2021 Day on the Hill - Meetings
[The following guide based on Council Member Thomas J. Girsch's "A Beginner's Guide to RPA Day on the Hill." We find it to be an incredibly useful read at this time of year, and recommend you take time to explore its contents.]
Step 1. Team up
Find out if there are other council members from your state or region who are planning to attend, and combine your efforts. If you can “ride along” with someone who has done it before, you'll quickly start to get a good idea of how it's done. And these meetings are easier when you've got someone else with you. RPA's website has a directory of fellow council representatives with their contact information; start there.
If you do need help determining who's in your area from our staff, reach out to Joe Aiello at jaiello[at]narprail.org (Subject: Hill Meetings).
Step 2. Know your state's delegation
As a Rail Passengers council member, you've been elected to represent your entire state. As such, you (and, if you're from a larger state, your fellow council members) will want to meet with as many members of the state's delegation as possible, rather than just your Representative and Senators. So, take a moment to find out who they are. It's also helpful to know if they're on any relevant committees, such as the transportation/infrastructure committee. It's critical to learn where their offices are, as there are three different House buildings and three Senate buildings, and it can take some time to get from one to another; this information will prove useful when scheduling your meetings.
Step 3. Schedule your meetings
The purpose of our meetings with Congress and congressional staffers is to build an ongoing relationship, not simply to meet and discuss issues briefly on one day per year. View the scheduling as the first step in building that relationship. And the farther in advance you schedule your meetings, the better. This will give you more flexibility to give yourself a manageable meeting schedule, and will also give you a better chance of having your meeting request accepted. (They usually are, but occasionally a member will decline the meeting request.)
a. If you’re from a larger state with multiple council members, be sure to coordinate with those other members to ensure that nobody’s double‐booking meetings. Divide up the work and decide who will schedule the meetings, who will meet with whom – whether you’re going to go to the meetings as a group or split up, for example – and keep one another in the loop. For states with large (Congressional and RPA) delegations, this can be a bit of a challenge, so communication is key. For larger delegations where you don’t have time to see everyone, prioritize the Senators, the House members of which each of your state’s council members is a constituent, and any member who’s on a committee.
b. Start by calling each Representative or Senator's D.C. office. Identify yourself as being with the Rail Passengers Association, and ask for contact info for the Senator or Representative's scheduler. This will probably be an e‐mail address, but may be a phone number. Thank them for the information.
c. Contact the scheduler to request a meeting with the Senator/Representative or her/his staffer in charge of transportation and infrastructure issues. You'll probably get a staffer, rather than the member, and that's okay. Here's an example script we suggest:
[Title/Name of Scheduler]:
My name is _____, and I'm a member of the Council of Representatives of the Rail Passengers Association. [If contacting the office of a Senator or the Representative from your congressional district, add that you are a constituent. This matters to them.] On April 20th, Rail Passengers will be holding a Digital Day on the Hill advocacy event, and I would like to meet briefly over Zoom over telephone with [Senator/Representative _____] or [her/his] staffer in charge of transportation and infrastructure to discuss passenger rail issues important to the [state/commonwealth]. Please contact me at your convenience at [phone#] or [e‐mail] to set up a time to meet.
I appreciate your assistance, and look forward to meeting with [Senator/Representative _____]. I'd also like to share Rail Passengers' Surface Transportation Reauthorization Principles, an outline of the goals our organization is pursuing in this year's reauthorization of the FAST Act.
[your name] RPA Council of Representatives, [your state]
Step 4. Send Rail Passengers staff your meeting schedule
Once you have your meetings scheduled, let Rail Passengers staff know about your meetings using the online form. RPA's goal is to touch as many congressional offices as possible, and keeping the main office abreast of your schedule helps them keep a running tab. They also publish the schedules to other council representatives, to facilitate the “teaming up” (Step 1).
"I’m so proud that we came together in bipartisan fashion in the Senate to keep the Southwest Chief chugging along, and I’m grateful for this recognition from the Rail Passengers Association. This victory is a testament to what we can accomplish when we reach across the aisle and work together to advance our common interests."
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)
April 2, 2019, on receiving the Association's Golden Spike Award for his work to protect the Southwest Chief