Legislators want to know how voters in their districts feel about the problems that challenge effective government. Public officials need to understand what individuals and organizations desire and dislike. Constituent letters, if well written, can be a potent vehicle for making our voices heard in Harrisburg.
Guidelines for Writing to, or E-mailing, Your Legislators:
Address your legislator correctly: Letters to legislators should be addressed as follows:
Dear Representative or Senator (last name):
- The Honorable (full name)
- Member of the House of Representatives (or Senate)
- State Capitol
- Harrisburg, PA 17120
- The website address is: www.legis.state.pa.us
- Introduce yourself: Tell who you are in your letter. A simple statement such as, "I am (who) from (where)" is important. In addition, include your address at the top of the letter and your full name at the bottom.
- Be specific: Clearly identify the particular legislation about which you are writing. Moreover, because bills are amended often, it is wise to identify the specific provisions or version that you are discussing. Include the printer's number.
- State you case: Tell your views as concisely as possible. What the legislation means to your profession and community is the most potent argument. Give as many reasons as possible why the proposal warrants support or opposition and exactly what steps you are asking the legislator to take.
- Keep the letter short: Tell your story, but don't waste words. A longhand letter, which is perfectly proper, should be no more than two pages; a typewritten one should be held to one page.
- Use appropriate stationery: If you are writing on behalf of your organization or in an official capacity, be sure to use printed letterhead. It gives the communication dignity and stature.
- Ask for a response: Whenever appropriate, include a question in your letter that will elicit an answer. Ask the legislator for his or her view on the matter of its impact on your profession.
Telephoning your Legislators:
- Make sure that you are prepared before you pick up the telephone. Decide on the purpose of your call and make a list of points you wish to make in the conversation.
- Know the appropriate bill, author, its general purpose and the rationale for your support or opposition. Find out when the next action will be taken on the bill and if it is still in committee.
- To start the conversation, state your name, your school position, the municipality in which you live, the association you are in, position you hold (if any) and the legislative district in which you live.
- When calling ask to speak to the legislator's aide if he or she is not available.
- As briefly as possible, state the organization's position on the bill of issue clearly stressing the local support of that position.
- If you are speaking to the legislator's aide ask that your conversation be typed and given to the legislator.
- Be sure to thank the legislator or aide for his or her time.
- When your call is completed follow up with a letter stating your appreciation of the time given and reinforcing your questions.
- Encourage the legislator to call you if any school health issues arise and he or she has questions regarding the issue.
- Be sure to make an appointment. If you do not make an appointment you may miss the legislator and waste valuable time.
- Always introduce yourself, even after you have met the legislator a few times.
- Get to your point quickly. Legislators have very busy schedules. It is important to be brief, direct and simple.
- Always remember to be courteous. Your goal is to explain, inform, and persuade - not attack, threaten or belittle. Elected officials are to be respected regardless of the positions that they take.