Tips for New Mexico Citizen Lobbyists

Posted by Heather Ferguson and Viki Harrison on January 9, 2017


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One of the easiest ways to learn about the New Mexico State Legislature is to visit the Capitol during the session and see the action yourself! Common Cause New Mexico is there every day, and we are happy to meet with you, show you around and introduce you to Legislators. Just give us a call and let us know when you will be there – we are here to help with the issues you care about most in New Mexico!

Tips on Calling Your Elected Officials

  • Prepare. Have an outline of what you want to say and what you want to ask your legislator to do.
  • Identify yourself. Give your name and address.
  • Be brief. Clearly and concisely state your position and make your point. Limit your call to one issue. Mention the legislation, by bill number if there is one. If the legislator isn’t familiar with the issue give them a brief summary.
  • Be polite and respectful. Don’t argue or act angry. Be courteous, direct and fair. If you need more time to persuade your legislator, request a meeting.
  • Ask for a viewpoint and a vote. Find out where the legislator stands, any concerns about the legislation, and ask for a commitment to vote for (or against) the legislation.
  • Follow-up with a thank you note.
  • Report back. Let us know what your legislator said and any commitments made. 

 Tips on Writing to Your Elected Officials

  • Express yourself. A neatly handwritten or typed letter using your own words and thoughts are best. Form letters and pre-printed postcards do not carry as much weight. Write about how the issue affects you and share any personal experiences you have regarding it.
  • Be clear and concise. Clearly state your position on the issue and what you want the legislator to do. Be direct and firm, but not hostile. Stick to just one issue and keep it to one page—a one-page letter is more likely to be read.
  • Mention the legislation. If a bill has already been introduced, include the bill number. If there is no bill number, for example, you are writing before the session begins, then clearly state the issue.
  • Identify yourself. If you have met the legislator before, remind him/her of where and when you met. If you have a professional or personal investment in the issue, share this with the legislator, for example, if you are a teacher or a parent. Don’t forget to include your address.
  • Mail the letter. If the legislature is in session, send it to the legislator’s capitol address; if it isn’t, send it to the home or office address.
  • Follow up. If you don’t get a reply (remember to ask for one!) then write a follow-up letter. If the legislator complies with your request (e. g., votes favorably for a bill), send a thank you note. 

Tips on Finding Out Who Represents You

Everyone in New Mexico is represented by two U. S. Senators and one U. S. Representative as well as by one state senator and one state representative. If you don’t know who represents you, you can find out either online or with a quick phone call. 

  • Visit the New Mexico Legislator website at: http://www.nmlegis.gov and click on Find Your Legislator. Or call the Capitol at 505-986-4600. 
  • Visit the www.vote-smart.org and enter your zip plus four in the box on the left side of the screen. If you don’t know your plus four, follow the link to the post office web site where you can look it up.
  • Contact your county clerk. The phone number will be listed in your phone book under county government.

How to navigate the New Mexico Legislative website

  • Go to http://www.nmlegis.gov.
  • On the front page you can search for any legislation, and at the top, you will find tabs that allow you to find your legislator, all legislation, committees, state agencies and more.  You can search anything in the search bar, and you will find updates scrolling via Twitter at the bottom of the page. Spend some time on the site and feel free to email us for answers you don’t find there.

Tips on Writing Letters to the Editor

You can write a letter to the editor in response to an article, an editorial, another letter to the editor or simply on a topic relevant to the paper’s readership. Here are a few tips on how to get the letter published. 

  • Read the letters to the editor for a few days to get a sense of what kind of letters are printed. Some papers are very selective, choosing letters that relate to recently printed stories, while others print nearly every letter, regardless of topic.
  • Look in the paper for guidelines on how long letters should be, if you need to include your phone number, and where to send your letter—many papers will give both a postal address and an e-mail address.
  • Stay focused so that your message is clear to the reader.
  • Send your letter by e-mail to get it to the paper as quickly as possible. If your paper is selective, call to urge that they print your letter.  

Tips on Attending Legislative Hearings

During the legislative session, attend committee hearings. Simply being there and being identified as being pro (or con) is an enormous push for your issue. 

  • Consider testifying if needed. Keep your comments short and to the point. We can coach you on this when the time comes.
  • Be prepared to wait. Committee meetings don’t always start on time and there is no set order for bills on the day’s agenda to come up.
  • Let your legislators know you are there. This is especially important if one of them is on the committee hearing the bill.
  • Bring a book, some water and a few snacks in case the committee hearing is delayed or very long.
  • Have fun! It can get tedious at times waiting around, but there are lots of opportunities to have your voice heard and make a difference!

Office: Common Cause National, Common Cause New Mexico

Issues: More Democracy Reforms

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