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Thread: How to Write a Letter to Your Legislator

  1. #1

    How to Write a Letter to Your Legislator

    Once again, a big thanks to our friends the gay men at Gay Men's Health Crisis Center. Written for the AIDS community, equally effective for our own. Mods, sorry about posting this whole thing, it's just so good. Chop it if you must.

    Writing a Letter to a Legislator

    It is critical for our elected officials to receive letters from constituents on issues of importance to the AIDS community. Often, issues unfold over a period of several weeks or even months. This gives you as an advocate the opportunity to weigh in on proposed budget cuts, pieces of legislation and other critical issues. Writing a personal letter to your elected official is an easy and effective way to have your opinions recorded. When you write and mail a letter, it not only represents your own personal opinion. To an elected official, it also represents the opinions of hundreds of people in his or her district who feel the same way you do, but didn't take the time to write or call. The power to effect change can be enormous. A letter has an advantage over a phone call because the legislative office will keep a hard copy of your letter, so that your arguments can be read and reviewed. Also, a letter will generally evoke a response from the elected representative, forcing him or her to give some thought to the issue and perhaps go on record in response.

    Do:
    Make your letter personal
    - speak from your own experience. A recent Gallup Poll found that over 70% of all lawmakers said they pay a great deal of attention to personally written letters, while only 19% pay great attention to form letters;

    Think about what you can say about yourself which might represent the elected official's constituency. Are you: a voter? a minority? a member of the representative's political party? a parent? a taxpayer? a person living with HIV? What is your sex? age group? income bracket? Just a few letters can embody an entire district's demographics. Think about that when writing your letter;

    Make sure you refer to any legislation by the correct bill number and title;

    State your position in the first and last sentence of your letter;

    Address your letter correctly, i.e., Senator David Paterson, Congressmember Charles Rangel. Envelopes should be addressed to The Honorable George Pataki, New York State Capitol, or The Honorable Joseph Bruno, New York State Senate;

    Type or write legibly;

    Be brief and respectful. A well-worded one page letter can have a greater impact than a lengthy three or four pages;

    Send your letter in a timely fashion. Note that letter alerts will usually ask you to respond by a certain date;

    Follow up your letter with a phone call;

    Ask co-workers, family, and friends to write letters as well;

    [B]Don't:

    Copy sample letters verbatim;
    Be rude or threatening;
    Send your letter after the vote has been taken;
    Include volumes of extra materials;
    Put down every argument you can think of - stick to one or two key points.[B/]


    Letter Alert Example

    GOVERNOR PATAKI IS DEVELOPING THE 1998-99 EXECUTIVE BUDGET. LET HIM KNOW HE MUST RESPOND TO THE AIDS EPIDEMIC!!!

    Background Information
    New York remains the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Approximately 20% of all AIDS cases in the United States are in New York State. During George Pataki's term as Governor, New York's AIDS cases have surpassed 100,000. In 1983, NYS created the AIDS Institute within the NYS Department of Health. Since its creation, the Institute has coordinated the State response to AIDS, and has provided a focus for AIDS expertise at the State level. The Institute funds HIV prevention initiatives, and support programs to deliver medical care and social support services to those in the greatest need, and a myriad of other crucial AIDS programs.

    What we know
    For the last three years, as a direct result of grassroots advocacy like your letters, Governor Pataki did not cut funding for AIDS programs. However, AIDS cases in NYS have increased dramatically during these same years. Governor Pataki's failure to increase the State AIDS budget equals a funding cut. Under this current situation, AIDS organizations that rely on state money can't keep pace with increases in caseloads.

    What you can do
    We expect the Executive Budget to be released in early January. Write Governor Pataki before his budget comes out, before the end of this month, and call upon him to increase the State AIDS budget at a level commensurate with the increase in AIDS cases. The future of AIDS services in New York is at stake!


    Sample Letter:

    December 5, 1997

    Governor George Pataki
    State Capitol
    Albany, NY 12224

    Dear Governor Pataki:

    I am a (person living with AIDS, woman with children, resident of Buffalo, registered Republican, African American man, social worker, an employee of a local AIDS Services organization in Rochester, husband and father, devout Catholic, gay teenager, volunteer at an AIDS clinic, etc.) I call upon you to increase the State AIDS Institute budget at a level at least commensurate with the dramatic increase in AIDS cases. I also urge you to refrain from cutting any services vital to people living with AIDS in this State, especially Medicaid, which serves over 60% of all New Yorkers with AIDS, and is crucial to the quality of care they receive.

    As our governor, it is critical that you take a leadership role in New York's fight against AIDS. As you are certainly aware, New York is the epicenter of the AIDS crisis in this country. During the three years of your Administration, AIDS cases have increased dramatically in New York. No increase in AIDS funding means a funding cut for people living with AIDS.

    Your leadership is critical if we are to stem the epidemic, as well as meet the needs of those New Yorkers already affected by this terrible disease. Please ensure that your budget addresses the needs of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

    Sincerely,

    Your Name







    © 2003 Gay Men's Health Crisis
    http://www.gmhc.org/policy/activism/legislators.html

    "You need to march. You need to demand action. You need to stop feeling unempowered and do something...Freedom is your right. Until you claim your self-confidence and know your worth, no one will give it to you. It starts with you."-LetsGo

  2. #2
    This is very-well written letter. you described all the important aspects smoothly. Letter of Alert Example is nice.

  3. #3
    Betheny, Thanks so much for posting the sample letters. They will be an enormous help for everyone. I've printed them off for future references. Letters written to Congress aren't so easy to put together. This makes it better. Thanks again!

  4. #4
    btw, I had written permission from GMHC to re-use all that. They were so gracious and generous with their materials,when they saw the similarities of our fights.

    Gentlemen and scholars to the bone, everyone I had the pleasure of dealing with. Particularly so, given the painful memories our convos must have stirred up.

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