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Basics of Contacting Your Legislators

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JCole View Drop Down
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Joined: 03 Oct 2007
Location: United States
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    Posted: 18 Jul 2009 at 8:03pm
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Basics of Contacting Your Legislators!

Members of Congress are elected by the people to work for the people. As a constituent, it is important for your elected officials to hear from you.

Below are general tips for success when contacting your legislators:
★ Use the ASA Capwiz website. Visit http://www.capwiz.com/asa/home to find information you can use to identify and contact your legislator. Model e-mails and letters are also available.
★ Identify yourself. Let the congressional office know who you are and why you are calling. Be sure to let the staff know that you are a constituent and an anesthesiologist.
★ Be familiar with your legislator. Take the time to learn some basic background facts, both political and personal, about your legislator.
★ Be specific. Identify the bill or issue. If you don't know the bill number, describe it by its popular title, such as “the Medicare reform bill." Focus on only one issue at a time.
★ Be brief. Your opinions stand a better chance of being read if they are stated concisely. When writing your legislator, include any detailed information to your letter or message.
★ Be timely. Inform your legislator while there is still time to take action.
★ Be constructive. If you have expert knowledge, share it. A legislator cannot possibly be an expert on every issue.  If you believe a bill incorrectly addresses an issue, provide an alternative suggestion.
★ Offer to serve as medical resources as health care issues arise. As a physician, you have credibility and expertise in your field.
★ Be direct. State your position on a bill or issue and the reasons for your position. Use examples from your own experience to make your point. Urge your representatives to support your position when voting for or against a bill in committee or on the floor. Ask that the legislator respond and explain his or her position on the issue. When you receive a reply from the legislator, send a note of thanks or comments regarding the response. Be sure to state the facts if you intend to refute comments made by your legislator.
★ Be organized. Make sure you are well-prepared in your thoughts and comments prior to contacting your legislator.
If you are calling about a specific bill, familiarize yourself with the bill number and name, and with the specific section of the bill about which you will be speaking.
★ Be complimentary. Members and Senators appreciate praise from their constituents.
★ Be respectful. An overly aggressive or disgruntled attitude will not win you favor.
★ Get personal. It is easier to drive home a point with individual experiences than generalizations. Invite your legislator to tour your hospital when he or she is in the district or state office.
★ Say thank you. Be sure to thank your legislators for their time after a meeting or a crucial vote.
★ Follow up. If you offer to follow-up on a question or send materials, keep your word. If the legislator or staff does not give you a “yes” or “no” answer, or if they say they will “look into the issue,” be sure to follow-up a week or two later. Be persistent but polite.

Roadblocks to avoid when contacting your legislators:

★ Demanding support. This tactic will get you nowhere fast.
★ Touching on too many subject matters. This will dilute your overall message. Two or three issues is the absolute maximum appropriate for discussion. One issue is preferred.
★ Using medical jargon. This can often confuse the legislator and staff members. It is always best to make your argument in lay terms.
★ Overdoing it. Don't write or call too often. Quality and timing, not quantity, are important.

http://www.asahq.org/index.htm


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