Maryland Government Relations Association

Best Practices

Know the Do’s and Don’ts

MGRA sent a letter to the members of the General Assembly to gather the information on this page. The letter asked for suggested Do’s and Don’ts for a lobbyist as seen through the eyes of a legislator. The following responses are unchanged from what we received and in no special order.

DO

  • First make the case of a need for change in the status quo.
  • Understand when an elected official cannot help you on an issue.
  • Make points that are relevant to sound public policy and the welfare of the member’s constituents.
  • Bring supporting documents or witnesses.
  • Keep testimony concise with highlights easy to discern.
  • Know when to stop pleading your case.
  • Be courteous and respectful at all times.
  • Work hard at what you do.
  • Be reliable and present the facts and arguments for your cause.
  • Know when to quit.
  • Try to meet with legislators in the morning before session, instead of lunchtime when constituents are stopping by to visit.
  • Bullet strong points of testimony in written form, instead of just passing out copies of testimony.
  • When lobbying a member on the fly (i.e. in the hallway on the way to session or committee) always have a copy of the bill, and/or amendments with you to refresh the legislator’s memory.
  • Get to know the legislators.
  • Offer information on issues/expertise.
  • Be available to meet with legislators.
  • Keep informed.
  • Follow up on committees.
  • Keep your word.
  • Respond to my inquiries, no matter the answer.
  • Ask about my family.
  • Do your homework.
  • Support me as I support you.
  • Represent your case accurately.
  • Explain your client’s or employer’s position as clearly and succinctly as possible in a public hearing, conveying your message in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Convey your client’s or employer’s position on a one-on-one basis with each legislator who will be voting on your issue in committee and attempt to communicate your client’s or employer’s position with as many legislators as possible if a vote is to be taken on the floor.
  • Prepare, in short summary form point by point, your client’s position, preferably in “bullet” format. If possible, this document should be no more than one page in length. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings are generally not necessary unless it would take more than a few moments to convey your client’s position, so that the legislator understands the information.
  • Remember that time management is very difficult for each legislator, particularly as the session begins to draw to a close.

DON’T

  • Forget to say “thank you.”
  • Talk too much at committee hearings.
  • Read your testimony at committee hearings.
  • Expect a decision to be reconsidered in the same session.
  • Waste time.
  • Beat around the bush.
  • Be too demanding or “pushy.”
  • Speak out of turn or be argumentative.
  • Work behind the chairman’s back to undermine him or her.
  • Over extend or abuse your time privileges.
  • Never lose your cool.
  • Forget to get back to a legislator who has asked you to provide an answer to a question.
  • Just walk by staff to get into a legislator’s office.
  • Change the deal or obfuscate the issues in the other chamber after you have worked out a compromise in the original chamber.
  • Make promises you cannot keep.
  • Monopolize a legislator’s time during committee breaks.

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