Legislative Forum 101

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by Sarah Sandquist | Posted on March 18, 2014

I was very fortunate to be selected for one of the 2012 Young Professional Fellowships. The Fellowship includes registration costs and a travel stipend to attend NRPA Congress and Legislative Forum. So I ask, Young Professionals—what are you waiting for!? Everyone should apply for this amazing opportunity!

With that being said, attending NRPA’s Legislative Forum for the first time can be a little intimidating. However, armed with these tricks of the trade, you will look and feel like a pro in D.C.!

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Sarah Sandquist, CPRP shares her Legislative Forum advice.

 Do your homework

  • Find out who your representatives are and make connections before you arrive in DC. Understand their political platform by spending time on their website, follow them on social media, know which congressional committees they serve on and schedule your meetings as far in advance as possible. Arrive to Washington armed with as much information as possible about the people you will be meeting with. 
Attend the educational session: NRPA Legislative Platform & Hill Advocacy 101
  • This session serves as your primer for an effective hill visit. You will leave equipped with the tools, knowledge and insight to advocate for the profession and navigate the current political climate. The session enables first time attendees and seasoned professionals alike to feel more confident presenting issues that affect the quality of life in our communities while serving as a voice for the profession. Package your message with impact language, such as statistics, facts and data in order illustrate how their legislation affects their constituents.
Dress the part
  • Pack professional attire and comfortable walking shoes. Ladies, you won’t see many high heels around the hill. Getting though security may take more time than you think. Take only what you need and leave any unnecessary items in your room. Be prepared to remove shoes, coats, etc.
Arrive early and plan to wait
  • Be prepared to wait in a few lines. Getting though security can take time. You may have to wait for your meeting with a constituent, even if you have a scheduled appointment. Congressional schedules change frequently. Do not be disappointed if you only meet with a staff person. They may look young, but they are highly qualified and educated. Members of Congress hold a great deal of trust in their staff to listen, gather the facts and deliver the information about your concerns appropriately. 
Go with a group
  • Visiting with legislators can be intimidating and a little scary, but there is safety in numbers! If you do not feel comfortable attending meetings on your own, find people from your region to go with to discuss your concerns. The conversation gets easier with practice and the voice of several people with an aligned objective is stronger than just one.  
Coffee chats are a great opportunity to meet directly with Members of Congress
  • These “town hall” type meetings occur weekly or bi-weekly when congress is in session. If they are scheduled during your visit, make a point to attend, especially if you would rather meet directly with a Member of Congress, rather than staff. 

Enjoy D.C.

  • Washington D.C. is a beautiful city. Plan time to visit the monuments, walk the mall, take a picture in front of the White House, etc. Legislative Forum packs a lot of content into a small timeframe. Even within this busy schedule, there is plenty of time to be a tourist and take in the sites of our nation’s Capital

    Editor’s Note: What advice would you offer a first time Legislative Forum attendee? What else would you like to know about advocating at the federal or local level? 

    Remember, it’s not too late to register for NRPA’s Legislative Forum happening March 25-26. Afraid you won’t know what to do? There will be plenty of veterans there to guide and help you!

    Sarah Sandquist, CPRP is the Recreation Coordinator for the City of Redmond Parks and Recreation in Redmond, WA.


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