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Do you work or live in the legislator’s district? Make sure you make that known right away. Legislators are frequently approached by individuals outside of their district (and the state), but legislators are elected to represent people in their own area. This is as simple as saying “Senator, my name is John Smith and I am a chiropractic physician from your district.”
Commend the things that your legislator does right. Legislators are regular people (teachers, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, and dentists) and for the most part, are doing their very best. If you do not know what to say, simply thank them for the long hours and the hard work they do and for supporting the chiropractic profession (if applicable).
Recognize that there are legitimate differences of opinion; most controversial legislation is the result of compromise. Don’t expect that everything will go your way, and do not be too critical when it does not. Even if the legislator did not support us on a particular issue, let him or her know that you would love to talk about it and that you look forward to working together in the future. You have the responsibility of representing the entire chiropractic profession, and we will undoubtedly be seeking the legislator’s support in the future.
The mere fact that you want or do not want a piece of legislation isn’t enough. If an issue goes against you, do not rush to blame the legislator for “failing to do what you wanted.” Make certain you have the necessary information, and do a good job of presenting your case.
Avoid contacting your legislator only when you want his/her vote. Invite him/her to your place of business or your group meetings. Do your best to keep in touch with him/her throughout the year.
If you are relying on information from the ICS, do your best to put everything in your own words. Give the legislator specific examples of the way the bill will help the chiropractic profession and more importantly, chiropractic patients.
The easiest way to increase your impact is to convince a colleague to take action as well. The foundation of a grassroots movement is the fact that peers may motivate peers, causing exponential growth in the outreach effort.
Never threaten elected officials or give ultimatums. It is one sure way to make a lasting enemy against you and potentially the entire profession. Similarly, never suggest that you are or will donate money in exchange for supporting a particular issue. Furthermore, it is illegal to even mention donations on state property (Springfield or district offices). Save your donations for the fundraising events or coordination with the ICS.
Always leave information for the legislator so he or she remembers you. The ICS has a one-page issue brief for each issue that can be left with a legislator. A direct link to an issue brief is listed at the bottom of each issue page in this book. Also, leave your business card so the legislator can contact you in the future.