Need some tips from a Capitol Insider?

We’ve organized I&E Days for what, a hundred years now? And I’ve been around our government relations office here in Sacramento for ages, hearing the ins and outs process at the State Capitol. You’d think I’d practically be a Capitol insider by now.

Well in truth I’m not even close. And that was really brought home to me when I heard Susan McEntire speak on our New Legislator Orientation webinar. She’s a true Capitol insider with years of experience in a district office and at the Capitol. She’s now the Chief of Staff for Assembly Member Das Williams (35th District). We were fortunate to have her speak on the New Legislator Orientation call last week to share her experience and advice.

If you missed the webinar, here are some of the tips for district legislative meetings that Susan gave us:

  1. Have a constituent with you. Having a constituent from district, or someone who works there, attend the meeting with you makes the most effective meetings.
  2. State your objective for the meeting up front. These meetings only last 10-15 minutes and if you try to end it with your main point you may run out of time. Also you might confuse staffers with the details if they’re not sure why you’re there. So start with your main point, and end with story or stat to bring the message home.
  3. Offer solutions. Many people come into these meetings and say, “don’t cut our program.” But not many people bring solutions. Talk about what the Member can do. Offering solutions makes an impact.
  4. Staff is important too. You may end up meeting with staff. But staff advise the Member and have the broadest picture on the issues. Plus, they’ll attend community meetings and community events with or without the member, so you’ll run into them over and over again.
  5. Offer to be a resource. If the district office is planning an event like a health fair or sidewalk office hours, offer to be a resource to them.
  6. Stay connected. Ask about future events you can be a participant in, like a town hall they may be holding. Write to the office. Join their email or newsletter list, so either give them your information or sign up on the website. You’ll want to know about their events so you can attend them and run into the staffer again. Also, make sure Members and staff are on your email lists and get invites to your events.
  7. Reconnect with old Members. There have been a lot of changes, so you’ll want to see whether the staff you knew is still the same. See what the Members priorities are this year and how you can outreach to your shared constituents.

There’s much more to hear from Susan on the webinar, including some perspective on what new legislators are going through. Check it out here. You’ll feel like a Capitol insider.

–Vanessa Marvin

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