The session is underway; here are a few hints to keep in mind when contacting your Senator or Representative.
The subject line of your email is vital. Make it specific. Include the bill you are writing about, how you would like your legislator to vote, your address, and if you are a delegate (do not say you are a delegate if you are not one). For example:
Support HB 69 Autism Bill - Republican/Democratic Delegate - Constituent from District #__ - Address
In the body of your email be straight to the point. Bullet points are effective. Hit key reasons the legislator should support/oppose the bill. Fact based reasons are most influential; include links to more information if possible. State how the legislation will impact their constituents. Conclude your email with a statement of appreciation. Always sign your emails with your name, street address, email and phone number.
It may seem intimidating to call your legislator on the phone, but if you feel passionate about a bill, it is a lot more effective than an email. Legislators receive hundreds and hundreds of emails. They receive a lot less phone calls from their constituents. Plan on a brief conversation, and have your notes on the points you would like to make in front of you. Nothing is more annoying than getting off the phone and realizing you forgot to bring up your most effective argument. A phone conversation is two way, listen as much as you talk. Often times I have not agreed with my legislators, but it has still been a good discussion on an issue that benefited both of us.
Up at the Capitol Tips
It shows you really care if you show up. If you feel strongly about a bill, drive up to the Capitol and address your legislator in person. This is easily done. If legislators are on the floor, the Sargent in Arms (the guys in the green coats) sitting outside the chambers can help you fill out a note to be taken in to your legislator. You may have to wait a minute, just munch on some taffy while you wait and marvel at the number of lobbyists hanging out near you. Most legislators will come out to talk as soon as they are available if they know a constituent is waiting to meet with them. Again, be brief and hit your strongest points. Have your points typed up and give them a copy. Include on your talking points sheet your name, address and phone number. Remember, facts usually outweigh emotional argument - is the law factually sound, common sense, and how will it affect constituents in your district. If legislators are in committee, you will probably need to wait until the meeting is through. All legislators also have offices, check their offices if you are trying to hunt them down. To find out where your legislator's office is, ask either the House or Senate secretaries located near the respective chambers.
Remember, legislators are there to represent YOU, and they can do that best when they understand how YOU feel.
To find your legislator, check here.