5 Ways Economic Developers Can Influence Public Policy

Monday, March 25, 2019

WEDA actively engages with the state legislature to promote legislation and budgetary decisions that positively impact economic development throughout Wyoming. We send regular legislative updates and encourage members to stay involved. Many of you have asked for tips on how to influence public policy at the state and local level, as well as how to influence and budgetary decisions during session and throughout the year.

Best Practice:

Before you advocate for any one issue, take time to build relationships. Doing so before session starts enables a friendly rapport to be established and makes it more likely that a legislator will be responsive and willing to listen to any questions, concerns or requests during session. To build the relationship, start by reaching out and introducing yourself, thank them for their service to the community and let them know you are available to provide assistance or to be a sounding board. By continuing to cultivate that relationship, they may reach out to you on topics of interest, instead of the other way around. Also, remember to share updates with them throughout the year.

Here are five additional tips every economic developer and community leader can use to influence public policy in their local communities and at the state level.

Tip #1 Identify your goals

Now is the time to really think about any goals your organization has or action you would like to see WEDA focus on for the next legislative session.  Meet with community stakeholders to determine what your goals and objectives are. Legislative and budgetary goals can be based on solving a problem or implementing a new idea or strategy for economic growth. Carefully think through the issue and identify how legislation can help. It is important to articulate what you need. Do you need more funding for something already in place, a new law to be passed, funding for a new initiative? Be descriptive. Once done, request a meeting with your local legislators to build a relationship and present your ideas.  

Tip #2 Stay involved through the bill drafting process

A legislator must sponsor a bill for it to be drafted by legislative council. Once a relationship is built, your legislator may be willing to work with you to sponsor a bill.  Work with your legislator to craft the language that will be included in legislation. Staying involved during this step is crucial for ensuring that the proposed bill will solve your particular need. For suggestions or help with this process, contact WEDA.

Tip #3 Publicize your support

When a legislator sponsors a bill on your behalf, or there are other bills you support, be vocal about it. Publicly thank legislators who sponsor and support your bill, issue a press release and ask community members to show their support on social media. If you are unable to directly work on legislation, work with WEDA to support the bill and get information out.  The more support you show, the more traction a bill is likely to get.

Tip #4 Stay informed during the session to learn about other bills

WEDA members receive legislative updates every Monday during the session. These are delivered via email so if you are not receiving them, join the WEDA email list. The update will include a list of bills that are being considered, those that have passed and ones that require member action. For additional information, to check on committee schedules, view bills, listen to live broadcasts of the legislative session or find out how individual legislators vote, log on to the Legislative website at https://www.wyoleg.gov/

Tip #5 Contact your legislator to vocalize support

When there is a bill before the house or senate that will benefit businesses in your community, let your legislator know. Click here https://www.wyoleg.gov/Legislators for a list of all legislators' emails, which is their preferred method of contact. During the session you can contact a legislator to leave a message by calling the Senate receptionist at 307-777-7711 or the House receptionist at 307-777-7852.

Read this legislative advocacy guide.

The Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest has published a guide to legislative advocacy that includes additional tips, tools and resources. Their roadmap for engagement (on page 9) is particularly useful.  Download it here.

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