Lobbying Tips from MACo
I. Prepare. Know What You Are Talking About
II. Presenting Your Testimony
A. Introduce yourself – name, title, county
B. Be formal. Address the chair and members of the committee.
C. Keep it short and to the point. Members resent long rambling testimony.
D. Have your testimony in writing and hand it to the clerk of the committee after you speak. If you hand it to them before you speak they will read it and not look at you while you talk. Having your testimony in writing also provides that if they run out of time and cut off testimony, you can turn in written testimony.
E. After your testimony, you may be asked questions. If you do not know the answers, do not bluff. Tell them you will find out and get the information to the committee–then follow-up.
III. Be Honest and Accurate
If you ever provide a legislator with inaccurate information, they will never rely on you again for information. If you mistakenly provide inaccurate information, as soon as you discover your mistake, inform the legislator. Trust is paramount in the legislative process.
IV. Develop Personal Relationships
One of the most important lobbying techniques is to develop personal relationships with individual legislators. Such relationships develop in many ways. Attending social events, or meeting with them periodically to discuss your issues. Working closely with certain legislators on particular issues and seeing them through to a successful conclusion always works to establish relationships. Assisting legislators to work out problems with local officials is another good starting point.
It is also important to establish personal relationships with members of the legislative staff. It is important to know key members of the legislative fiscal information staff and bill writing staff.
V. Give Legislators the Credit
Thank legislators for their work on your bills, even if they were not successful. Write them thank you notes, and acknowledge their help in public. Appear to testify and support the legislator when your bill is being heard. Be flexible if amendments need to be added. Do not adopt the “If I can’t have it all I don’t want any” attitude.
VI. Do Not Burn Bridges
There are many issues that come up during legislative sessions. A particular legislator may be on the county side on one issue and against it on another. Be careful not to scold a legislator too much if s/he is against you on a particular issue. S/he may support you on the next issue – but not if s/he has suffered much of your wrath.
VII. Establish Good Communication with MACo Staff
Effective communication with association staff is a must. Let them know if and when you will be available to testify. Ask questions if you are uncertain about a bill. MACo’s primary method to keep you informed during the legislature is the MACo Alert. The Alert is mailed weekly to your office. Read it and keep up to date. Things change very quickly during the session.
If you have communication with a legislator about a bill, inform MACo staff. If you send or fax letters to legislators, provide MACo with a copy.
VIII. Involve Other County Officials
Coordinate your legislative efforts with your other county elected officials. Stand up and support their bills and ask them to return the favor.
IX. Develop Media Relationships
The importance of developing good personal and professional relationships with members of the media who cover the legislature cannot be overstated. It is very important to be accessible to reporters covering the legislature and even more important to know how to respond to their questions. How you respond to questions from representatives of the media can have a tremendous impact on how your position is related to the public. Like relationships with members of the legislature, relationships with members of the media are based on trust and respect and are developed over long periods of time.
X. Stick With MACo Policy
Once the membership of the association has adopted a legislative agenda, respect it. Do not sabotage the association if you do not like a bill. When commissioners oppose a MACo bill, legislators become confused, and then disregard the importance of MACo as your representative