Activism Tips for the NH Legislature
This page outlines some tips for NCFC-NH members and supporters on how to be an effective “grassroots lobbyist.” Note that since NCFC-NH is not a political lobbying organization, we have set up this page as a resource to help people lobby as individuals.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
Click here to download an Adobe PDF file (730 kb) that shows how a bill becomes a law in New Hampshire.
For information about current state legislation and to find out who your legislators are, check out the NH State Government web site.
The Fundamentals of Grassroots Lobbying
Since a legislator’s first priority is to get re-elected, the most effective lobbying is that performed by constituents – i.e, the ones who actually elect him or her. It is important to create a constituency for your legislation. State legislators in NH do not receive many phone calls or letters on issues, so when they do get this kind of feedback, it has a significant impact.
There are a number of ways that organizations can mobilize their constituencies that will result in legislative victories. The most effective methods include:
- Letter writing campaigns
- Phone calls, phone trees, and phone banks
- Personal meetings between legislators and constituents
- Committee hearings and testimony
Use Your Resources Wisely
By targeting your resources, you can make sure that you will have the greatest possible impact on the bill that your are trying to pass or defeat.
Remember, there are two groups of legislators who won’t change their opinions on your bill – your staunchest supporters and most dire opponents.
You should thank your supporters, supply them with information and arguments so that they can sway others, get a commitment from them to work for your bill, and make sure they are present for the vote.
However, most of your lobbying efforts should be directed at the undecided legislators.
Eleven Informal Rules for Effective Lobbying
Consider yourself an information source: Legislators have limited time, staff (if any), and interest on any one issue. They can’t be as informed as they might like on all the issues – or the ones that concern you. You can fill the information gap.
Tell the truth: There is no quicker way to lose your credibility than to give false or misleading information to a legislator.
Know who is on your side: It is helpful for a legislator to know what other groups, individuals, state agencies and/or legislators are working with you on an issue.
Know the opposition: Anticipate who the opposition will be – organized or individual. Tell the legislator what their arguments are likely to be and provide them with answers and rebuttals to those arguments.
Make the legislator aware of any personal connections you may have: No matter how insignificant you may feel it is, if you have friends, relatives, or colleagues in common, let them know! And use personal examples from your own life or the lives or your neighbors.
Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something: If a legislator wants information you don’t have or asks something you don’t know, tell them so and then offer to get the information they are looking for.
Be specific about what you are asking for: If you want a vote, information, answers to a question – whatever it is – make sure you ask for it directly and get an answer.
Respect the legislator’s time: While you as a citizen have the right and obligation to voice your opinions to the legislature, keep your communications short and to the point. Try to fit your written correspondence to them within one printed page if possible. Testimony at a public hearing should be kept to only a few minutes, especially if there are many others waiting to speak.
Follow up: It is very important to find out if your legislator did what he or she said they would do. It is equally important to thank them for their support or ask for an explanation as to why they did not vote as they said they would.
Never burn any bridges: It is easy to get emotional over issues you feel strongly about. That’s fine, but be sure that no matter what happens, you leave your dealings on good enough terms that you can go back to them. Remember, your strongest opponent on one issue may also be your strongest ally on another.
Don’t be intimidated: Many newcomers to grassroots lobbying, especially when attending public hearings, feel a bit nervous. Keep in mind that legislators are responsible to you and that their job is to listen to and assess your feedback. If you’ve followed all of the guidelines listed above, the legislator is almost certain to be grateful for your input.