Contrary to popular perception, legislators do not make a lot of money (as legislators at least) and do not have legions of staff at their disposal. By and large, they are committed public servants who make significant personal and financial sacrifices at a job with long hours, hard work, and lots of angry feedback. Most legislators spend far more in the course of representing their district and running for office than they earn as legislators. It’s not as glamorous as it looks.
- Theoretically, the job is part time, but between late hours at the Capitol, meetings with staff, colleagues and constituents, running for office, travel, and paperwork, most really work full-time.
- The most important thing for advocates to remember about legislators is that they work for their voters. You are unlikely to receive support if you ask a legislator to vote against the interests of their community, a major employer or institution in their district. They don’t get re-elected for their policy expertise. Their job is to represent constituents’ concerns.
- They represent a broad range of interests, backgrounds, experiences, biases, and networks. They are as diverse as Connecticut is.
- Legislators are a friendly and gregarious group of people (it helps in getting elected). They welcome input from advocates. Some will seek you out looking for information. I’ve spoken to many potential advocates who are intimidated about approaching a legislator, but there is no reason to be anxious.
- Do not make assumptions about legislators and their views. Some of the best child advocates in the legislature do not have children. Some Democrats are far more conservative than some Republicans. You never know.
- They are not experts on every policy area the legislature considers. No one could be.
- According to our surveys of policymakers, legislators rely most heavily on state agencies, legislative staff, advocacy organizations, provider groups, community groups, journals and publications, and the media for information about health policy, in that order.
- They trust legislative staff, consultants, state agencies, journals and publications, national policy organizations, advocacy organizations, and academic sources, in that order. They do not trust the media.
Overall, legislators are just like us – all of us. As a group, they are approachable and genuinely appreciate input from advocates. They would much rather get a friendly call before a vote than an angry one afterwards.