Communicating With Legislators
The information here is offered to assist you in communicating effectively with members of your legislature. While this is not a definitive guide to legislative communications, it is meant to provide the foundation for successful grassroots advocacy and outreach.
Political Giving and Reporting Requirements
Please remember that each state has their own laws governing political giving including reporting requirements relating to political giving, campaign contributions (PAC’s), lobbying and gift limits, to name a few. It is important that you check your state’s laws prior to conducting any type of political giving including, gifts to legislators, regulators and their staffs, campaign and/or political contributions, and lobbying.
In addition, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has guidelines for notifying association members about lobbying activities of tax exempt organizations on an annual basis. Work with your attorney or legislative advocate to be certain you are following all current laws and disclosure requirements.
How to Locate your State Representative
Each state offers its own portal for locating elected representatives. Try searching your state legislature on-line. Most state legislatures have web sites that offer address and zip code matching to state representatives. Other resources include this easy to use site www.gov.com/statelocal/.
Tips for Writing State Legislators
The letter is a direct way to communicate with a state legislative office. This list of suggestions will improve the effectiveness of your letters.
Individually written letters, rather than mass generated form letters, make a greater impression on your legislator. Type your name, address, and phone number at the top or put on company/association letterhead.
Most state legislatures are only in session part of the year and reachable at their Capitol offices. When the legislature is out of session, it may be more effective to send your letter to your legislator's district office, if the legislator has one.
Be concise, specific and provide your contact information. Make sure the legislator knows you can serve as a resource on automotive related legislative and regulatory issues in your state.
Review the sample provided of written communications including mailed letters, faxes and emails.
Tips for Calling State Legislators
To find your state legislator's telephone number, search your state legislature on-line or call your state Capitol’s switchboard and ask for your Senator and/or Representative's office.
Keep in mind that most state legislatures are only in session part-time, so try to get the number for your legislator's district office. Telephone calls are often taken by a staff member and not the actual legislative member.
Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue on which you wish to comment. If they are not available, you may also leave a message. If you speak with someone other than your legislator, take down their name and title.
Upon reaching your state legislator or staff member on the phone, it's easiest to follow these four basic steps:
IDENTIFY yourself by name and the organization or business (if any) that you represent or the town from which you are calling.
EXPLAIN why you are calling: "I am calling to support/oppose Assembly Bill: A_____, Senate Bill: S_____. " Be polite and concise. Creating 1 or 2 talking points will focus the content of your message. Too much information may confuse your message. Ask your legislator his/her position on this issue. Don't assume that your legislator has prior knowledge of your issue. Be calm, respectful, and be prepared to educate, using local examples to accentuate your point.
REQUEST a written response to your phone call if you did not speak to your legislative member. If the legislator requires further information, provide it as soon as possible.
THANK the person who took the phone call.
Tips for Contacting Legislators about Capitol and District Constituent Visits
Fax or email invite letter (see sample) to the legislator’s scheduling assistant.
After 2-3 days, call the legislators office and ask to speak to the scheduling assistant – inform him/her you are calling to follow up on a scheduling request
It may take several follow up phone calls and emails to confirm meeting/visit.
Be prepared to provide details about proposed meeting to scheduling assistant including the number of attendees, names, titles and businesses of attendees, topics/issue to be discussed, length of time requested for the meeting and requested location of meeting (Legislator office or industry facility).
Make sure to copy and bring collateral materials provided on the website to the meeting with you as leave behind materials for the legislator and his/her staff.
Prepare an agenda, legislator biography, sample follow up thank you letter and issue backgrounder and provide to aftermarket attendees in anticipation of meeting.
Prior to the meeting, schedule a “pre-meeting briefing” with meeting attendees to review meeting agenda, logistics, issue backgrounder, etc.. Make sure to acquaint yourself with the legislator using his/her bio.
After the meeting, encourage all attendees to send a thank you letter (sample attached) to legislator.
1. Sample Issue Letter
2. Sample Email(s)
3. Sample Written Request for Capitol Meeting/In District Member Visit
4. Sample Thank You Letter After Legislator Meeting
5. Sample Article for Legislator Publication