Communicating with Elected Officials
Elected officials need and want to know what pediatricians think about public policy issues that affect children’s health care. You are the expert. Legislators are not physicians. They rely on constituent pediatricians, like you, to educate them about your practice and the impact of existing and proposed legislation on children. Being an effective advocate on legislative issues means knowing where and when to exert your influence. Below are pointers on how you can influence your elected officials through phone calls, letters, e-mail, and meetings.
Your letters and e-mails to Albany can and do make a difference. Legislators rely on letters and e-mail to find out what the people are thinking. And, for you, letters and e-mails can be the first step in building an ongoing relationship with your elected officials. Send a copy of your letter/e-mail to AAP-District II.
Here are some guidelines to follow when writing:
- Spell your Senator and Assembly member’s name correctly. If you know your legislator, use his or her first name, your letter/e-mail will receive more attention.Write legibly or type your letters.
- Use your own words and your relay your own experiences. Personal letters and real stories are more effective than preprinted postcards or petitions.
- Make the topic you are writing about, and your position on it, clear in the opening sentences. For example: “I’m writing to oppose S. 468.”
- Refer to bills by number (ex. S.468 or A.873)
- Stay on one topic. If you want to write about other issues, send another letter later on.
- Give reasons for your position. As appropriate, use personal experience or a concrete example to make your case.
- Raise questions. A question can get a personal response.
- Keep it short. One page is best. Use two pages only if necessary for clarity and completeness.
- Identify the issue or specific bill name or number at the top of the letter.
- Be polite, positive, and constructive. Don’t plead, and never threaten.
- Be timely. Write before decisions are made and action is taken. But don’t write too long before – a letter six months before a vote will probably be forgotten.
- Offer to be a resource on the issue.
- Be sure that your name and address is on both the envelope and the letter. This is so your legislator knows you’re a constituent.
- Thank your legislators when they take an action you agree with.
- Keep writing!
The Telephone Call
A phone call is a good way to let your legislator know how you feel about a particular issue. Legislators pay close attention to calls as a measure of voters’ sentiment. An outpouring of calls can sometimes change the vote of a legislator, but even a small number of calls can make a difference. When you call, ask your Senator or Assembly member for a written response. This will ensure that your call is counted. Send a copy of any correspondence you receive to AAP-District II.
Calls should be made when time is too short to send a letter.
- Be prepared. Plan what you are going to say.
- Identify yourself, where you are from, and who you represent.
- State the issue or bill number you are calling about.
- Briefly, state how the issue affects you personally or professionally.
- Clearly state what action you want.
- If necessary, speak to a legislative aide.
- Ask for a call back if needed.
- Be polite. Don’t ever threaten.
- Ask for a response.
The Office Visit
An office visit allows you to demonstrate your interest in your legislator and their opinions on public policy matters. Legislators usually have more time to spend with constituents in their district office. You may be asked to speak with a staff member. Legislative staff often have considerable input and can provide significant insight into your representatives views. Send a copy of any correspondence you receive to AAP-District II.
- Know who represents you.
- Contact the appointment secretary in the representatives’ office to set up an appointment, explain the reason for the visit, and identify the number of people who will be attending the meeting.
- Be sure to confirm your appointment a few days prior to the date.
- Arrive on time and sign the guest book in the legislator’s reception area.
- Keep control of the agenda.
- Thank the legislator or staff for their attention.
- Leave your business card.
- Follow-up your visit with a thank you note.
- Write down the name(s) of any legislative aides you meet with.