Tips for Lobbying/Advocating in New Hampshire
The New Hampshire legislature is made up of 400 Representatives and 24 Senators. They are essentially volunteers, and have no individual staff. They are dependent on others for helping them to understand critical issues. Young people, parents, and people who work with children play a valued role as an educational resource. Legislators both want and need your expertise in helping them to shape state policies.
Some people who work for nonprofit organizations think they are restricted or prohibited from lobbying. However, both state and federal law assume they will be advocates. There is nothing inconsistent with being a 501(c)3 and lobbying to advance the mission of a nonprofit organization.. The Alliance for Justice has a wealth of materials on IRS rules for nonprofit managers, board members, lawyers, accountants and funders: http://www.afj.org/for-nonprofits-foundations/resources-and-publications/about-advocacy-lobbying.html.
The NH Children’s Lobby encourages all to become voices for New Hampshire’s children. You can sign up to receive the NH Children’s Lobby Newsletter by clicking here. You can also check the weekly calendars published by the House and Senate listing upcoming hearings and other legislative events at: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/ie/ Just click on “House” or “Senate” and follow the links to the most recent calendar.
To begin with, here are some helpful tips on testifying before the New Hampshire legislature.
- Make sure of time and hearing room (usually in the Legislative Office Building).
- Leave your name with the committee clerk to be called, if possible, stating your position with regard to the bill. If it is not possible to leave your name with the clerk, rise when chairman calls for more testifiers.
- Be on time, but be patient. Members of the legislature will be heard first as a courtesy extended by the chairman, as will experienced lobbyists who are familiar to the chairman.
- Be accessible. If it is a large hearing, go to a seat near the front as your time to testify approaches.
- Know the contents of the bill thoroughly. Be absolutely sure that your backup facts and figures are accurate.
- Rise when called. Begin, "Mr/Madam Chairman", give your name, address and identify the organization you represent. Address the committee only, not the audience.
- State your position for or against the issue. Summarize your recommendation first, add explanation afterward. What is your special interest? How did you arrive at your conclusion? Who will benefit? Who will be hurt? Be brief and to the point Restate your recommendation, and thank the committee.
- BE BRIEF, three minutes is a good rule of thumb.
- Speak loudly enough to be heard. Make a copy of your testimony available if possible. It may be the only detailed record available.
- Be confident and cooperative. Committee members are there to hear your viewpoints, not to defend their own. They have no reason to embarrass you, but they may ask questions to clarify points you make.
- Respond directly if you can; If you do not know the answer, say so. Do not act as if difficult questions were a personal, hostile challenge. You may not question committee members, but the chairman may permit you to question him or her to clarify facts.
- Be prepared, not repetitive. Repeat points made in previous testimony only to endorse them. The committee may limit the amount of time allowed any speaker.
- Make negative remarks about other groups or individuals.
- Quote the Constitution or RSAs unless you are attempting to show conflicts in the law.
- Attempt to instruct the committee members as to their "duties to the people" or "moral obligations". They know more about this than you do.
- Give any more background information than absolutely necessary for the committee to understand your testimony.
- Get into arguments with committee members during testimony. Make a mental note of any controversial points and see the person after the hearing.
- Be afraid to say, "I don't know, but I will try to find out and get the information to you later (and be sure to follow through).
- Dodge questions. Answer succinctly and honestly.
- Call legislators by their first names while testifying, no matter how well you know them.
- Guess at a legislator's name in an attempt to prove you are an insider.
- Appeal to a legislator's self-interest while testifying.
- Give the same testimony twice to the same committee. Many times committees will hold a series of hearings. If you have presented material before, refer to that fact, give a brief summary of your testimony, any changes in status or facts, ask if there are questions, thank the committee members for the time and sit down.