Getting to know legislators is key to working relationships
Knowing a legislator is different than contacting one. Contacting your legislator is great, and it works. But what works better is knowing your legislator before you need their help. What do I mean by that? I mean having a conversation with them before it’s time for the big ask on a bill or resolution. So, let’s talk a little bit about what that looks like.
First off, you should meet with them face to face without asking them for something specific. Meet with them and let them know who you are and what kind of work in general you support. If you know you will be talking to them about wildlife or conservation bills throughout the session, let them know that.
January is a great time to meet with your legislators! The bill trackers from CCO and ODWC will be active and you will have a pretty good idea of issues you may be concerned or excited about, but they won’t yet be in the throws of the session.
To get a meeting, start with the legislative assistant listed on their website. Give them a call and let them know you’d like to meet with your legislator. This sounds hard. It’s not. Some lawmakers even have open come and go office hours for constituents. Getting a meeting is the simplest part of the process.
Have a plan on what you are going to say. Introduce yourself and tell them about something they did in the past that you supported or appreciated. Then tell them about concerns you have or what you might be calling them about during the session. Keep it brief and respect their time. Say thanks and be on your way. Afterward, follow up with the legislative assistant and with your legislator and tell them thank you. Remember that the assistant is the gatekeeper.
During the session, keep in touch with your legislator. If they do things you like or appreciate, take a moment to call or write and email and tell them you appreciate them and their move. If there is a bill moving through a committee that’s headed their way, give them a brief heads up that it’s coming to the floor, or might be and let them know how you feel about it.
After the session, email or try to meet with them again and thank them for the good things and ask them about their decisions that you disagreed with. Invite them to meetings or events held by your organization; especially if they are not an outdoors person.
That’s it! Now you know your legislator and they know something about you. It’s easy, it’s productive and it will benefit you during the session.