Communication With Elected Officials

Let’s face it, government affects your life every day and government actions can have a detrimental affect on your business. Talking to your elected officials about issues important to you and your business is vital to your continued ability to prosper and it is easier than you think. Your elected officials are anxious to hear from you, their business constituent. They often vote on legislation based on constituent input. Here are some practical tips on how to become a more active advocate for your business and the Greater New Bedford Area.

How to contact officials

It is impossible for lawmakers to know how every piece of legislation they vote on will affect your business. A well-written letter or a detailed phone call will often help them understand the implications of pending legislation. Lawmakers may be reached by U.S. Mail, e-mail or by fax. To reach them by e-mail, follow the links indicated by their names in the Chamber’s Legislative Roster and access their web page. Here are some tips on writing a persuasive letter or calling:

Traditionally, state and federal legislators are addressed as “The Honorable…” and the Governor is addressed as “His/Her Excellency…” in any written correspondence. The only address needed for federal legislators (Congress) is “U.S. House of Representative, Washington, D.C. 20515” or “United States Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510.” The address for state legislators and the governor is “State House, Boston, MA 02133.”
When writing legislators, use this format:

+++++++++++++++++++++++

The Honorable (Name)
Position (U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, State Senator, or State Representative)
State House, Room ____________
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Representative (or Senator) (Name)__________:

+++++++++++++++++++++++

If possible, write your letter on your company’s letterhead. Try to keep it to one page – anything longer may be ignored.

When you write or speak to officials, be persuasive and concise. Get right to the point. Let them know if you favor or oppose the legislation and why. Let them know what you would like them to do – oppose the legislation, vote in support of it, or propose an amendment and ask for a reply that clearly states what action the member plans to take. You’ve taken the time to contact your elected official and you’re entitled to know where he/she stands. Remind them that you are following the issue closely.

Be specific in your letter or phone call. Identify the specific bill you are writing or calling about, using the official bill numbers (Example: House Bill 1000 or HB 1000). Thousands of bills are filed in the state legislature and in Congress each year. The bill number will help the legislator know which bill you mean. As a rule, never write about more than one issue per letter. Write a second letter if necessary if you want to include more.

Be friendly and polite but businesslike. Make sure you are organized and know all your facts. You should cover your position, the opposing arguments, and the reason your position is better for your business and their legislative district. Do not ramble.

Explain who you are, what business you represent, and what you and your business do. If you are a constituent and voter in their district then make sure to mention it. Talk about your business’s role in the community and how many people you employ – remember your employees are voters! Emphasize what you and your business provide to the local community – private investment, contributions and support to local community groups, number of local employees… etc.

Use facts to bolster your position, provide specific examples of how a piece of legislation or a regulation impacts your business, your employees, and the region. The more local you make the argument, the more persuasive it will be.
Mention your membership in the SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce. This connection will reinforce the message that the Chamber staff and volunteers will be delivering in future meetings.

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