I lobbied against a very damaging and misguided bill today. It was my first time ever lobbying!
I want to share with you some helpful tips and what I learned so that you can exercise your democratic privileges, too! Your voice deserves to be heard and it's important that you let your Senators and Representatives know your opinions!
Note: Lobbying (meeting in-person) is most effective. If you can't do that, make a call. Calls are more effective than emails because people have to actually answer the phone and listen to you! But of course, there's no harm in doing all three things!!
Take time to prepare yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and energetically
Legislature can be so highly personal because it can have a direct impact on our ways of life.
This particular bill that I was lobbying against was quite triggering for me because it proposed very misguided and convoluted restrictions that would impact or totally halt many holistic practitioners from running their business -- and therefore, it would also impact all recipients of such holistic care!
I found myself feeling afraid of losing my career and I also felt this triggering whole other lifetimes and generations of oppression involving spirituality, earth-based healing, and women.
So I sat down and really honored my feelings. I felt through the rage. I created a sacred space. I used sage and palo santo to help cleanse my energy. I used essential oils to help me process my emotions and energy blocks. I worked with ceremonial cacao to help open up my self-expression. I prayed aloud to God and meditated.
By giving myself space to honor those feelings, I was able to channel my personal rage into empowered action. I ended up entering the State House feeling far more confident and grounded than I would have otherwise.
- Create a safe and sacred space to feel your feelings
- Do self-care practices
- Eat nourishing foods and drink water
- Stretch or exercise
- Use essential oils to help yourself ground and shift your energy
- Talk to a friend or family member
Read the bill that you'll be speaking on
Seems obvious, right? But you need to actually sit down and read the full bill yourself. Don't just blindly trust all the hear-say. Do your homework!
Read the bill several times so that you know what it says and can confidently speak on it.
Write out a 1-sheet document full of reasons why you're supporting or opposing the bill
This will help you to organize your thoughts.
Make sure you "speak their (the Legislators') language." That means that you need to write out exactly WHY this bill is harmful or helpful. How will it impact people and the economy?
Does it hold implications on veterans, trauma-survivors, opioid crisis, healthcare crisis, public health, safety, etc.?
Will this bill end up costing money to the state?
Are there alternatives to this bill that you oppose or support? List those and provide a description.
You can even provide references to previous bills that didn't pass.
If you're opposing a bill, is there an alternative bill that you would be in support of? It can be helpful to say, "I oppose this, but I I support this one!" Explain why.
Keep your argument summary to a 1-page, single-sided document if possible. You can have even more arguments that you speak through, but really put only the most compelling arguments on the document. A 1-page summary will be a great quick-reference guide for your Legislators and their aides who are already so busy!
Print many copies of that 1-sheet document
You'll want to have enough copies so that you can hand it to every single Senator, Representative, and aide that you speak to.
Not only is this helpful for you to organize your own thoughts, but it's also really helpful to have that physical document to hand out. Our legislators and their aides have so much paperwork to sift through. Creating that 1-sheet document of info not only helps you to organize your own thoughts on the bill, but it helps them to more quickly understand what you're trying to convey. It will also help them when they wish to review the bill in the future because they'll have something succinct to refer to.
Double-check the number assigned to the bill, as the number will change after it's passed by one legislative branch. Senate bills and House bills each have their own numbers.
Print several copies of the bill
Keep one for yourself and hand out copies to legislators and their aides, as needed.
Figure out where the bill is in its process of moving through the Legislative branch
Is it in the House? The Senate? Is there a particular committee assigned to oversee this bill?
Figure out who you need to speak to today.
In the bill I was lobbying against, it had been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee, which would then decide if the bill would be heard in session and voted on. Therefore, I focused my attentions on the the Ways and Means Committee.
Pay special attention to the Chair and Vice Chair of any committee that is overseeing the bill.
Also, be sure to contact your own Senator or Representative that oversees your district. They'll be more likely to listen to you because you're their constituent.
For good measure, make sure you also contact the Minority Leader of the House or Senate, too.
Print out a list of names and room numbers of legislators that you want to talk to
Then take notes on this document as you speak to people. Take note of what you spoke about, what they were concerned about, and whether they were leaning toward opposing or supporting the bill.
Call ahead to try to make an appointment
If you can make an appointment with your legislator, that's ideal! If they're not available, speak to their aide. Aides are in direct contact with the legislators and help to inform the legislators of bills and public opinion.
Can't make an appointment? No worries! Show up anyway and ask to speak to the legislator or aide.
Bring business cards with your contact info
If you don't have business cards, print or write out your contact info: Full name, phone number, email, and anything else that might be relevant to what you'll be speaking on.
Hand a business card to every Legislator or aide that you speak with.
Plan a lobby day for a whole group of like-minded advocates
Show up in numbers. I found it effective for 30 or so of us to visit our legislators in groups of 1-3 people throughout the course of one day. When they keep getting office visits from many different people throughout the day who are advocating for the same thing, they'll really pay attention.
