Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Three Simple Steps to Passing a Law - How to Lobby an Issue

I wrote this up for a post on an adoption group site to encourage other States to pass a version of a fantastic Missouri law that helps get orphans into homes.  The strategy has universal applications.

Do you want to be an adoption hero in your state? A Special Needs Adoption Tax Credit allows Missouri adoptive families a $10,000 tax CREDIT on top of the $10,000 federal tax credit.

Here is the link:

Most State Legislatures begin the lawmaking Session in January so now is the time to get started.  One person truly can make this happen and you may not even require a political lobbyist.

Step 1 - Get a bill
The first, and easiest step mechanically is to find a friendly politician, a lawmaker and ask him or her to file the bill.  They all have research staff who could copy another State law or just start from scratch.  The only exception to this that I am aware of is in the "Live Free or Die State" - New Hampshire.  Folks there are so freedom-loving and parsimonious that they deny their lawmakers really any staff at all.  As the State is so tiny, a creative Free Stater could probably borrow a lawmaker from a neighboring State to accomplish the task.  However you do it, there is no cost to this and you get yourself a bill, as in a drafted piece of legislation.

Step 2 - Build legislative support

At some point you would need to build broader legislative support which tends to follow public and/or pressure group advocacy.  Lawmakers respond to one thing only; power.  This is due to the simple fact that power is what gets them re-elected.  Understanding the three components of political power is important.  I will cover those and additional lobbying techniques and tips in future posts.  

Now to be sure, every lawmaker will have at least a few pet projects that is based on good will alone.  I once passed an historic vehicle license plate law because my late father suggested it.  If you want your law passed, float it out there and see who opposes it.  Then you start making determinations about overcoming or working around that opposition.  Once you have determined where your legislative opposition lies you can begin to fine tune your public relations strategy.

Step 3 - Build public support
The average public relations professional would know a thing or two about public advocacy and more specifically, how to manage public opinion in order to leverage lawmakers.  The key to marketing a cause or a product or service, begins with developing a message. You then must rally diverse coalitions around that message. This is the only way great things get done.  The mechanics of delivering that message are a matter of art more than rocket science, but a dedicated individual or small group can move public opinion mountains like an ant against the rubber tree.  I love to see strong grassroots mobilization in action.

So do not be shy.  We are blessed to live in the most politically accessible nation on Earth.  Missouri citizens, through their lawmakers, will file 2000 bills in a cycle.  Find one to file your bill.  If you have a good idea you might be amazed at what good you can do.  And you may not even need a lobbyist.  If you think you might, every State will maintain a registered lobbyist database online.

As always, for more information or advice, including our contact information, please visit our website at


  1. This is very handy. Do you have any info on how a bill really becomes a law?

  2. I still love this one. It is an oldie but a goodie. Schoolhouse Rock

  3. Can you recommend a good Missouri lobbyist?

  4. It is hard to answer with just a name. It really depends on what you are looking to accomplish. Do you want to kill a bill or pass one? If all you need is a minor modification you may not need a lobbyist at all.