Byline: DAVID MILES
Citizens can make an impact one legislator at a time
Lobbying isn't a once-a-year activity; it works better when you get to know your lawmakers and talk to them year-round. That was the message at a lobbying workshop that took place last month, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of New Mexico. Max Coll, a former state House member and a Santa Fe Democrat, and Rep. Jeannette Wallace, a Los Alamos Republican, said contacting local legislators is critical to successful lobbying. "You're not going to have nearly as much impact talking to somebody else's representative or senator," Coll said. Wallace said it's important to track interim legislative committees and start lobbying lawmakers well in advance of legislative sessions. "Pay attention to what's going on year-round," she said. Coll suggested constituents call legislators to set up an appointment. Wallace said she would rather step away from a committee hearing to talk to a constituent than schedule a lunch meeting. "Don't depend on us to have free time," she said. Coll stressed the significance of accurately assessing legislative support in key committees and in the House and Senate chambers. "Count your votes," Coll said. "If you don't have the vote count, you're not going to win." Lobbyist Linda Siegle recommended winning over the staff members who write bill analyses for legislative committees. "We take all our talking points and all of our spin, and we give it to those analysts," Siegle said. She also said activists should pack rooms where legislative committees are considering bills they care about; this tactic often has the effect of keeping opposing lobbyists out of the room. Warren Dunn, a Santa Fe resident who supports a statewide ban on cockfighting, said he was pleased to meet a representative of People for Animal Welfare Society at the workshop. "I knew, as an individual, I had very little leverage," Dunn said. But Barbara Romero of Santa Fe said several lawmakers have told her that citizen lobbyists do make a difference. "They listen. They pay attention. That's their job," Romero said of lawmakers. Anyone who lobbies New Mexico lawmakers on behalf of an organization must register with the Office of the Secretary of State. However, only paid lobbyists must pay the $25 annual registration fee. Individuals lobbying on their own behalf are not required to register.
Details Citizens can make an impact one legislator at a time
For information on registering as a lobbyist in
New Mexico, visit the secretary of state's Web site at
A few tips
* Know the names of the legislators you need to meet.
* Introduce yourself and your organization.
* Tell a personal story.
* Offer a one-page fact sheet.
* Include a name and phone number for more information.
* Ask for their support.
* Dress appropriately and show up on time for meetings.
* Tell the truth.
* Don't take rejection personally.
* End on a positive note.
* Always thank the lawmaker for taking time to listen.
Source: Adapted for Linda Siegle's "Power of Your Voice" presentation. Siegle, of Resources for Change, represents a number of groups before the Legislature.