In the States

MEETING WITH YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS

BY KEN ROSENFELD

State governments are in the spotlight, as most of the nation’s state legislatures are in session this month and every statehouse in the country—with the exception of Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas, which don’t hold regular sessions in 2018—convening by early spring.

Now is the time for property professionals to meet with their state legislators to increase their understanding of the significance of commercial real estate. Whether you’re a political veteran or new to advocacy work, meeting with your lawmakers is an important—and surprisingly easy— way to support your industry.

TIME TO ENGAGE

By participating in state advocacy, property professionals can ensure their voices as constituents are being heard— and even build relationships with lawmakers over time. BOMA state and local associations with a strong advocacy presence often are asked by legislators for their input on legislation that will affect the building industry. Ideally, you should be meeting with state legislators throughout the year, but following a few action steps can make a big difference this time of year.

Many BOMA local associations and state coalitions hold capitol advocacy days, during which BOMA members visit their state capitol as a group. While some may feel trepidation at the thought of speaking with their politicians, BOMA members overwhelmingly report that these experiences are enjoyable and rewarding.

Likewise, it may come as a surprise to some that most legislators are happy to accept event invitations from industry groups. BOMA local associations can invite their legislators to anything from a member luncheon to a committee meeting to an informal social event. Politicians also post many of their scheduled events and public meetings on their websites, so property professionals can find additional opportunities to meet with them.

LOBBYING TIPS

Every individual can—and should—meet with their elected officials and advocate for what they believe in. These tips can help you feel prepared, and they apply equally to meeting with officials at the federal, state or local levels:

  • Be confident. Never underestimate how valuable your industry knowledge and experience is to lawmakers. You have firsthand understanding of a key sector of the local economy. Just sharing who you are and what BOMA does is incredibly valuable; you can always follow up later with details about a program or legislation, if necessary.
  • Be appreciative. Don’t be disappointed if you end up speaking with a staff member instead of the elected official, meeting in a hallway instead of an office or having your meeting cut short after just a few minutes. Lawmakers and their staffs often have hectic, unpredictable schedules and they will appreciate your understanding and flexibility.
  • Be succinct. You can always assume that an elected official’s time is at a premium. There’s no need to rush your delivery, but plan to keep your communication clear, brief and focused. If you’re part of a group, decide in advance who will handle specific talking points. Also, bring information to share, such as your state’s one-pager from BOMA International’s economic impact report, Where America Goes to Work.
  • Have an “ask.” While simply making a connection is most important, it’s always best to have a specific “ask”—a straightforward request for your legislator. This can be anything from asking for support for a bill to extending an event invitation, but elected officials fully expect that every meeting will end with a request.
  • Offer to answer questions. Ultimately, you want to be a resource to your lawmakers—someone who has reliable information and offers a valuable perspective. Have a “leavebehind,” such as a business card or a printout of your key talking points, so they know how to get back in touch with you if they have additional questions.
  • And, ask questions, too. Don’t forget to take advantage of the often-overlooked opportunity to gain valuable insight on legislation and other issues. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn from your elected official, their legislative aides and their front desk staff simply by asking. If you have questions about specific legislation, ask away.

BOMA International is always available as a resource for BOMA local associations and members looking to increase their advocacy efforts, and continues to create helpful resources. A number of new tools are being rolled out now, including a state legislative tracking service, issue advocacy maps and a new state and local listserv. Contact Ken Rosenfeld, director of State and Local Affairs, at krosenfeld@boma.org with any questions.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2018 issue of BOMA Magazine.