Tips for Talking with Your Legislator
Keeping in mind that your goal is to develop an on-going personal relationship with your elected representatives, as well as to influence their position on specific issues or bills, here are a few things to remember when speaking to them:
- Know who your legislator is before making initial contact on an issue and find out what legislative committees he/she serves on. (Don’t know? Go to http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/)
- Make the legislator care about how you feel, what you believe and what you want. Share your personal story if it helps to make your point.
- Do not be intimidated. Legislators view you as the expert on the issue.
- Do not assume that your legislator understands the issues surrounding PTA and your school district. Take the time to educate him/her. Do not use jargon.
- Know your issue. Provide facts and figures to back up your position.
- Remember all causes are good causes. You must convince your legislator that there is something extra special about yours.
- Know your opposition. Be able to address the objectionable part(s) of the opposition’s stance directly and effectively, using verifiable examples and statistics.
- Put broad policy issues in a local perspective. Legislators who know how issues will impact local voters tend to grasp ideas more easily and are generally more receptive.
- Be a good listener and hear out what your legislator has to say on the issue.
- Put the legislator at ease by convincing him/her that you are there to serve as an educational resource. Act like a partner, not an adversary.
- Do not debate with a legislator or give ultimatums such as “I won’t vote for you if you do not support my position”. Respect the legislator’s right to disagree with you. YOU WILL NOT AGREE WITH A LEGISLATOR ON EVERYTHING – FIND YOUR COMMON GROUND.
- Do not be disappointed if your legislator sends an aide to a meeting. Aides are critical to the process.
- Spend your time working with legislators who have not made up their minds.
- Be brief, prepared, clear, honest, accurate, persuasive, timely, persistent, and grateful.
- Always follow up with a thank you note, and amplify your main points. If your legislator made a commitment to you, you should acknowledge it in the letter.
- When your legislator goes the extra mile, you may consider acknowledging his or her efforts by writing a letter-to-the-editor in your local paper.
TELEPHONE AND E-MAIL ETIQUETTE
Sometimes you don't have time to write a letter to your elected official about your concerns because immediate action is needed. In either case, a phone call or e-mail message may be the most expedient way of getting your opinion and your message through to your representative or senator.
Before You Call or E-Mail Your Elected Representative
- Check to be sure you are contacting the correct person. Is this a local issue? a state issue? or a federal issue? Do your homework.
- Check to see what chamber of the state legislature is taking action on the bill. Is it in the Senate? or in the House? Do your homework.
When placing your call to a member of the Indiana State Legislature, the general number of the Senate Switchboard is (800- 382-9467) and the House Switchboard is (800) 382-9841 (Republican) or (800) 382 9842 (Democrat) and ask to be connected to the correct office. They may be taking “tally marks” on an issue – you may just be able to give your vote yes or no to the person who answers the switchboard
BE POLITE. Staff members are assigned to handle calls from constituents and deal with dozens of callers each day. If you are polite and respectful of their time, you will find a much more sympathetic ear than if you are dismissive and rude.
BE BRIEF. Tell the person on the other end of the phone that you appreciate his/her taking your call and that you simply wanted to register your feelings on a particular issue with the elected official. You hope to have his/her support and will call again at a later date to see what the outcome was on the vote or debate.
SAY THANK YOU. Thank the person for their time and give him or her your name, address and phone number to confirm that you are a constituent and to give your legislator's office an opportunity to get back in touch with you if needed.
In Indiana you can email h___ (fill in the house district number)@iga.in.gov or s___ (fill in the senate district number)@iga.in.gov. EX: If your Senator is Senator Frank Mrvan from Senate district 1 the email would be email@example.com.
Keep your e-mail messages short, sweet and to the point. Give the bill number (if one exists) that you are concerned about, a short presentation of your views and any pertinent facts, and ask for your elected official's support of your position. Make sure you give your voting address if you are writing from your office.
Checking the Status of Legislation
If you are unsure where a bill is in the legislative process, you can check its status at: https://iga.in.gov/legislative/
Have questions? Need Extra Help or Information?
You will find the NPTA Advocacy Toolkit at http://www.pta.org – sign up for the PTA Takes Action Center to get up to date information about federal issues of concern. And remember, your Indiana PTA Board of Managers is here to assist you and your PTA! If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to call at 317-357-5881!
WHO ARE YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS - FIND THEM BY YOUR ADDRESS!
Who Are Your Elected Officials? is one of the first geographic information system (GIS) applications made available via accessIndiana, the state’s official Web portal and is the only application of its kind in the nation that offers a complete list of elected officials based on your address.
Who Are Your Elected Officials? allows Hoosiers to easily determine their legislative districts and legislators in the Indiana House of Representatives, Indiana Senate, and United States House of Representatives, as well as county, municipal, and school districts and officials.
Click here for Who Are Your Elected Officials?