How Not to Write Your Legislators

January 15th, 2011 by John Masterson Leave a reply »

The Montana Legislature is hard at work creating and destroying laws for the next few months, including marijuana laws. There will be many opportunities for citizens like you and me to send them messages encouraging them to vote this way or that. We can have an impact on the process and the resulting policies.

But not if we screw up the correspondence. Here are some ways not to write our legislators:

  • Be long-winded. Send them your whole life story and medical history. Don’t leave out any details.
  • Be rude. Tell them they’re idiots, or morons, or jesus-freaks, or immoral. Pile on the insults, and threaten them a little, just for good measure. Make fun of their age, or face, or religion, or hometown, too.
  • Be illiterate. Never use spell check or punctuation, and don’t worry about the your/you’re or too/to/two or then/than or it’s/its conundrums.
  • Be irrelevant. Ask them to vote on a bill they can’t vote on. Or don’t even mention a bill, just spout off. Write to legislators representing Wolf Point from your apartment in Missoula.

If you follow the bulletted advice above, you are likely to have opposite the effect you intend. In other words, you’ll do more harm than good. So don’t do it.

Get it? The right way to write your legislators and do some good is to be brief, polite, literate, and relevant.

It’s pretty simple. Thank them for their service. Ask them to vote a certain way on a certain bill. Briefly tell them why. If you’re a constituent in their district, say so.

Here’s an example of a half-decent letter:

Dear Representative Sands,

I’m a small business owner and one of your constituents in House District 95. Thank you for representing me and our neighbors.

I’m writing to you today about House Bill 33, to be heard on January 19th by the House Judiciary Committee, of which you are Vice-Chair. I urge you to vote “no” on this bill.

HB 33 would make it a crime to drive with any amount of marijuana metabolites in your system.  It should be a crime to endanger the public by driving while impaired, but as you probably know, marijuana metabolites can persist for weeks after use, long after any impairment has passed.  Interestingly, the bill explicitly makes it legal to drive under the influence of prescription narcotics. Clearly, this bill is not about public safety, but about increasing conviction rates and clogging our criminal justice system.

I encourage you to vote “no” on HB 33.

Thank you,

It’s important to get involved and contact legislators about issues important to all of us. But you can do more harm than good if you go about it wrong.

Look up your legislators here, and contact them here.

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3 comments

  1. agoodhope says:

    Also include in the subject line of any email that you are a constituent contacting them regarding ____ bill.

    For example- subject: Concerned constituent; HB 420

    or subject: I voted for you, please vote no on SB 420

    or subject: Bozeman citizen asking you to vote yes on HB 419

    or subject: You represent me in HD 95; regarding SB 319

    Something that grabs their attention because you are someone who they represent.

    IF the title is short for the bill, you can also include that in the subject line-

  2. corey rhyne says:

    Theodore Roosevelt often spoke of how one should do things rather than “not” do things. I’ve determined the same for myself. As an instructor, the response is much better when I teach someone to do something as opposed to “not” doing something.

  3. Rachel says:

    I’m going to have to say that I do not agree with how this is being said. Yes, I do agree that we as citizens should not belittle or berate our legislatures but, if a patient has had their whole lives changed by this medicine, than by all means they should be telling their story. We do not need to discourage people in telling their stories, for this is why we know that the mmj programs work. I agree with Mr. Corey Rhyne, in that we should encourage certain ways to contact, but not by telling them what the shouldn’t do. Instead we need to be encouraging them with the things they should do. There are always going to be people that go about things the wrong way, but you should not be condemning them.

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