Do’s and Don’ts of communicating with legislators

| February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Do

  • Be brief. Never write more than one page.
  • Make your letter neat and easy to read (type or print).
  • Make sure you understand the legislative process
  • Identify the issue at the top of the letter and cover only one issue per letter. If you have more than one issue to be address, write separate letters for each issue.
  • Remember, you’re the expert; make your letter informative.
  • Identify yourself and the reason for your expertise.
  • Get right to the point. For example, you may wish to begin your letter like this: “I hope you will support (oppose) HF or SF___.” Give your reasons for supporting or opposing the measure. Tell your legislator why you think the bill, if it becomes law, will help or hurt you, your children, your business or your community.
  • Use terms they will understand and avoid using abbreviations.
  • Offer to be of assistance. Offer to testify if there is a hearing regarding the issue with which you’re concerned.
  • Ask for a reply if you want one. However, keep in mind how many meetings and hearings your legislator must attend. They will call or write to you as soon as they are able.
  • Be polite and reasonable. Lawmakers can’t please everyone. They may disagree with you. Try to respect their views. Don’t lose your temper, even on paper. Tell your legislator what you think and why, but be polite.
  • And finally, be sure to say “thanks.”

Don’t

  • Don’t use form letters or post cards. Use your own words. Legislators say, “I’d rather get one short, simple, handwritten letter than a hundred form letters that organizations urge people to write. The letters come in stacks 300 deep. Even if they’re handwritten, they’re word for word the same.” Also, use personal or business stationery, or a plain sheet of paper.
  • Don’t threaten legislators. Legislators say, “Some folks don’t know how you stand on an issue, but they’ll attack you right off the bat. They’ll say, ‘Vote for HF____ or else,’ and you may already think it’s a wonderful idea. Or they’ll write, ‘Why aren’t you supporting this bill, you fool?’ and you’re the sponsor of the bill. Threats and insults don’t work.”
  • Don’t address a legislator as “Congressman.”

Source: Minnesota Legislature website — leg.state.mn.us

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Category: Legislative Guide