When you visit your legislator ...
Know the issues. Read MMA issue briefs, backgrounders and talking points. If you have questions, call the MMA's Legislative team.
Present the issue in terms that will interest your legislator.
- What will be the impact on your practice in the local community?
- What will be the impact on jobs in the legislator’s district?
- What will be the impact on the general public in terms of access to health care, safety, cost, etc.?
Time it right. Whenever possible, contact your legislator(s) before the session begins, or very early in the session. It is always a nice touch to meet in the district for breakfast, or a cup of coffee to underscore the fact that you are a constituent who lives and practices in the district.
Do your homework. Find out about your legislators' policy interests at the House or Senate Web site. Compliment them on their service.
Use "human interest stories" whenever possible. Use anecdotes involving your patients. Avoid jargon.
Be nice — never sarcastic or obnoxious or angry.
The legislator's staff person may attend. Be sure to jot down the staff person's name for later use.
Ask for feedback. Ask how your legislator plans to vote.
Offer to help in the future and to be a resource on health care issues.
Follow up with a thank-you note — and reiterate your main points.
What Legislators like to hear:
"We have done thorough research on our issues."
"There is no opposition to our issue; or the opposition is minimal; or we have met with the opposition and have worked out a compromise; or we have attempted to work out a compromise but the opposition is unwilling to meet/compromise."
"Our proposal will save tax dollars, or our bill is revenue neutral."
"Our bill will improve health care for consumers." (Show how.)
"Our bill is supported by organizations in the legislator’s district." (List them.)
"Similar measures have been enacted in other states with positive results." (List them.)
What Legislators don’t like to hear:
"Our profession is of two minds on this issue." (Unite, then proceed.)
"We can pay for this by cutting 'waste in government.'" (Be specific, not insulting.)
"We're not certain what the cost implications are." (Get certain!)
"Really about the only opposition is the (insert opposition group name here)." (Really?)
Support political campaigns
All legislators share the experience of running for office. This is a noble but difficult undertaking for most, and those folks who help in this effort by volunteering, contributing money, hosting fundraisers, etc. will be given priority in access to the legislator. This does not mean your legislator will always agree with you, but it does mean that your phone message will probably be answered first.