Lawmakers listen to their constituents – but only if they hear from you.
A small number of phone calls or letters is taken to represent the opinion of many more people. This steady stream of feedback to elected and appointed officials is still the most successful way to educate and influence legislators on environmental issues.
Tips for Contacting your Legislators
Whether it is a phone call or personal letter, communication from constituents is appreciated and welcomed by legislators. Writing an effective letter or email is not difficult. Here are a few guidelines:
Write on personal or business letterhead, if possible, and sign your name over your typed signature.
- Be sure your exact return address is on the letter, not just the envelope. Envelopes often get discarded.
- Even though your address is on the letter, be sure to also state that you are a constituent or that you work in the legislator’s district, if applicable.
Identify the Subject
- Identify your subject matter clearly. State the name and bill number of the legislation you are writing about at the top of the page (e.g. RE: AB32, SB375).
- State your reasons for writing. Your own personal experience is your best supporting evidence.
- Explain how the issue would affect you, your business or your profession, or what effect it could have on your community or the state.
NO FORM LETTERS!
- Avoid stereotyped phrases and sentences that give the appearance of form letters. They tend to identify your message as part of an organized pressure campaign, and are often discarded. Make your own letter, in your own style, incorporating your organization’s key message.
Honorable [name of legislator]
California State [Senate or Assembly]
State Capitol, Room [# here]
Sacramento, CA 94815
Re: [AB or SB] [bill number] – [SUPPORT or OPPOSE]
Dear [Senator / Assemblymember] [Name here]:
This letter is in reference to [Assembly Bill / Senate Bill] [bill number], which is scheduled to be heard in [your committee/ the Assembly / the Senate] soon [or on a particular date, if you know].
This bill would have the following effect on the community: (this paragraph should expand on issues related to bill).
Thank you for talking the time to review my concerns on this piece of legislation. After this bill comes up for a vote, I would appreciate being informed as to how you voted and why. I am available to answer questions or provide testimony on this important issue.
- Don’t ask for the impossible, don’t threaten, and don’t say “I’ll never vote for you again unless….”
- All of your letters should be one page, one sided. Attachments to support your views are fine.
- Always say thank you!
Adapted from Mary Kay Hogan, Aponté and Hogan (Colorado Nonprofit Association)