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, firstname.lastname@example.org 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!