Guideline for Legislative Contacts
As a member of the UA System Grassroots Network, you will be asked to contact your legislators concerning specific legislation which will affect the university. In order to promote decisions that are favorable to the UA System Grassroots Network, each member will find it effective to use three basic methods of communication: personal visits, telephone calls, and letters. The simple guidelines will assist you when contacting your legislator:
Personal visits are an excellent way to get to know your legislator and to build his/her awareness of the UA System Grassroots Network's legislative needs and priorities. Some of the best communication is done face-to-face. Personal meetings with your legislator should be productive for both the legislator and our Network.
How to Conduct a Successful Meeting with a Legislator
- Schedule a visit to their local office. The hectic Legislative environment in Montgomery can make effective communication difficult. Try to meet with your Legislator in your home district.
- Make sure everything that you present is factual and accurate. (The legislator and/or staff person is looking to YOU for concrete information. Your job is to provide them accurate information.
- Let the legislator know whom you represent (200,000 alumni, students, faculty and staff.)
- Know both sides of the issue and explain why you support the bill.
- Ask for the legislator's position on the issue.
- Remember, it may take several meetings and contacts with a legislator to "educate" them on the issue.
- Have someone in your group take notes.
- Be persistent! Remember, it's a process, not an event.
- Develop Allies, not Adversaries. Be respectful to secretaries/aides in the office and establish communication patterns with them.
- Never get angry. Diplomacy is the name of the game in politics.
Telephone calls are used during a legislative alert. UA System Grassroots Network administrators will ask that members call their legislators because a vote on a specific bill is expected within a few days. A telephone call to your legislator is the most immediate way to make our position known to the legislator before a vote occurs. While telephone calls are the fastest way to get a message to the legislators, it may be difficult for you to speak to him/her personally. This is especially true if time is limited and he/she is on the floor of the Legislature. If you are unable to speak directly with the legislator, explain to the staff person with whom you speak why you are calling. Tell the staff person that a vote on the legislation will occur soon and ask that a message be delivered to the legislator on the floor. Also, request that the legislator return your call so you can monitor his/her response. You can leave a message for House Members toll-free at 1-800-813-672
Tips for Successful Telephone Contact
- Introduce Yourself- State that you are a constituent from his/her district and a member of the UA System Alumni Grassroots Network.
- Be Knowledgeable and Brief- After you have introduced yourself, state why you are calling. Give the bill number, the UA Alumni Grassroots Network's position, and ask the legislator for his/her support. Do not cloud the issue by discussing other matters which do not pertain to the particular bill. If questions arise which you cannot answer, tell the legislator that you do not know but will find the answer and call back. The Office of Governmental Relations will give you more information or find the answer for you.
- Mention the Legislator's District- Tell the legislator how the issue will affect his/her constituents. The Status Report on Funding and Legislative Request sections of this manual include valuable information on specific positions on present and future issues which affect the university. The local newspaper in your area is also a good resource for monitoring how your district will be affected by issues which concern the UA System Grassroots Network and higher education in general.
- Monitor Legislators' Responses- It is important both to the current situation and to long range planning that the Grassroots Network know the results of your call. After contacting your legislator, complete a Legislative Contact form (included in this manual), and return it to Gary Smith, UAH Government Relations, 118 Madison Hall, UAH, Huntsville, AL 35899. FAX 256/824-6538.
For legislators, letters are the barometers that measure political sentiment in their districts. Letter writing saves the legislator time and gives him/her a record of your position in support of the Grassroots Network. Since letters are not as timely as telephone calls, they are used most effectively in the early stages of the legislative process when a bill is in committee. (See How a Bill Becomes a Law.) One format for preparing a letter is included in this section. However, a specific draft of a letter which you can adapt to your own style may be provided when a letter writing campaign is initiated.
Organization of the Letter
- Introduction-establish yourself as the legislator's constituent and a member of the UA System Grassroots Network.
- Body- Identify the subject of your letter and state the name of the bill with its House or Senate number. Clearly state the UA System Grassroots Network's position on the bill and why it is important.
- Closing- Request a reply from the legislator stating his/her position on the bill. Express in one sentence your appreciation for his/her attention to the letter. Thank him/her for continued service to your district and the state.
- Important Tip - ALWAYS be courteous. NEVER threaten the Legislator in any way.
Sample Letter to a Legislator
The Honorable ______________________________ Alabama State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, Alabama 36130
Dear Representative/Senator ___________________:
As one of your constituents and a member of the UA System Grassroots Network, I am writing to urge your support for House/Senate bill number ___. This bill is designed to ____________________. (The body of the letter should state clearly and briefly why the bill is important to the UA System Grassroots Network, giving the Network's reasons for supporting or opposing it.)
Please let me know your position on this legislation.
Thank you for your consideration. I appreciate your dedicated service to your constituents and I look forward to your reply.
Your telephone number
Guidelines for Letters
- Include your full name, address and telephone number. This can be done at the top of the stationery or following your signature.
- Keep the letter as brief as possible, preferably one page.
- Cite the bill number, name and, if known, who introduced the bill.
- Establish a connection with the legislator's district.
- Confine the letter to one issue.
- Do not send form letters or postcards. They are easily spotted and carry very little weight. Handwritten letters are more effective. After you receive a response to your letter, complete a Legislative Contact form (included in this manual) and return it to the Office of Governmental Relations.
How to Address Letters to State Officials
Governor: The Honorable ________________ Dear Governor ______ : Alabama State Capitol Suite 101 Montgomery, AL 36130
Lieutenant Governor: The Honorable ________ Dear Governor ______ : Alabama State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130
Attorney General: The Honorable ___________ Dear General ________ : Alabama State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130
State Treasurer: The Honorable ____________ Dear Mr./Ms. ________ : Alabama State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130
Commissioner of Agriculture: The Honorable__ Dear Commissioner __ : Alabama State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130
Secretary of State: The Honorable ________ Dear Secretary:_______ : Alabama State Capitol 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130
Clerk of House/Senate: The Honorable ______ Dear Mr./Mrs. ________ : Alabama State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130
State Senator: The Honorable _____________ Dear Senator ________ : Alabama State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130
State Representative: The Honorable _______ Dear Representative ___ : Alabama State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130
Legislative Contact Form:
VERY IMPORTANT: After you have contacted your legislator, be sure to complete a "Legislative Contact Form" and return it to me. This is a big help to us. It assists me in planning for future grassroots campaigns and provides a record of your call.
For your convenience, I am including a link to the form from this web page. Once the form is visible on your screen, simply print it on your PC's printer. Please FAX, mail, or drop off completed forms with my office. The FAX number, mailing address and room number are listed on the form.
Click here to go to the "Legislative Contact Form". Simply close the window containing the form once you have printed it.