Governmental and Community Relations

Tips For Effective Lobbying

Communicating Your Message to Legislators
Fostering and Maintaining Lobbying Relationships
Example of an Effective One Page Political Summary

Lobbying is attempting to influence or persuade an elected official to pass, defeat or modify a piece of legislation. It is the process by which citizens make their opinions known to those who represent them. Most legislators want to know as many of their constituents' issues as possible. They realize that constituent support is key to their reelection and political career, and therefore consider constituent views on legislative issues a priority when voting.

Learn the legislative process and how the political process works. Knowing all the ins and outs of committee procedures, staff activities, and so on can sometimes make a difference. If you want to be a successful volunteer advocate, it is essential that you understand the process, the lingo, and the schedule surrounding legislative action. Below are some of the basic components of the state and federal legislative system:

The State Legislature:
  • Their chief job is to make laws affecting the state. California has 40 state senators and 80 assembly members.
  • Their chief job is to make laws that affect all of the states. The Federal Legislature is composed of two senators from every state and the number of representatives represents the population from each state. California has 52.
  • A bill is simply a proposal to change, repeal or add to an existing law, or to create a new law. For a bill to become law it must pass both houses with a simple majority vote. The governor or president can veto any bill, but it may still become law if the veto is overturned by a two-thirds majority vote in both houses.
  • Committees are assigned to research and draft bills on particular issues. The Committee system is relatively similar in the state and federal legislatures, and helps to manage the enormous amount of legislation that must be considered every year. When a member of the legislature introduces a bill, it is printed and assigned to committee for hearing. At a committee hearing members analyze the bill and hear testimony from the general public, appointed experts, and other interested parties. The committee then recommends that the bill be passed as amended, or referred to another committee for amendment or hearing.
  • There are standing, joint and special committees. The entire body usually votes in members of committees, except in the case of special committees where the members are appointed.
  • Standing committees are permanent in the legislature and cover the more broad issues such as appropriations, welfare, education, and labor.

  • Special committees are formed as needed to deal with passing problems such as civil disorders, disasters, or political scandals.

  • Joint committees are composed of members of both the senate and the house of representatives (or assembly) and are designed to reconcile differences between each house over a particular piece of legislation, and are helpful tools in minimizing deadlocks between the two houses.

Don't forget the executive. Lobbying includes maintaining relationships with executive agencies and the legislative branch.

Become informed about the issue and its history. Before approaching your elected officials you must have a clear, specific objective as to what you want him or her to do about an issue. This requires being informed with the subject and how it affects the district, county, or region that the elected official represents or how it may impact a particular subject area that the legislator cares about. Thus, be knowledgeable about how the State Budget or state or federal legislation concerning UCR or public higher education will impact the legislator, the legislator's constituents, or the district or region at large.

Know the problem. The problem you need solved must be specific and only involve one issue. Many advocates get too wrapped up in details or jump around between issues, and as a result do not clearly articulate their ultimate goal.

Know the solution. In other words, it is extremely important to be able to request a specific action from the representative, as well as know the legislative process well enough to be able to articulate how you think the problem can be solved through the legislative system. If you must, make your best guess, because it is much easier for the representative to at least have your ideas as a starting point.

Show evidence of support. Advocates immediately garner more attention from representatives if they demonstrate that they have an organized group of supporters for their issue. Therefore, one of the most effective ways of communicating the impact of your issue is to approach the legislator with one key person who is representing a group. The focal person should bring to the meeting information regarding the organization and be prepared to answer questions such as who funds the group, how many members there are, when and where the group meets, and who some of the members are. Invite the representative to meet with the group and address the issue.

Know how UCR is unique. See if you can identify particular achievements or accomplishments of UCR that may be particularly meaningful to the legislator in question. This may be the area the legislator represents, the committee assignments for the official, or particular subject areas where the legislator has previously introduced legislation. The key is to target information about UCR which will be of interest to that legislator.


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Governmental and Community Relations
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