO A LEGISLATOR

BE BRIEF  -  BE LEGIBLE  -  BE POLITE  -  BE TIMELY

1. Address your letter properly: (See examples below)

The Honorable William A. Aniskovich
State Senator
Legislative Office Building, Rm. 2300
Hartford, CT 06106-1591

Dear Senator Aniskovich:

The Honorable Patricia A. Dillon
State Representative
Legislative Office Building, Rm. 4019
Hartford, CT 06106-1591

Dear Representative Dillon:

2. Keep your letter to a single page. If you need more space, enclose an attachment which elaborates on your one-page summary.

3. Do not use form letters. Once you have the basic facts, write a letter in your own words. Handwritten letters are considered by some to be even better than typed letters -- assuming that the handwriting is clear enough to read. If you use letterhead stationery, have a reason for doing so.

4. Cover only one subject in your letter. Identify your subject and the bill number you are writing about. State your case just as you would in a face-to-face meeting.

5. Identify yourself. Make certain that your name and full address are on both the envelope and the letter (envelopes are usually thrown away). If you live in his/her voting district, say so.

6. Ask for a response:

-- How will he/she vote on this issue?
-- How does he/she feel about this issue?
-- Is there something you can do (get information for him/her, contact someone)?
-- Why has he/she not supported this issue in the past?

7. DOs and DONíTs:

-- Do send a copy of your letter to your organization(s).
-- Do say "thank you" whenever possible.
-- Donít write AFTER a vote; your letter counts the most BEFORE a vote
-- Donít expect an immediate response; Legislators are very busy during the session.

8. Options for sending your letter:

-- U.S. Postal Service: First Class, Priority or Express Mail
-- Federal Express or UPS (overnight letter)
-- Can send it to Legislatorís district office (they will forward it to the Legislator)                                                                                      

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CHECKLIST FOR PHONE CALLS & TELEGRAMS TO LEGISLATORS

BE BRIEF  -  BE SIMPLE  -  BE TIMELY

1. If you canít say what you want to say within three minutes, then donít use the telephone unless you have been specifically asked for information or a position. Make notes in advance of the phone call, practice, and even write down what you need to say if you feel nervous.

2. Lobbying by telephone or telegram is usually limited to a simple message asking a Legislator to vote a certain way on a specific bill. Your message need not be any longer than a single sentence left with the Legislatorís secretary. Again, be sure to identify yourself, and if you live in the Legislatorís voting district, be sure to indicate that, too.

3. Lobbying by telephone can be effective if your Legislator has been identified as being a "key vote" on a particular issue. Basic contact through letters and face-to-face meetings should have already occurred at this point. Most legislative offices keep a running tally of telephone calls for and against certain issues --- remember, SHEER NUMBERS COUNT! The more people who call, the more attention will be focused on this issue!

4. If you call a legislator at home, use the call as an "introductory call." Introduce yourself, identify your organization, leave your telephone number, and speak briefly regarding the issue. Inquire as to when and where you could phone again to follow up on this matter.

5. You can obtain phone numbers for your Legislators at the Capitol through Information (1-411) or check your phone book for a number at the Capitol where you can reach your Legislator(s).

For Connecticut only, the telephone numbers for all legislators are as follows:

Senate Republicans:
1 - 800 - 842-1421

Senate Democrats:
1 - 800 - 842-1420

House Republicans:
1 - 800 - 842-1423 (Leadership)
1 - 800 - 842-8270 (Rank and File)

House Democrats:
1 - 800 - 842-1902 (Leadership)
1 - 800 - 842-8267 (Rank and File)


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Content Last Modified on 8/18/2010 2:38:48 PM