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Top Ten Tips for Working with Legislators. Wisconsin State Prevention Conference 16 June 2011 Kathy Farnsworth, Policy Coordinator Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Control Program. Top Ten Tips.

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top ten tips for working with legislators
Top Ten Tips for Working with Legislators
  • Wisconsin State Prevention Conference
  • 16 June 2011
  • Kathy Farnsworth, Policy Coordinator
  • Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Control Program
top ten tips
Top Ten Tips
  • “Ideally, policymakers would behave perfectly rationally. The would frame questions accurately, obtain all necessary information, discuss the problem with interested parties, and weigh all factors carefully when making a wise and fair decision. But in real life, this is more the exception than the rule.”
  • Gustafson, David H., Cats-Baril, William L., and Alemi, Farrokh. 1992. Systems to Support Health Policy Analysis: Theory, Models and Uses. Ann Arbor, MI: Health Administration Press
top ten tips1
Top Ten Tips
  • “If lawmakers and administrators are unwise or uninformed, the laws and regulations they make can demoralize and destroy an industry or profession and deny services to society. On the other hand, when laws and regulations are well thought out and intelligently applied, they can stimulate growth and improve services to the public.”
  • Campbell, Charles O., “Government Relations”, Principles of Association Management
top ten tips2
Top Ten Tips
  • “No man should see how laws and sausages are made.”
  • Otto von Bismarck
top ten tips3
Top Ten Tips
  • Tell me what I should not do for the person who was in here before you so I can do what you are asking me to do?
top ten tips4
Top Ten Tips
  • Why work with legislators?
    • All citizens have the right to petition the government for redress of grievances and the freedom to state views without governmental interference;
    • They are opinion leaders in you community and they are part of your community;
    • They are elected from the community to represent constituents;
    • As a member of government, they are involved in setting priorities (laws, funding, rules);
top ten tips5
Top Ten Tips
  • Why work with legislators? Continued
    • You’re the experts;
    • You speak for others as well as yourselves;
    • It works – tobacco policy, colorectal, breast and cervical cancer screenings, research funding;
    • Legislators are only as informed on our issues as we make them;
    • If you don’t, others will speak for you and it may not be the message you want shared.
top ten tips6
Top Ten Tips
  • Why work with legislators? continued
    • Grant requirement:
      • State and local support for policy and environmental change through coalitions;
      • Implement policy and environmental activities or interventions
top ten tips7
Top Ten Tips
  • Other Sessions at this Conference:
    • The Role and Power of Storytelling for Advocacy
    • What You Need to Know About Educating, Advocating and Lobbying for Health Policy Change
    • Republicans Are From Mars, Democrats Are From Venus
    • Stable Funding in Turbulent Times: Tips for Working with Legislators
top ten tips 1
Top Ten Tips -- 1
  • Initiate and build a lasting relationship with legislator primarily, with staff secondarily
    • Who you are
    • Where you’re from (his/her district, work with people in his/her district
    • Why you’re meeting with them
top ten tips 2
Top Ten Tips -- 2
  • Be Prepared
    • Understand the facts of your issue and your message
    • Understand the environment in which it is being considered
      • Your legislator’s “place” in the legislative process
        • Majority, Minority, Committee, Leadership,
      • Timing
        • Federal fiscal year, state fiscal year, floor periods, committee work periods, recess
    • Understand the oppositions’ position
top ten tips 3
Top Ten Tips -- 3
  • Communicate
    • Succinct, explicit Message
    • Don’t use jargon--if you must use jargon, define it in simple terms
    • Whenever possible with stories and a few numbers, provide local impact
    • Provide a one-page summary of your issue to leave behind
top ten tips 3 continued
Top Ten Tips -- 3 continued


  • Stick to the subject
  • Remember what you say could be repeated
  • Always be straightforward, frank, truthful, credible resource and aggressive advocate (but not a zealot)
  • Anticipate questions you may be asked and be prepared to answer them
top ten tips 4
Top Ten Tips -- 4
  • Ask if s/he will support your position
    • If they cannot answer right away, tell them you will follow up
    • If the answer is no:
      • Ask if there more information from the district they would consider
      • Might they explain why – keep the door open for continued conversations
top ten tips 5
Top Ten Tips -- 5
  • Avoid
    • Making assumptions
    • Partisan political advice
    • Intimidating or threatening remarks
    • Making promises you can’t keep
    • Errors, if they occur, correct them immediately
    • Arguments
top ten tips 6
Top Ten Tips -- 6
  • Thank
    • During the meeting
      • Acknowledge staff assistance as appropriate
    • Follow up with note/email and include follow up information if promised
    • Recognize in coalition communications
    • Awards, plaques, citations, resolutions
top ten tips 7
Top Ten Tips -- 7
  • Keep in touch
    • Invite them for a site visit or to one of your meetings as a special guest
      • Ask them to bring colleagues along
    • Office hours, town hall meetings
    • Offer to be on a health advisory group if they have one
    • Be visible to them at things you may both be attending – openings, civic events – concerts, games
top ten tips 7 continued
Top Ten Tips – 7 continued
  • Keep in touch -- continued
    • Report back on the impact of their efforts
      • Increase, decrease, maintain, improve, reduce, expand
      • By how much
      • In what (attitude, knowledge, skills, behaviors, funding, services);
      • To whom, for whom
top ten tips 8
Top Ten Tips -- 8
  • From knowledge is power to power in numbers
    • Coalition
      • Local
      • State
      • Regional
      • Interstate
    • Associations/Societies
      • Know the rules, the environment, members, and willing to help
    • Non-traditional Partners
top ten tips 9
Top Ten Tips -- 9
  • It’s a continuous process
    • If a law passes:
      • Implementation may require agency rules
        • Stay involved in rules process
        • Program audits as an option, if things go wrong
      • Monitor continued funding
    • As “things change”
      • Information hearings
      • Reform measures
      • New legislators
      • New staff
top ten tips 10
Top Ten Tips -- 10
  • Words to live by:
    • Knowledge is power
    • There’s power in numbers