Lobbyists are one of the most important players both in real world politics and at the Youth Legislature.
Lobbyists are sometimes called the "third house" in a legislative body. Their role is to see that bills supporting their goals and ideals get passed.
You probably will use Lobbying skills sometime in your adult life! Many ordinary citizens have a need to convince the government to support their viewpoint on an issue important to them. "Lobbying" is not only a paid profession.
However, this can become a real job! Some people make careers of being a Lobbyist. During the real Montana Legislative session, there are 150 elected Legislators, but OVER 800 Lobbyists!
Effective lobbyists know their issues, are willing to speak to legislators and try to influence opinions, are polite, never harass people, and are NEVER threatening.
In the Montana YMCA Youth and Government Program, ANYONE can sign up to be a lobbyist. Lobbyists have some special privileges that make the job especially worthwhile:
Here are the things Lobbyists do:
Each of these tasks will be explained in more detail later in this manual:
The other important role lobbyists play is that of EDUCATING LEGISLATORS. No one person can possibly be an expert on every topic they need to vote on, so a Lobbyist's job is to be able to tell legislators what they need to know about specific issues. Lobbyists become experts their area of public policy!
Lobbyists spend a lot of time in committee hearings and in the galleries listening to others to discover where they stand on the issues. However, real lobbyists are seldom bored--they're too busy listening and then trying to get their positions across to others.
As a lobbyist, you spend your time trying to win people over to your point of view through education and persuasion.
All lobbyists must write a one-page position paper. (In lieu of a lobbyist paper, lobbyists may also submit a ballot initiative or co-author a bill. See Youth Legislature or Ballot Issues sections for details)
As a rule, lobbyist papers are easier! They are due into the State Office by the publicized deadline.
Remember that your job is to educate legislators on issues they may know little about. Use accurate facts, be able to cite your sources, and help legislators who support your ideas do a good job.
After you read the basic guidelines below, click here to see a sample paper:
This document is in compliance with the Montana YMCA Youth Legislature Lobbyist Disclosure Policy.
As mentioned before, Lobbyists do one of the most important jobs in the Youth Legislature: Educating Legislators. Legislators can't possibly be an expert on every issue, and it is the job of the Lobbyist to make sure that Legislators understand an issue so that they cast a reasoned vote.
Without Lobbyists, Legislators are voting blind on some issues!
The requirements for Youth and Government lobbyists reflect real life techniques used by effective lobbyists.
Beyond the requirements, here are some suggestions that will help any Lobbyist be more effective:
Pages may run errands for you SOMETIMES if:
Other than legislation-related messages, you have to run your own errands.
Pages read ALL notes. They keep contents confidential unless the note is inappropriate, in which case they are to bring it to the Director or to another adult advisor.
Inappropriate notes include those which:
For Committee Hearing Procedures, click here.
Pigeonholing is a term used to describe when you informally take someone aside to talk to them for a moment or two. Lobbyists use it to find out who supports their positions and to win others over.
It is the technique most people think of when they think of "lobbying."
The personal touch can be the best way to sway people's opinions. Your speech in committee may be brilliant, but it is more effective if people are already familiar with the issue.
Pigeonholing is done during breaks, recesses, in the halls, at meals, and any other times when people aren't actually in committee or floor sessions.
However, important as it is to talk about the issues, avoid harassing people. Sometimes people are in a hurry to get someplace or have other reasons not to talk. Respect their rights.
Ask committee members during breaks how they feel about a bill. See if you can get a majority won over to your side before the bill comes up for a vote.
If your bill passes committee, try talking to as many legislators in a chamber as possible, asking them their position.
In committees, floor sessions or at any time, if someone is on your side:
If they oppose your position:
You can obtain roll sheets from the office which list all members of each chamber. You can use these to track who is in favor of what.
If your bill passes committee, use the roll sheets to poll legislators in that bill's chamber on their position.
You can make notes as to whether they are "strong" supporters, "soft" supporters, strong opponents or soft opponents. People with strong positions cannot usually be swayed, but people who have "soft" opinions are more likely to change their minds.
You may get tired tracking down people to ask the same thing over and over, but always be polite.
You may also compare notes with other lobbyists to see the general direction a legislator leans. Help one another out if you find yourselves in agreement on an issue.
