What to say and how to say it!
Legislators will always make time to talk to a constituent or respond to your correspondence throughout the year. Find out here who represents you. Learn a few helpful tips on contacting your legislators. You can be general and simply tell them that you are a bicyclist and want them to make bicycling safe and convenient for both children and adults. Or, you can mention specifically the issues and bills that are included in BikeMN’s legislative agenda. Don’t be surprised. Many of them like to bicycle too.
How to Talk with Your Legislators
Remember that conversations directly with a legislator may be very brief, but staff usually has more time to give. It is ok to contact legislators in your district when the legislature is not in session, but remember, legislators likely have jobs and families that you need to schedule around. Utilize the relationships you build to your advantage – get to know both your legislator AND his/her staff members. Invite them to events (hint: they love ribbon cuttings!) If it is during the legislative session please consider meetings with legislative assistants as important as meetings with legislators. Be respectful and thankful for their time. Remember you are developing a relationship with the whole office, not just the legislator.
Never go into a legislative meeting unprepared. Research is critical. If you are going into a meeting with another constituent, be sure the coordinate your plans and talking points. Remember that legislators may not be an expert on the issue, so keep it simple. A concise message is easy to remember and understand.
You’re beginning to build a relationship with your own legislator (remember, you may be working with them for some time to come). Be friendly. Be polite. Maintain eye contact. Introduce yourself, tell them where you live in their district, what you do, and/or describe the type of bicyclists you or your family members are.
Discuss why you’re visiting and explain that you’re a bike advocate with the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. Be prepared to discuss the top reason why these issues are important for you. Feel free to tell a personal story, anecdote, use talking points from your research or BikeMN, talk about how this issue will affect you or your district, or engage in some other way on the issues.
Ask if they know the issues. Listen and give the legislator a chance to talk and give their input. Create a dialog, not a monologue! If they have questions you can’t answer, be honest. Make a note of the questions and get them to BikeMN staff as soon as possible. If we do not follow up, we may lose the interest (and possibly the support) of your legislator.
Communicate what you are specifically asking the legislator to do.
Stay in Touch
This is the beginning of the conversation. Follow up with a thank you letter. Try to answer any questions the legislator asked and alert BikeMN staff if you need help. Make an appointment in your calendar to call or write the legislator again in a few weeks and plan to check in periodically. If a new piece of information or research is released, send it along to the legislator. Pay attention to what he/she is working on and, when appropriate, reach out to thank and commend him/her for their work.
Legislative Visits Dos and Don’ts
• Introduce yourself and tell where you’re from.
• Know the name and number of the bill (if applicable) and something about it.
• Stay on message.
• Be on time, but be prepared to wait.
• Be efficient and articulate. The meeting should be brief and concise.
• Ask your legislators’ support for the issues at hand.
• Stop discussing the issue if you get a “yes.”
• Listen to what they have to say and take notes.
• Give the legislator (or his/her assistant) copies of the information you brought.
• Turn off your cell phone.
• Thank the legislator in person and follow up with a thank-you note.
• Attempt to answer questions that you don’t know the answer to.
• Get angry or hostile.
• Threaten (i.e. “You’ll pay for this at the polls or I will work to recall you.”)
• Lose track of time.
• Blow off any scheduled meeting.
• Disparage a meeting with staff and waste an opportunity.
• Don’t get offensive. If an elected official doesn’t support your issues, thank them for their consideration and move on.
Take Action & Spread the Word!
Join BikeMN’s advocacy efforts for the 2022 Legislative Agenda by contacting your representatives and spreading the word.
Copy and paste the template below. You can find out who represents you, and their contact information here
BCC: email@example.com, [your representatives, mayor, county representatives, city representatives…etc]
Dear Senator xxxx or Representative xxxx,
I’m writing to ask for your support of some active transportation and safe routes to school policy and funding issues.
Share a little about yourself – I (My family) live…. We like to bike and walk in town and on Minnesota’s great parks and trails… We think there is a great need to make biking and walking safe, convenient, and fun.
For Senators – We hope you will support Senator Howe’s bike policy update bill SF 2131 (many of the state’s bike riding laws have not been changed since the 1970s). We also ask that you sign on to Senator Senjem’s $10 million in bonding for Safe Routes to School infrastructure bill SF 1223. If you are writing a Democrat you can also include Senator Johnson Stewart’s Active Transportation Policy and Finance Bill SF 2079.
For Representatives – We hope you will support Representative Lillie’s bike policy update bill HF 1908 (many of the state’s bike riding laws have not been changed since the 1970s). We also ask that you sign on Representative Murphy’s $10 million in bonding for Safe Routes to School infrastructure bill SF 1223, and if you are writing a Democrat Representative Bernardy’s Active Transportation Policy and Finance Bill HF 1566 and the biking and walking portion of the House Climate Action Caucus’s plan HF 2994.
I/We’d truly appreciate your support for these issues.
(: your name here 🙂
Sampling of the 2021 Summit
BikeMN’s 2022 Legislative Agenda
BikeMN helps me form personal relationships and connections with other bike advocates and legislators. It helps me inspire younger people to see the value of advocacy and appreciate the long struggle to implement change.