Back to the May-Jun 2019 issue

Seven Tips for Successful Legislative Advocacy

By Ann Lenczewski

As the 2019 Minnesota legislative session is about to end, it’s hard to believe that planning for the next legislative session begins soon. To increase your likelihood of future success at the state Capitol, take a look at the following tips and pick two or three that will likely assist your city.

1. Thank your allies.

After the legislative session adjourns, take time to thank the people who helped you. This is important and worth the effort. Identify the people who were most instrumental in your efforts.

It could be legislators, legislative staff, a person in the governor’s office, or members of coalitions who helped further the cause. Send them thank you emails or handwritten notes or place a quick phone call if that works better for you.

2. Decompress, then analyze.

After the legislative session comes to an end, understand that everyone who works at the Capitol is exhausted. Legislators, legislative staff, state agencies, the governor’s staff, local elected officials, city staff, association staff, and government relations professionals need to take a break and decompress from the long days and longer nights at the Capitol.

After taking a break, think critically about what advocacy efforts worked for you and your city and what did not. Mayors, councilmembers, and city staff should take the time to think through what they learned, and where they saw strengths and weaknesses. A 15-minute agenda item during a city council study meeting or work session will be time well spent to provide direction for the city staff as they plan for the next year.

3. Meet with those who have opposing positions.

As difficult as it can be, talking to those who opposed your legislation can be extremely helpful to your future success at the Capitol. Sometimes when you understand why opponents hold the position they do, you can find a way to address it and thereby remove opposition.

At a minimum, understanding the viewpoint and rationale of the people or groups who oppose your legislation will prepare you for future committee hearings and meetings with legislators.

4. Make time for conversations.

Schedule a city council study meeting or work session with your legislators. As much as possible, have a relaxed conversation with them rather than a long presentation. Ask them how they prefer to work with you.

Invite League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) staff to join you, particularly if you want to discuss an issue that affects most cities. If you are working with government relations professionals at the Capitol, invite them to these meetings as well.

5. Clean your inbox.

Choose a system that works for you to organize or discard items after the Minnesota Legislature adjourns for 2019. Save key documents and purge the rest. Almost everything that happens at the Capitol is online. You can read all bills and amendments, and watch archived committee hearings, Senate floor sessions, House floor sessions, and press conferences held by the governor and legislators. Organizing can be as simple as creating a 2019 legislative session folder and moving all related emails there. You may be surprised how rarely you look for any of that information, but it is there if you need it.

6. Review and refresh your legislative priorities.

Revisit your city’s goals and determine whether priorities have changed. Develop new goals and begin to think through what tools and strategies you might need to achieve those goals.

Determine if you need to educate yourself about the issues you face. If you need help to achieve your goals, take steps to get that help.

7. Participate in League of Minnesota Cities events.

Attend as many League events as possible that work for your schedule. Ask League staff for assistance in meeting your city’s policy goals. The League is the “gold standard” at the state Capitol. Legislators across the state and across the political spectrum respect LMC staff as nonpartisan subject matter experts who effectively advocate for the needs of all Minnesota cities at the Capitol. Get to know them and participate in their events and their policy-development process.

Ann Lenczewski is a local government relations consultant with the law firm of Lockridge Grindal Nauen ( Lockridge Grindal Nauen is a member of the League’s Business Leadership Council (