Once you have polled most legislators, you will have an accurate idea of how much support is out there for your agenda.
If you have many supporters, you can let your soft supporters know that the bill is popular (so they don't change their minds) and encourage strong supporters to ask their friends to vote with them.
If you do not have enough supporters to pass a bill yet, you can create a lobbying strategy:
If you have mostly "soft" opposition, you may be able to turn the tide your way with these methods.
Discovering who your supporters and opponents are is a very important reason to poll legislators! Remember it only takes 50% of the legislative body plus one vote (That's 51 in the House and 26 in the Senate) to pass most bills.
Sometimes you cannot be in two places at once. If this happens, write up a short piece for the legislators explaining your position on a particular bill and have a page run it into the committee.
You may submit written testimony using the forms provided, or you can use notebook paper. You can also use a fact sheet if it is relevant.
You can ask a friend (a lobbyist, page, reporter or legislator&emdash; anyone can testify) to read your testimony for you in committee on your behalf during the public hearing.
Sometimes you may wish to provide information to legislators in an easy-to-use fashion.
All legislators will have your lobbyist paper in the back of their billbooks. If you do a great job on it, you will have a ready-made fact sheet! you can ask legislators to mark it in their billbooks as a reference.
You can also create a new fact sheet with statistics, charts or graphics, philosophical reasoning, and effective arguments for your position and distribute it to people that you think will either use the information on the floor or be swayed by the power of your position once it is stated clearly.
Important note: For anything beyond your lobbyist paper in the billbook, You have to pay for your own copies! To save money, you might want to do "quick lists" of facts that can be copied four or six to a page, cut them out and distribute them as notes or bookmarks. You could also use sheets of mailing labels for the same purpose. However, be careful with adhesive materials: you are NOT allowed to place stickers on any surface!
You may testify on any bill in committee hearings. You must testify on at least one bill. The details of Committee testimony are here:
(Written testimony created during the session that is not the lobbyist's position paper nor their newspaper editorial may be submitted in lieu of spoken testimony for delegates with special needs. The delegation advisor needs to have these exceptions cleared in advance with the State Office.)
You will write an editorial for the student newspaper during the session. Most Lobbyists do this writeup during floor sessions when there isn't much to do but sit and listen (And send notes to legislators). Monday afternoon is a good time. Your editorial is just a short piece&emdash;only 100 words minimum, but is required. It is best to turn your editorial in early so it is published in time to influence people, but it must be turned in by Tuesday afternoon at the announced deadline.
Most states have a Code of Ethics for Lobbyists. We try to keep our Youth and Government Lobbyists Code of Ethics simple, each part is based on the belief that decent behavior makes a person a more effective lobbyist.
In addition, cooperating with the focus of the YMCA on Character Development, the Youth and Government Lobbyist program challenges participants to accept and demonstrate the positive values of caring, honesty, responsibility and respect.
There is an ethics law for how real Lobbyists in Montana spend money. We simplify it for Youth Legislature: You can run down to the cafeteria and buy a legislator a twinkie, but don't spend YOUR money on it.
This usually won't do you any good, anyway. It is likely to make you an enemy, and can get you kicked out of the Youth and Government session for a Code of Conduct violation.
If you are caught giving out inaccurate information, if you give a person information that later is chopped into mincemeat on the floor, or if you make someone look like a fool, they will remember&emdash;and your reputation as a lobbyist is toast!
If someone is not going to come around to your position, don't go out and make their life miserable. They have a right to a different point of view. Again, harassment could be a Code of Conduct violation.
Lobbyists who complete all mandatory requirements by the announced deadline (usually Tuesday afternoon) will be awarded with a lobbyist pin at the Tuesday night banquet.
From eligible lobbyist pin recipients, four to six finalists will be chosen, based on completion of requirements, quality of work, evidence of active participation and/or Committee Chair or Adult Staff recommendation.
Don't hassle committee chairs or advisors about being nominated...if you do, they will NOT nominate you! Get noticed by doing a good job, by getting up and giving lots of quality testimony, etc.
The finalists will be put on the election ballot and the Lobbyist of the Year Award will voted on by all participants at the Tuesday night election.
Pages, press, court participants, legislators and lobbyists get to vote for lobbyist of the year, so be nice to everyone.