Tips for Effective Communication with Legislators

As a Tennessean, one of your greatest responsibilities is to help elect the legislators who represent you and the state’s seven million other residents. You, your fellow citizens, and educators need an informed voice. They need you. There is no stronger influence on education legislation than the voice of actual classroom teachers. Below you will find contact information for members of education committees during the current or most recent General Assembly session.

Your role in the democratic process of government does not end at the polls. By sharing your opinions and ideas with your senators and representatives here in Nashville, you help them decide what to do about the issues and pending legislation that affect us all. We try to keep you informed. The legislative process is both slow and deliberate and can also move very quickly.

They value your suggestions and encourage you to express them. Your state legislators receive a large volume of phone calls and mail from their constituents. How then, can you be sure your voice is heard?

Here are tips to help you get the most impact out of your communications with your state legislators in Tennessee.

General Tips

• Know who your legislators are and how to contact them. If you do not know who represents you, you can search using your address at Find My Legislator.

• The Senate Members and House Members listings give you the mailing addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of Tennessee’s state senate and house members.

• Familiarize yourself with the legislative process. Even the most basic understanding of the process will help you effectively express your ideas.

• Contact your senator or representative about a particular issue before the Legislature acts on it. Most matters coming before the Legislature are well publicized before and during the session. Calendars for committee and floor action are posted on the legislative website and updated frequently.

• Tell your senator or representative what effect you think a particular bill if it becomes law, will have on you, your children, your business, or your community. Be concise, but specific.

• Be polite, even if you disagree strongly. Lawmakers cannot please everyone. Your communication will be more effective if you are reasonable in your approach.

• Suggest a course of action and help. Do not make promises or threats.

Writing Effective Letters

• Be certain you spell your senator’s or representative’s name correctly and use the correct address. If you do not, you could lose your audience.

• Type or print legibly. Sign your name neatly and give your address correctly so your senator or representative can respond.

• Keep letters, and e-mails brief. Never write more than one page. Concise written correspondence is more likely to grab and keep the reader’s attention.

• Identify your issue or opinion at the beginning of the letter, do not bury your main point under a trivial text.

• Cover only one issue per letter. If you have another issue to address, write another letter.

• Back up your opinions with supporting facts. Your letter should inform the reader.

• Avoid abbreviations or acronyms, and do not use technical jargon. Rather than impressing your reader, such terms will only frustrate him or her.

• Do not send the same letter to more than one legislator. Personalized letters have more impact.

Calling or Visiting Your Legislator

• Plan your call or visit carefully. Keep to the point and discuss only one issue. Organize your thoughts ahead of time and make notes to help you stay on track.

• When planning to visit your senator or representative, make an appointment. Do not just drop by their office and expect him or her to drop everything to see you. Call or write for an appointment as soon as you know when you are going to be at the Capitol.

• You can prepare a one-page fact sheet concerning your issue to give to your legislator. This will help the legislator retain what you present.

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