Planning a Day on the Hill
Scheduling a day on the hill at your state capitol building is one of the most effective ways of putting a face to your organization for elected officials, and it also allows you to target many elected officials in a short amount of time. Your day on the hill should be well planned and packed with meetings, tours and maybe even a legislative reception. You should view your day on the hill as a supplement to your other lobbying activities rather than your sole lobbying effort, as your day on the hill is much more likely to bear fruit if legislators are accustomed to hearing from your organization regularly throughout the year.
Planning the Day
Hopefully, your Board has established its legislative priorities long before your day on the hill is scheduled. These legislative priorities will guide your discussions with legislators during your day on the hill. Plan to pick three or four major priorities to discuss with each legislator since your time with them will be limited to a maximum of ten minutes.
Your day on the hill should be scheduled on a day when the legislature’s workload isn’t overwhelming. Many legislatures have a “crossover” day towards the middle of the legislative session. This is the day when each house must finish voting on the bills originating in that house, and this day is usually one of the busiest days of the session. Don’t schedule your day on the hill on crossover day, but you might consider scheduling your day on the hill on the day after crossover when the workload is typically lighter! Other days to avoid are days with a heavy committee meeting schedule or days which are budget deadlines. It goes without saying, but avoid scheduling your day on the hill towards the end of the legislative session because you’ll lose your ability to have any influence over your legislative priorities; legislators will have already dealt with them without your input! In scheduling your day and in scheduling individual meetings on your day on the hill, take the legislature’s schedule into account.
You’ll want to schedule a meeting room at the capitol building or the building housing legislator’s offices. This way your members will have a place to gather first thing in the morning for a cup of coffee and maybe a light breakfast and then throughout the day as needed. This is also a good place for a legislative briefing at the beginning of the day.
Your attendees will likely get hungry and thirsty during the day, so make plans in advance for lunch. Your legislature might allow you to bring lunch to eat in the room you reserved. Otherwise, you’ll have to make plans for lunch offsite. Lunch is a great opportunity to invite a political newswriter, a statewide elected official (Governor, etc.) or a prominent legislator to speak to your group. If you have name tags, wear them.
Of course most of the folks attending your day on the hill will not live in your state’s capital city, so you’ll need to think about how you want your folks to arrive. If your organization has plenty of members from the same geographic area, you might think about chartering a bus and riding to the capital together, which you’ll want to take care of a couple months in advance. This way, someone (the chair of the governmental affairs or legislative committee, for example) can give a legislative briefing to folks on the bus on the way to the state capital. If your attendees come from all over the state, it’s probably more appropriate for everyone to meet at the capital.