Effective writing to your legislative reps

When it comes to letting your U.S. Senator or Representative know how you feel about issues that affect you or your business, a personal visit is one of the most effective means of getting to know your legislator’s attention – and establishing rapport.
But if you don’t have the time or the money for a trip to D.C., take heart: A well-written personal letter is still one of the most effective and inexpensive tools you can use.
Congressional legislators and their staff are generally appreciative of the time and energy it takes you to draft a thoughtful, easy-to-read letter and drop it in the mail. Of course, faxed letters can also be effective – and convey more of a sense of immediacy – and e-mailed correspondence also continues to grow in popularity.
Regardless of your medium, the National Association for the Self-Employed offers the following tips for improving the chances your letter will receive a positive response from your legislator:
n Make it easy to read by writing legibly or typing your letter.
n Keep it short. Limit your letter to one page with one topic. State why you support or oppose a piece of legislation – and especially how it will affect your business or family. Ask your legislator to respond in writing with his or her position on the legislation.
n Identify the issue clearly. Whenever possible, refer to the legislation by bill or resolution number.
n Establish your relationship. Make sure you include your home or business address so your legislator knows you reside in his or her district.
n Time your correspondence. If possible, write when your legislation is active in Congress – when your bill is in committee, or scheduled for floor action.
n Finally, be polite. Insulting, rude or offensive language will only make it less likely that your correspondence will end up in your legislator’s hands.
No matter how you decide to contact your legislator, you can find all of your legislators’ contact information – including fax number, phone number, e-mail and postal address, by visiting the NASE Web site at: www.nase.org.
Jim Stevens is the membership representative for the Tacoma area of the National Association for the Self-Employed, a national, non-profit, non-partisan association representing the smallest of small businesses. His column appears a few times a month.