Communicating with Legislators
The Florida Engineering Society is working for you, representing your interests before Florida’s legislative and regulatory bodies, but there is no substitute for an aggressive, ongoing program of expanding and maintaining engineer-government relationships. That is why YOU, a member, are so critical to our effectiveness. Member action is key to the success of any association’s legislative program. Following are tips for writing letters, telephoning, and meeting with your legislators.
General Tips for Effective Communication
- Be Understanding – put yourself in the legislator’s place. Try to understand his/her problems, outlooks, and aims. Then you are more likely to better communicate your needs in a way that your legislator understands.
- Be Positive and Constructive – Instead of complaining about a situation, recommend ways to improve it. Commend the positive things your legislators do. Additionally, don’t contact your legislators only when you want their votes. Make efforts to keep in touch with them throughout the year so they become familiar with you and your concerns. Invite them to your place of business or your group meetings.
- Be Reasonable – Recognize that there are legitimate differences of opinion. Your legislators represent all of their constituents- those who agree with you and those who don’t. Never indulge in threats or recriminations.
- Be Cooperative – If your legislators make reasonable requests, assist them by giving them the information they need, such as personal examples of how proposed legislation will affect you and other businesses in your district.
- Be Realistic – Remember, most controversial legislation results in a compromise. Don’t expect everything to go completely your way, and don’t be too critical when it doesn’t.
- Be Accurate and Factual – The mere fact that you want or don’t want certain legislation to be approved isn’t enough. If an issue is approved that is unfavorable to you, before rushing to blame the legislators, make certain you have the necessary information to present your case, accurately and clearly, as to why it is bad legislation.
- Give Credit Where It’s Due – When a lawmaker supports your position and votes your way, send a follow-up letter expressing your appreciation. If you are disappointed in a vote, communicate that as well.
- Learn to Evaluate Issues – The introduction of a piece of legislation doesn’t mean that it will become law. Learn the facts of who, what, when, and why to make an informed decision as to your position on the legislation.
- Stress Local and Personal Implications – Illustrate how the legislation would affect the health and safety of Florida’s citizens. Always keep the human element in mind, such as the effect of legislation on consumers. It is very important to link your interest with the interests of the average American.
- Keep In Touch with Your Association – Remember, FES serves as your full-time lobbyist. When dealing with your legislators, tell them that you are a member of FES and that we represent you on engineering issues. Inform FES staff about any contacts you make with your legislators, or contact us if we can assist you in