Top 10 Excuses You’ll Hear When Lobbying Your Legislators

Your state legislators may be good at many things, but being creative in the excuses that they give you is not one of them. When you lobby your legislators on key issues, you'll likely hear the same set of excuses. We highlight what the most common ones are -- and why they don't hold up -- below.

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(1) Lack of Knowledge

What They Say: “I’m not familiar with the issue.”

Why It Doesn't Hold Up: If a bill is new, they might actually not be that familiar (even though it is their job...). But if they keep asking you for more and more answers, or keep saying they aren't familiar even after you've spoken with them, they're not being honest with you. This is an easy excuse to neutralize.

 

(2) Lack of Expertise / Focus

What They Say: “My expertise is [ISSUE], and I only focus on that.” / “There are more than 6,000 bills. I can’t read all or co-sponsor all of them!” 

Why It Doesn't Hold Up: Your legislators aren't just elected to work on one narrow issue. They should care about a broad set of issues, and co-sponsorship is the lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to ways to show support. They are just putting their name on a paper.

 

(3) Lack of Pressure

What They Say: “My constituents aren’t calling me about this.” / “My constituents don’t care about this.” 

Why It Doesn't Hold Up: Make sure that they are actually hearing from constituents. If they still claim this after public displays of support for legislation, then they are just making excuses for their own lack of support for it.

 

(4) Lack of Popular Support

What They Say: “My district is very conservative.” 

Why It Doesn't Hold Up: Studies have shown that both Democrats and Republicans believe that their districts are more socially and economically conservative than they really are. This is true in MA where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in more districts than Democrats hold in either chamber. But beyond that, it's the job of legislators to lead.

 

(5) Lack of Will

What They Say: “I don’t sign on to things.” /  "If I take a public position, it harms my ability to negotiate.” 

Why It Doesn't Hold Up: As noted earlier, co-sponsorship is the most basic of asks. Moreover, strong starting asks actually increase negotiating power -- if you want a strong outcome.

 

(6) Lack of Understanding Politics

What They Say: “You don’t need to bother me. Spend your time on other legislators.”

Why It Doesn't Hold Up: Even the best legislators need reinforcement--it helps them make a better case to Leadership about why they need to vote on X, Y, or Z. Moreover, passive supporters of legislation can be made into active supporters: true champions who lobby colleagues and Leadership. And if you have the unicorn representative who is doing everything in their power, well, you can call/email/text/etc. people in other districts to contact their legislators, and we're happy to help.

 

(7) Lack of Independence

What They Say: “What does Leadership think about it?” 

Why It Doesn't Hold Up: Legislators serve at the will of their constituents, not the Leadership of the chamber. You -- not the Speaker or Senate President -- are their boss. Accordingly, if Leadership isn't on board with a bill yet, it's their job to change that reality, not resign themselves to it.

 

(8) Lack of Time

What They Say: ““We have a lot of competing priorities.” / “I’m busy with the budget!”

Why It Doesn't Hold Up: Here in Massachusetts, we have a full-time legislature. The legislative session goes from January in the odd-numbered year to July in the subsequent even-numbered year---more than a year and a half. If they run out of time, it's because of their procrastination -- and they should start legislating earlier, rather than waiting until the end of the session.

 

(9) Lack of Money

What They Say: “We don’t have the money.” 

Why It Doesn't Hold Up: We are one of the richest states in the country, with a regressive tax code. "Not enough money" is never an acceptable excuse for not ensuring a high quality of life for all.


(10) Lack of Governor’s Support

What They Say: “But the Governor opposes it.”

Why It Doesn't Hold Up: What is the point of a massive legislative supermajority if you're never going to use it? Charlie Baker only has the power that the Legislature chooses to give him.

 

 

 

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published this page in Issues 2020-09-03 00:04:52 -0400
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