How a bill becomes a law
(Or Civics 101) but something we need to know!
1. The Bill Is Introduced
2. The Bill Goes to Committee
3. The House Votes
4. Debate on the Bill
5. The Bill Goes to the Senate
6. The Bill Goes to the Governor
If you've ever wondered if writing to legislators is worth the trouble, the answer is a resounding YES!
Content: Rule number one when writing a legislator is to write your legislator. As a constituent, you carry more clout than any other concerned citizen.
Limit your comments to one issue, and be as specific as possible. List the bill's title, popular name and sponsor. Don't write a legislator urging him to support his own bill. That's just a waste of time and it's insulting.
Style: How an opinion is phrased can be as important as what is said. Keep the tone of your letter courteous and professional. Legislators want your opinion, but threatening of emotional language can do your cause more harm than good.
If you are authorized to speak for a group, use the organization's stationary, otherwise write on plain or personal stationary. Avoid form letters or mimeographed materials. Let your legislator know you can think for yourself.
All legislators are addressed as "The Honorable" on the envelope and inside address. In the salutation or greeting, all representatives are "Dear Representative" and senators are "Dear Senator". Use your legislator's full name, spelled correctly. (Your county courthouse can supply you with a list of the names, addresses, and political affiliation.)
Timing: Send your message early, preferably before a bill is out of committee.
Follow up: Don't just write once if you have a concern. Your second correspondence might be a note of appreciation or a letter concerning another bill. A constant barrage of communication is ill-advised. Six or more letters each session will put you in the "constant correspondent" category. One thoughtful, well written letter on an important issue, plus a note of thanks for a favorable vote will make you an effective grassroots lobbyist. While this may seem elementary, it is the kind of thing that probably didn't seem at all important when it was covered in class.
These notes are taken from a presentation made to an eighth grade class. Since it's been a long time since we've been in eighth grade, I thought that a refresher might be good for us. We do need to stay in touch with those who represent us in the legislature. They, in turn, appreciate our input. If we don't contribute, do we have a right to complain after the fact?
For names and addressed of your representatives, call the local library, your county courthouse, or go to any city hall. (You can also get the information you need in the Government Section of ComPortOne!) All sources should be able to provide you with the appropriate names, addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers that you should use.
Remember, if it is in writing, it carries more
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