A Community of Exceptional Nurses
The letter is the most popular choice of communication with a congressional office.
When writing a letter the following suggestions will improve the effectiveness:
1) State your purpose in the first paragraph. If the letter pertains to a specific
piece of legislation, identify it accordingly, e.g., House bill: H.R.____, Senate
bill: S. ____. 2) Be courteous and to the point. Include key information, using
examples to support your position, 3) Address only one issue in each letter; and
if possible keep the letter to one page, 4) Use your own stationery, not hospital
or agency stationery. Do not give the impression that you are speaking for an organization
unless you are a designated spokesperson, 5) Know the committees on which your legislators
serve and indicate in the letter if the bill is being brought before those committees,
6) Timing is important. Try to express your opinion on a bill when it is in committee,
7) Sign your name with RN after it. Be sure your correct address is on the letter
and the envelope.
To write an effective letter that will influence your reader, apply the following
* You can obtain your legislator's name and address from the congressional directory
listing at http://thomas.loc.gov/
*You can find out the mailing addresses of your governor and state legislators by
calling your State Capital.
Many members of Congress have an e-mail address that ends in house.gov or senate.gov.
The body of your message should use the following format:
Although many members have e-mail addresses, most only respond to their own constituents'
messages with an acknowledgement of receipt and you should remember that this is
not a preferred means of communication.
Telephone calls can be an effective means of communicating as a follow-up to a letter
or visit. Calls can be placed to a legislator's Washington, DC office or to a local
district office. Calls to a local office may result in delay of your message getting
to a federal or state legislator or becoming part of a tally sheet listing calls
"for" or "against" an issue. When calling your legislator's office, be sure to specify
the issue about which you are calling so that you are directed to the appropriate
staff person. In general, telephone calls should be used to deliver a brief, concise
message or to request specific information. When calling be sure to do the following:
Your congressmen and senators have endless demands on their time. Don't be disappointed
if your senator or congressman is unavailable at the last minute, in which case
you would meet with a staff member. You should respect your elected officials but
do not be intimidated by them. They respect you as one of their constituents.
A congressional office staff usually consists of an administrative assistant or
chief of staff, several legislative assistants (including a legislative director),
a personal scheduler, a press secretary, several legislative correspondents to respond
to the mail, and various other staff. Your primary contacts will be the legislative
assistants, one of whom handles health affairs. Legislative assistants monitor legislation,
advise the congressman, address constituent concerns, research issues for the member,
While a congressman or senator does not usually personally see every incoming letter,
he or she or the chief of staff has reviewed the response that was drafted in response
to a particular issue. Senators receive more than 1,000 pieces of mail per week,
but it is important to note that individual letters, whether from an individual
constituent or from a grassroots organization, carry far more weight than a form
letter or postcard campaign.
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