Tips on Communicating With Your Legislator
Remember — your legislator wants to hear from his/her constituents. NYPTA makes it easier.
When preparing to meet with your legislator, it’s important to keep some things in mind:
1. Plan far in advance. If you plan ahead, you can secure an appointment with your legislator in the home district office. (Plan on coming to Lobby Day on May 17, 2011.)
2. Tell the receptionist the bill number and name of the bill. That way, the staff can prepare for the meeting. Most importantly, you need to be prepared. Contact your Legislative Liaison to learn about the most up-to-date status of the bill and to learn if they know anything that would help you in the meeting with your legislator. You especially want to know if your legislator is a Republican or Democrat and if he or she sits on the committees that affect our legislation. Have they voted “yes” for the bills we support or do we need to persuade them to see the other side? Will you be asking them to cosponsor the bill or are you asking them to withdraw support from the manipulation or corporation bill? Are you thanking them for sponsoring one bill and asking them to request the committee chair to place the bill on the committee agenda? In other words, be clear and concise about the purpose of the visit. There are many bills in the legislature so you will actually be educating the legislator and their staff. You need to be prepared, and it is easy with help from the committee and office staff. Do not go alone if you are uneasy about the information. We can pair you up or find a whole group of people to go.
3. Dress professionally and immediately introduce yourself as a PT or PTA and the town in which you live. The reasoning behind this is so they know you are a constituent and connect you with physical therapy. Personalize the meeting, perhaps with an anecdote about something in the community in which they played a part. You want to make this more than a routine visit. Thank them immediately for taking the time to meet with you. While waiting for the legislator, befriend the staff since they are important people with whom to build relationships. Record the names of staff or aides so we can personalize a thank you note.
4. Be polite and concise in your purpose for being there. Use real-life examples of how the legislator’s constituents are affected by the bill passing or being opposed. If you do not know an answer to a question, write it down as soon as you can because you will need to tell them that you will research the answer and contact them ASAP. Never be rude or confrontational. Never say, “I’ll never vote for you again.” Never mention campaign contributions. Never speak badly about another group. Speak in layman’s terms to simply educate them on the substantive advantages or the disadvantages patients will have with the bill. Ask directly if they can support the bill or if they can cosponsor. Or if we are looking for them to oppose, ask them directly if they will oppose the bill. This is done in a very professional manner.
5. Record important aspects of the visit on the summary sheet that the Chapter Office provides and return that to the office ASAP. Send a thank you letter to the legislator and if they needed follow-up information, include that as well.