Eight Ideas for Influencing Utah’s Legislators

1. Feel comfortable with lobbying/influencing

Lobbying is influencing or attempting to influence legislative or executive action, or both, through direct communication or activities with a designated individual or that person’s immediate family. Developing goodwill through communications or activities, including the building of relationships, with a designated individual or that person’s immediate family with the intention of influencing current or future legislative or executive action or both is also lobbying.

2. What happens if board members don’t lobby?

“If once (the People) become inattentive to the public affairs. . . I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges and Governors shall all become wolves.” Thomas Jefferson

Influencing our legislators to make good decisions for our schools and our children takes work and is chief among responsibilities of board members and educators.  You have information and experience that many legislators do not.  Without your voice, decisions can be made without full information or skewed information.  Stay involved with your local legislators to help them understand your schools and the needs of children.

3. Why lobby or try to influence?

Utah’s legislators desire great public schools, as do board members and educators.  But not all legislators have expertise on school-related matters, especially on school finance and/or in-depth knowledge about curriculum, tutoring, software, and assessment.  Much of the lobbying to be done is to provide accurate and timely information about the effects of proposed laws as well as our views on how to best help schools and children succeed.

4.  Whom should we lobby and influence?

• Special Interest Groups

• Legislative Staff

• State Board of Education and Leaders at the Utah State Office of Education

• Other Executive Agencies

• Governor, Lt. Governor, Deputy of Education

5. Where do we lobby?

The best lobbying is back home in the legislator’s own district.  If every board member made three or four contacts, it would cause a “ground swell” of action.  If parents also make a contact or two on the same matter, legislators pay even closer attention.  The folks back home carry the most power.

6. When is the best time to lobby?

The best time to lobby is also the best time to build a relationship — when you don’t need anything, but wish to share ideas and concepts about creating excellent schools and opportunities for students.  Building a long-term, trust-worthy relationship is the best idea of all when it comes to having influence at critical moments.  Invite your legislators into your schools on a regular basis.  Write an advocacy letter, personally visit with legislators during the Legislative Session, or email them during the Session on important matters once you have a recognized relationship.  A quick phone call of support or concern can have a dramatic effect from a “grassroots” constituent.  Remember to express appreciation for help and decisions you support.

7. Avoid giving useless information.

Materials that do not help lawmakers or legislative staff to do their jobs efficiently or effectively, such as position papers, press and information kits, and brochures get little or no attention, even when hand-delivered.  Give one page executive briefs or easily understood data to help them do their best job.

8.  Treat others, including staff, with great respect.

Remember that there are no unimportant staff for legislators.  You may not need a staffer’s support but you surely cannot afford his/her opposition.  Build relationships with them and remember polite protocol with staff, other constituents of any persuasion, and your own legislators.  Practice civility as you work to influence the outcomes of legislation.