Meet With Your legislators

Meet With Your legislators

Why meet with decision-makers?

    1. Meeting with a decision maker is one of the most impactful actions you can take to advocate for issues you care about because…
      1. You are building a relationship.
      2. You are sharing your story, which helps the decision-maker understand how policies are impacting their constituents.
      3. The elected official you’re speaking with may work on important committees or may be a leader in their caucus with influence over how others vote. In some cases, if an elected official is a true champion on an issue they may ask to share your story with others in meetings or on the floor during a vote.
      4. Even if an elected official doesn’t agree with you, it can give you insight into how a vote might occur and what other actions need to be taken to advance a policy through the political process.

How to meet with your legislator: Setting up a meeting

    1. Think of this meeting as the first of many and consider developing a long-term relationship to make it easier to have discussions about the issues you care about.
    2. Simply reach out to your elected official! You can use your address to find all of your elected officials here, and find your state lawmakers contact information here.
    3. Consider where and how you want to meet. You may want to set up a location that will help you illustrate the issue you’re facing, you may want to travel to the State House to meet them, or it may work best for both of you to set up a virtual meeting.
    4. Remember that legislators can have busy schedules – if an issue is urgent, make that clear. For federal members of congress, the best time to meet with them may be when they’re on recess from Washington D.C., back in their home district.
    5. If you’re having trouble setting up a meeting, contact Maine Conservation Alliance and we’ll do what we can to help you.

Sample Meeting Agenda

    1. Introduce yourself: name, any roles you play in the community or groups you are a member of
    2. Thank the legislator for taking the time to meet with you, and double check how much time they have.
    3. Introduce the issue you’d like to discuss. What is the key background information? Who else supports or opposes this issue?
    4. Share your story: why does this issue matter to you? How has it impacted you or someone you care about? 
    5. Have a clear, definitive ask related to the issue. For example:
      1. vote “yes” or “no” on a policy
      2. make sure the policy is on a committee agenda
      3. speak with their colleagues about the issue
      4. publicly support or oppose the policy 

Holding a successful meeting: Top tips

    1. Come prepared with an agenda and having done some background research on the issue. Consider yourself a source of information – legislators have limited time to dive into any one issue, and you can help fill the knowledge gap.
    2. Know the opposition – and provide your legislator with the counterpoints they might need.
    3. If you’re meeting in a group, determine roles and responsibilities
      1. Who will share their stories for each issue
      2. Who will take notes
      3. Who will print and bring materials
      4. Who will watch the time to keep the meeting on track.
    4. Bring materials to show and leave behind. For example:
      1. One-page fact sheets, like our EPC fact sheets.
      2. Pictures or videos that can help show the real world impacts of the issue, such as showing what contaminated drinking water may look like flowing from your tap.
      3. A business card or other contact information so the representative can easily reach you. Elected officials often have follow-up questions or may want to meet with you again.
    5. Take notes! And be sure to jot down anything you’d like to follow up on.
    6. Expect questions. Answer the ones you know – and be honest when you don’t know the answer – then, if you can, follow up about questions you weren’t sure about.
    7. It’s possible you’ll disagree – be respectful! You’ll want to maintain a relationship after this meeting, especially for the times you can find common ground – and remember, the legislator cares a lot about issues affecting Maine, just like you.
    8. Make sure to get an answer to your ask. If they say “yes,” thank them. If they don’t know yet, ask them what information they need to make a decision. If they say “no,” see if there is any additional information that they may consider.
    9. Thank them for their time, no matter the outcome of the meeting.