But Don’t Beat It Down…
The new 23-month legislative session begins in Harrisburg on January 3rd. The new members take their oath of office on that date and then return to their districts to continue setting up their local offices.
Now is the time to contact these new members. We have the opportunity to be among the first in the door to begin building a working relationship with them. If possible, arrange a face to face meeting with them. They are flush with victory and will be excited to meet with their new constituents to learn about our issues.
We have also the opportunity to be among the first in the door for engaging or enlarging a working relationship with returning incumbents. Many people ignore these returning members, thinking they already know the issues and that we know how they feel about them. Most of them don’t have a working knowledge of our specific issues and we often don’t have a complete understanding of their view. Now is the time to open that conversation.
When thinking of building relationships, I always remember my military drill sergeant’s marksmanship advice: Focus your sight and don’t jerk the trigger. Gently squeeze it and you’ll hit more bullseyes than misses. In short, positive successful working relationships are built with consistent, respectful, communication, not by rude pressure tactics or by thumping on the table.
By extending courtesy as we provide information we will receive courtesy and an open door for the next time and for the next issue. As former Senate President Pro-tempore Martin Murray advised me during my first week on the Senate staff in 1970, we need to remember that the legislature can be very much like a battlefield. But remember that the members you think you defeated today will all be resurrected overnight and will be back on the battlefield tomorrow. Treat them with respect.
Now is the time to begin extending that respect to open the lines of communication and build, extend, or repair relationships with legislators for the new session. Smile and ring the bell, but don’t beat down the door!
In addition to being a co- founder and Treasurer of Humane PA PAC, Senator Roy C. Afflerbach, Ret. is founder and President of The Afflerbach Group, LLC. Senator Afflerbach’s experience and access to government circles spans more than 40 years, during which he has earned more than fifty public service awards. After serving in the United States Air Force, he served as senior staff in the Pennsylvania Senate, a two-term Member of the State House of Representatives, a three-term State Senator, and Mayor of the City of Allentown, the third largest city in Pennsylvania.