Though they’re not, strictly speaking, safety tips, these suggestions will help you influence elected officials on any issue that matters to you. The purpose of meeting your representative or senator (or their staff) is to present your opinion on legislation, show your rep how important that law is to you, and explain you’d like your rep to act on the issue.
Start with preparation. Familiarize yourself with the issue, both the pros and the cons. Think about how you will present the pros and argue against the cons. Remember that you won’t have all day, so be sure to put your best ideas first. You’ll also want to know about the legislator you’re going to meet. You can find your local representative and senator on your state government website. What is their position on the issue? Were they a supporter of the bill, or even a sponsor? Are they on a committee that must take action on this bill? Do they have a history of voting one way or another on this issue? If they are opposed to it, have they said why, and can you counter that opinion? If you have information you want to leave with the legislator, get that ready. It’s always a good idea to leave a statement of what you want, why you want it, and what you want the legislator to do.
You can schedule a meeting through the legislator’s office. On a day like Black Thursday, the legislators will be ready and waiting to talk you.
At the meeting, remember to be polite. If you have a connection with the legislator, mention it. Maybe your children go to the same school, or you have a business connection. Maybe the legislator is a fellow motorcycle enthusiast. At a minimum, thank the legislator for taking time to listen. Then get on to the issue, what it is, why you support it, and how you hope your legislator will vote. Explain how it will help other constituents. If you can, tell a personal story in support of your viewpoint. If other legislators support your position, mention them. Tell the legislator what you want them to do: sponsor a bill, support a bill in committee, vote for a specific law.
Now it’s your turn to listen. If the lawmaker raises objections, politely refute them with facts if you can. If the objections are new to you, learn from them. Remember them so you can try to counter them in a later meeting. If the legislator is supportive, thank them. Finish with the final “ask” for what you hope the legislator will do.Following up with a written thank you note is not only polite, it leaves a very favorable impression.