Call and email your legislators
That will help bring the bill to the attention of the legislators. It's helpful if a bill has already been brought to their attention by the public by the time that you show up in-person. If they've been receiving a lot of calls and emails and then you show up in-person to speak with them, they'll really pay attention to you and what you're saying.
What to do when you're actually lobbying
I know, I know -- clothes and appearance shouldn't matter. Formal clothing is elitist in nature. And using appearance as a judge of whether or not someone should be taken seriously is wrong. But that's a discussion for another time.
The fact is that appearances matter to a lot of people, including many legislators. First impressions matter a lot when you only have a few minutes to get your point across. You want your legislators to take you seriously and not be distracted by your choice of clothing.
Dress "business casual" if you can. Make sure your shoulders and thighs are covered. Wear nice shoes. Brush your hair. This is the typical dress code for those who work in the government.
Wear comfortable shoes! You'll be on your feet a lot! You'll be walking throughout the State House and be standing while you meet with legislators and their aides. This might not be the best day for high heels!
Bring water, a snack, and anything else for personal comfort
I personally brought essential oils. I used them before and after speaking with people, as it helped to calm my nerves and to give me a helpful boost in energy.
Lobbying takes effort and energy!
Bring the lobbying materials that you need
- Copies of your 1-sheet argument summary **
- Copies of the bill
- Your business cards **
- A list of everyone you want to speak to
- Any other resources that might be helpful
** bring enough copies of these so that you can hand one to each Legislator or aide that you speak with!
Especially if you have a scheduled appointment, you'll want to arrive early so that you can find your way around the building and get through security
You don't want to be late to your appointment. Navigating the State House can be a little complicated, depending on the layout of your State House!
Even if you don't have a scheduled appointment, arrive early so that you don't feel rushed and so that you can acclimate yourself to your environment. The State House can feel a little intense!
Silence your phone
Duh -- you don't it to interrupt an important conversation! It can feel disrespectful to someone who is taking time out of their busy day to speak with you if you're distracted by your phone.
Begin lobbying in the morning or early afternoon
I noticed that the activity started tapering down by about 4:30PM. It seems like the best hours of activity are 10AM-4PM.
Walk into an office, introduce yourself, and ask to speak with the legislator
Ask for the Representative or Senator by name (also: obviously, you want to personally be clear on whose office you're in!).
The aide or assistant might ask what group you're here with. If you're here with an organization, say so. Or you can say that you're here in opposition to / support of a particular bill.
If you have an appointment, great! If not, you can probably still speak with someone.
If the legislator isn't available to meet with you, ask to speak with an aide. Speaking with an aide is quite helpful, as they help to inform legislators of what bills are circulating and public opinion. Aides might even know how the legislator is leaning or how they tend to vote!
Thank people for meeting with you
It's common courtesy, right? But be extra courteous. Shake hands, introduce yourself, and thank the person for meeting with you.
If you're feeling very upset by the bill, take time to feel that out before your arrive at the State House.
While speaking with legislators and aides, you want to be very polite. You can certainly be passionate when speaking, but don't be rude. Legislators and their aides are here to serve the public. They hear from countless people every day, and I'm sure they get some unpleasant comments hurled at them. Be kind. Kindness doesn't mean you won't stand firm with what you believe in. It just means that you're not "shooting the messenger" or misdirecting your anger. Use your words wisely.
Have your 1-sheet summary + business card + copy of the bill handy
Hand the legislator or aide your 1-sheet summary. Tell them what bill you're speaking about. If they aren't familiar with the bill, hand them a copy.
Share some of your key points. Share a personal story and talk about how the bill would impact people. If you can draw on specific personal examples or statistics, that's helpful!
Ask them if they have any questions for you.
At the end, hand them your business card (or any piece of paper with your contact info). Invite them to contact you if they have any further questions.
If you're speaking with an aide, ask for their business card
You want to ask for their business card so that you can follow up with a friendly email.
You can find the contact info of your legislators online, so you don't need to ask them for their business card.
Keep track of who you've spoken to and what their response was
Especially take note of personal details in the conversation. What questions did they have? Did you meet in an unusual place that wasn't their office? For example, perhaps you were walking with them as they went into session. You'll want to remind them of that so that they can more easily recall the conversation.
Take note of what objections there were.
Take note of whether they're leaning in favor or opposition of the bill, if they tell you such information.
Also note what points you made that seemed to really resonate with them.
Send followup emails
This is where business cards and notes come in handy! Send followup emails to any aids and legislators that you spoke with. Mention specific details of that conversation.
Also email any legislator that you weren't able to speak with directly. If you spoke with an aide of theirs, write that in the email.
Post on social media
Make posts before, during, and after. Tell people what you're doing and why you're doing it!
Having pictures of you can be especially helpful because it seems more personal that way.
Share clear information on what the bill is, how to get involved, and what you're learning.
Lobbying and advocacy are hard work. It can be especially exhausting when there is a piece of legislature that is threatening something that you hold near and dear.
Make sure you re-hydrate, eat good food, do some self-care activities, and rest!
If you have some emotions that are coming up, be sure to create space to honor them.