Data & Resources

Published on Nov 16, 2017

How to talk to your legislators

Contact: Candice Bock

Cities need a legislative partnership that is strong and responsive – and those partnerships start at home. If city officials want to see positive results from the Legislature, cities need to forcefully, but respectfully, insist that legislators respond to our needs. We must continue working so that every legislator knows that the state is only as strong as its cities and towns.

Make yourself a resource

Legislators need useful information and engaged constituents. They make decisions on hundreds of issues a year but do not have time to become experts on all of them. Make yourself a resource; the person they can turn to on when they have questions about local government issues.

  • Do you have good data? Share it!
  • Is your legislator supportive of one of your priorities? Offer to help them respond to concerns.
  • Do you have information to share with AWC? Call and offer yourself as a resource to the AWC lobbyist covering that issue.

Create consequences – good and bad

Thank legislators who helped you and create consequences for those who didn’t.

Did you get a major project funded?
Thank legislators who voted for the project at ribbon cuttings, through newsletters and media. Conversely, if your legislators did not vote for the project, consider not inviting them to the ribbon cutting.

Did you save a program because state-shared revenues were restored or maintained?
Let beneficiaries know what role your legislators played. Publicly acknowledge the partnership at civic meetings and recognize your legislators.

Encourage your legislators to join the Local Government Champions Caucus
An exciting development of the 2015 session was the formation of the Local Government Champions Caucus, which created a place for legislators to collectively advocate for city issues.

  • Ask your legislators to join and participate in these caucuses.
  • Explain that they can help your city by joining forces with similar-minded legislators.
  • Refer legislators to AWC’s Government Relations Director Dave Williams to learn how to plug in.

Accept no more excuses

“Cities pay more for employees than the state, control your own costs.”
Teacher salaries vary by region, as do public service costs. Cities must respond to the economic market, and it’s not all within our control. We’ve repeatedly approached the Legislature for help controlling personnel costs and haven’t received much support – from Democrats or Republicans.

“I’m not on the committee.”
Your legislator’s job is to fight for your district! They need to advocate for your interests with colleagues who are on the committee tasked with considering your issue. You can help by arming them with stories and data to help!

“I had to follow my caucus.”
The only way for your community to get what you need is for your legislators to fight within their caucus to support you. No one else can fight for your city. Suggest they join the Local Government Champions Caucus to gain allies who will help advance bills good for cities and help block those bad for cities.

“City funding is not our problem.”
Remind legislators that 96% of the state’s GDP, 86% of retail sales, and $1.4 billion in property taxes for the state school levy are generated within cities. Cities are both society’s backbone and the state’s economic engine. Investing in funding and making sure tools necessary to keep cities strong are in place, is not optional and is their problem if things aren’t working.

“Cities are doing better than the state.”
Statewide, on a per capita basis, cities’ revenues are growing more slowly than the state’s. However, your response to this statement will depend on how your city is doing. If your city is still struggling, explain the reasons why. For those that are faring better, remind your legislators that the vast majority of the tax dollars generated by economic activity flow to the state and not to your city. Strong cities provide more resources to the state.

Engage your legislators when visiting the Capitol

Guidelines for elected and appointed officials' participation in elections activity

Guidelines for city officials who routinely engage with legislators or communicate with constituents about legislative matters

Cities that lobby may need to report to the PDC

Cities and towns that conduct lobbying activities either through a contract lobbyist or directly with in-house staff or city council members may need to report to the Public Disclosure Commission. Those that hire a contract lobbyist must file a report. If you have in-house staff or elected officials who spend more than four days a quarter directly lobbying the legislature, you may need to complete a report. For more information on reporting requirements and how to file a report visit the PDC’ website or review the PDC’s Public Agency Lobbying guide. Cities and towns that fail to comply with reporting requirements on lobbying activities may be subject to penalties from the PDC.

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