Effective Communication With Your Representative

As a Floridian, one of your greatest responsibilities is to help elect the representatives who represent you and the state's more than 14 million other residents. But your role in the democratic process of government does not end at the polls. By sharing your opinions and ideas with your representatives and senators in Tallahassee, you help them decide what to do about the issues and pending legislation that affect us all.  They value your suggestions and encourage you to express them.

Your representatives receive a huge amount of phone calls and mail from their constituents. Unfortunately, their full agendas limit their ability to personally read and respond to it all. How then, can you be sure your voice is heard? Here are some tips to help you get the most impact out of your communications with your representatives in Tallahassee.

General Tips

arrow Know who your representatives are and how to contact them. If you don't know who represents you, you can find out by using the online guide. Your representatives' web pages will give you their mailing addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.
arrow Make sure you understand the legislative process. Even the most basic understanding of the process will help you effectively express your ideas.
arrow Contact your representative about a particular issue before the Legislature takes action on it. Most matters coming before the Legislature are well publicized before session.
arrow Use a variety of communication methods. You might choose to telephone, write, e-mail, fax, or visit your representative. You might also choose to give testimony at public hearings held by the Legislature. (To give testimony, you would need to contact the appropriate committee secretary before the hearing to sign up.)
arrow Tell your representative what effect you think a particular bill, if it becomes law, will have on you, your children, business, or community. Be concise, but specific.
arrow Be polite, even if you disagree strongly with the representative you are addressing. Lawmakers cannot please everyone. Your communication will be more effective if you are reasonable in your approach.
arrow Suggest a course of action and offer assistance. Don't make promises or threats.

Writing Effective Letters

Address letters to Members of the House of Representatives as follows:
arrow The Honorable John Doe
Florida House of Representatives
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300.
arrow Address letters to senators this way:
Senator Jane Doe
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100.
arrow Be absolutely certain you spell your representative's name correctly and use the correct address. If you don't, you could lose your audience.
arrow Type or print legibly. Sign your name neatly and give your address correctly so they can respond to your letter.
arrow Keep letters, e-mail, and faxes brief. Never write more than one page. Concise written correspondence is more likely to grab and keep the reader's attention.
arrow Identify your issue or opinion at the beginning of the letter, don't bury your main point under trivial text.
arrow Cover only one issue per letter. If you have another issue to address, write another letter.
Back up your opinions with supporting facts. Your letter should inform the reader.
arrow Avoid abbreviations or acronyms, and don't use technical jargon. Rather than impressing your reader, such terms will only frustrate him or her.
arrow Don't send the same letter to more than one representative. Personalized letters have more impact.

Calling or Visiting Your Representative

arrow Plan your call or visit carefully. Keep to the point and discuss only one issue. Organize your thoughts ahead of time and make notes to help you stay on track.
arrow When planning to visit your representative, make an appointment. Don't just drop by your representative's office and expect him or her to drop everything to see you. Call or write for an appointment as soon as you know when you are going to be at the Capitol.
arrow Prepare a one-page fact sheet concerning your issue to give to your representative. This will help him or her better retain what you present.