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Get to Know Your Legislators

Get to Know Your Legislators

After the legislative session ends, lawmakers return to their home districts. This is the perfect time to start building relationships with your elected representatives and start talking about policies that are affecting you, your employees, your business, and your patients.

Get started building relationships in your legislative district using the resources below.

Why It's Important

Relationships are the lifeblood of advocacy work. Your WSMA lobbyists and representatives work in Olympia to develop deep relationships with policymakers, government agencies, and others working in the health care arena.

What gives an organization a "superpower" are the relationships that member advocates work to build within the legislative districts where they live and work. The power is found in the constituents … that's you!

Legislators want to hear from their constituents in their districts. They want to know how the policies that they debated and passed during legislative session affects constituents back home. They want to see and hear from the people who live and work in their district about how a particular problem or issue is affecting a particular group or organization or business within their communities.

As a physician, you are:

  • Responsible for the health and well-being of your patients (their constituents).
  • A business owner in their district, responsible for employees (their constituents).

When legislators hear from and meet with constituents while they are at home in their districts, it serves as a powerful advocacy tool. Because often what a policymaker sees, hears, and learns from constituents in their home districts will shape their decisions, thoughts and actions when they travel back to Olympia for the next legislative session.

Use the Legislator Meeting Tool Kit on this page to help you build (or deepen) relationships with your elected officials and talk about issues after legislative session.

Legislator Meeting Tool Kit

Follow the steps and use the tools provided below to get started building relationships in your legislative district.

STEP 1: Identify your legislators

Find your legislators and their contact information by visiting the Washington State Legislature’s online District Finder, or by contacting Alex Wehinger at the WSMA Olympia office, or 360.352.4848.

STEP 2: Plan a meeting

A meet-up with a legislator can take many different forms. Here are a few suggestions:

Offer to meet at a local restaurant or coffee shop. These meetings are informal, a kind of “get to know you,” or “let’s catch up” if you have already met. Keep the conversation light. Talk about your office/business, talk about what you appreciated about the last session or about what the legislator accomplished. Give him/her some praise. You should also offer what you were disappointed about and offer insight as to how the policy/decision will affect you, your office, your employees, and your patients. Invite the legislator to visit your place of business so that you can introduce him/her to your employees, and perhaps to patients, as well.

Organize a meeting at your place of business (preferred option). In this option, you’ll want to have an agenda in mind when you ask a legislator to visit your place of business (we’ve provided a sample agenda below). You’ll want to talk about what kind of impact your business makes in the community: the number of employees you have, the number of patients you see, the years you’ve been in business as a community member. As part of your agenda, you’ll want to talk about issues that affect your business, employees, and patients. This includes issues that are beneficial, and issues that are problematic. For example, if you are an independent practice, talk about how a B&O services tax increase will affect you. If you are concerned that you may have to reduce the number of Medicaid patients you will see, or that you may have to reduce investments in innovative technologies or even close your practice, then having the legislator there, surrounded by employees and possibly patients, is an impactful way to deliver this message. He/she will see firsthand the effects of a policy change. Make as part of your agenda employees who can talk about how the loss of a job will affect them, or longtime patients who can talk to them about how much they value being able to visit an independent practice. Have a reception with refreshments. While you may be talking about an issue that is difficult, like the B&O tax, you’ll want to keep the visit friendly and informative.

Download a sample agenda.

Invite the legislator to an event as your guest. Maybe you belong to a local Rotary or a medical society? If the organization allows, invite the legislator to be your guest and introduce him/her to your friends and colleagues. Make sure you talk up the positive things the legislator has done for the community.

STEP 3: Contact your legislators

Once you’ve decided the type of meet-up you want to organize, call your legislator’s office. You will most likely speak to a legislative aide. Explain that you would like to meet with the legislator while he/she is in the district. This may take some work, as schedules are tight, but be persistent, and be ready to compromise. If the legislator is not receptive to a reception at your office, offer to meet over a cup of coffee. At the very least, schedule a phone call, and while speaking to him/her, offer the invitation of a face-to-face meeting at your place of work.

STEP 4: Follow up after the meeting

You had your meeting—good for you! There is usually something that is talked about or mentioned that needs follow up. Be sure to do this in a timely manner. Always make sure you send a written note, thanking him/her for taking the time to meet with you. Always offer to be a resource for him/her in the future.

STEP 5: Keep in contact

Now keep in touch by sharing information that might interest him/her, or send a congratulations for some news you’ve heard, or a comment on a proposal or issue that the legislator is talking about in the news media. If you can, attend a gathering where the legislator may be speaking. Make sure you re-introduce yourself. And if you have another issue you’d like to talk to him/her about, offer to meet again!

Join or renew your membership today!