To make biker rights a reality, you must convince legislators that your position makes sense. Visiting a legislator is an essential tactic for furthering your campaign. Lobby visits can be made on the local, state, or national level, depending on the particular issue you are supporting. A lobby visit can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and all bikers should meet with their elected officials to discuss motorcyclists rights issues.
Know the issues. Join our ezine and email lists. You can also get information about legislation from ABATE of SC's Legislative Coordinator.
Prepare Position Papers
Gather your facts and organize them into a one sided (two, only if absolutely necessary) page fact sheet. This will be the form that you will hand in to your representatives. Remember to be as concise as possible.
Make an Appointment
It is always a good idea to make an appointment to be sure that the appropriate people will be in the office. Remember, staffers and members have busy schedules. If you just show up, you will most likely only get to drop off your materials with a front-desk administrator who probably will not be able to discuss your issue.
Before the Visit
Dress appropriately for your visit or in other words wear your leather. When you wear leather not only do the legislators you visit know you were there and why but so do all the other legislators who see you walking the halls. Bring extra copies of your fact sheets. Check the status of the bill that you are lobbying, and find out who has co-sponsored it. If possible, try and form a delegation by bringing friends who are also from your district. If they are not from your district, you have no obligation to divulge this fact if you are not asked, but also do NOT lie if asked.
Visit the Bill's Sponsor
If you are lobbying for a particular piece of legislation, it is a good idea to call or visit the bill's sponsor before lobbying. They usually will be very eager to assist you in reaching the right members and will offer input on ways to present the issue.
The Opening of Your Visit
It is important to be as relaxed as possible during your visit. Expect to be a little nervous. If you have a delegation with you, choose a primary speaker based on familiarity with the issue and speaking skills. Introduce yourself to your representatives or their legislative aides (LAs). Let them know what bill or issue you are interested in, how you feel about the bill, and how it will affect you. Try to make this part as clear and concise as possible.
Answer Only Questions That You Know
Answer questions and offer your side of a stance. If you do not know an answer, tell your representative that you will get back to them. NEVER make up an answer. If you give out incorrect information, you will eliminate the credibility of yourself . Offering to get back to them also offers you a chance to re-familiarize them with your topic.
Don't Get Mean
After discussing the issue, if your representative or LA does not give you an answer that you want to hear politely thank them for their time, let them know that you still hold your position, urge them to reconsider, and politely leave. Do not get argumentative. Remember LAs and representatives are people, too, and may hold their stance more rigidly if you are unreasonable with them. No one likes working with someone who refuses to negotiate.
If your representative opposes the bill that you want, see if you can come up with some common ground. Always offer to follow up on any new developments, and ALWAYS make sure that your fact sheet has all of your contact information.
After your visit, it is important that you follow up on any questions that you were unable to answer. Always send a note thanking your representative or LA for their time. If necessary, set up another appointment if you need to follow up on a new slant or topic. If your representative does what you told them to do, then be sure to thank them and let them know that you appreciate their efforts.
Benefits of the Visit
Your visit will not only help to persuade your representative, but it will also be an educational experience for you. During your visit, you will get an inside look at the political climate, and get insight on how to better promote your issue. Never be afraid to ask an LA a question about the actual mechanics behind government.
How to organize a your biker lobby day.
- Recruit early! Make a goal of putting together a group of 10-15 dedicated bikers who would be willing to meet with legislators about motorcycle rights and other liberty issues.
- Make an appointment to meet with legislators. You will be able to find the contact information for district offices of your legislators using your nine digit zip code. Call the district office and ask to speak with your legislator or staff member. Tell them that you are a constituent/motorcyclist and that your group would like to meet with the Representative/Senator about motorcycle rights or better yet the actual issues/bills of concern to your group.
- Prepare your materials. Download lobbying materials from the Legislative Action Center. Ask friends who cannot attend the lobby day to also write letters to be hand-delivered during your lobby day. Prepare a number of packets to leave with your legislators' staffs. Letters are most effective when hand written always avoid form letters and especially petitions.
- Prepare your group. Meet at least once before your lobby visit to go over messaging, speaking order, and to answer any questions.
How do I choose which legislator to lobby?
Your group will have a better chance meeting directly with Representatives rather than Senators. For ABATE Chapters that have large numbers of members from multiple districts, choose one or more legislators your group would like to lobby. The more meetings you can set up, the greater your group's lobbying efforts! ABATE of SC's Legislative Coordinator can help you target specific legislators.
What else should I consider?
You may want to approach other motorcycle rights organizations and see if they would like to cosponsor the event with you. This will have the advantage of increasing attendance at the actual event, increasing collaboration among motorcycle rights organizations, and also will provide you with some other leaders who can help you to organize the event!
If possible, involve other motorcyclists or liberty minded groups in the event.
Can I get press coverage?
This is the perfect occasion to notify the local media and let them know what you are doing! They should be very interested in local biker activists visiting Members of Congress on behalf of a national initiative. For your local area, all you have to do is write a press release and send it out to your local media contacts.
Once the lobby visits are over, am I done?
Not just yet. All those taking part in the effort should meet nearby the Capitol and share what they learned; I suggest over a nice meal in Columbia. If possible, have all the participants fill out a feedback survey so you know how each visit went. Was their representative receptive? Will he or she support the bill?
Send a message to the Legislative and State Coordinator detailing your lobby day so that we can follow up with those offices.
Next, follow up with a thank you letter to each office. Remind them what the visit was about, and any definite actions that they said they would take.