Employee Guide to Legislative Communications
As citizen's we are all free to voice our individual views and the University of West Florida respects and supports this right. However, university employees must remember that the University of West Florida Board of Trustees and their designees speak for the university on legislative issues in an official capacity. University guidelines direct the following:
- University employees (other than the President and Governmental Relations staff) shall not register or represent the University of West Florida as a lobbyist.
- Any university employee asked to appear before legislative committees must notify the President and the Office of Governmental Relations. Notification shall include the date, time, location, and the general nature of the testimony to be given.
- Any university employee who represents his or her office/position at UWF, or uses the name of UWF or of any entity sponsored by UWF must report this activity to the President and the Office of Governmental Relations prior to contacting any U.S. or Florida legislator. This applies to contacts by mail, telephone, e-mail or in person.
- UWF resources are not to be used for personal (non-University related) contacts with legislators or legislative staff.
Please remember that UWF resources are not to be used for personal (unofficial) contacts with legislators or legislative staff.
University Point of Contact
Understanding and Communicating with the Florida Legislature
Much of the information below was taken from the Florida Legislature's Web site at http://www.leg.state.fl.us. This site is an excellent resource provided by the Florida Legislature. Below you will find information on helpful tips on how to contact your legislators and effective communication with elected officials.
How to Communicate with your Legislator
As a Floridian, one of your greatest responsibilities is to help elect the representatives who represent you and the state's more than 18 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 number of phone calls, letters and emails from their constituents. Unfortunately, their full agendas limit their ability to personally respond to them all. How 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.
- Know who your representatives are and how to contact them. If you don't know who represents you, you can find out by visiting the following: http://www.myfloridahouse.gov (click on "Find Your Representative) or http://www.flsenate.gov (position cursor on "Senators" and then click on "Find Your Legislator"). Your representatives' web pages will give you their mailing addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.
- Make sure you understand the legislative process. Even the most basic understanding of the process will help you effectively express your ideas. Contact your senator or representative about a particular issue before the Legislature takes action on it. Most matters coming before the Legislature are well publicized before session.
- Use a variety of communication methods. You might choose to telephone, write, email, 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 staff before the hearing to sign up.)
- Tell your legislator what effect you think a particular bill, if it becomes law, will have on you, your children, business, or community. Be concise and specific.
- Be polite even if you disagree strongly with the legislator or staff member you are addressing. Lawmakers cannot please everyone. Your communication will be more effective if you are reasonable in your approach.
- 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:
The Honorable John Doe
Florida House of Representatives
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300.
Address letters to senators this way:
Senator Jane Doe
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100.
- Be absolutely certain you spell the legislator's name correctly and use the correct address. If you don't, you could lose your audience.
- Type or print legibly. Sign your name neatly and give your address correctly so they can respond to your letter.
- 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.
- Identify your issue or opinion at the beginning of the letter; don't bury your main point under trivial text.
- 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.
- Avoid abbreviations or acronyms, and don't use technical jargon. Rather than impressing your reader, such terms will only frustrate him or her.
- Don't send the same letter to more than one representative. Personalized letters have more impact.
Calling or Visiting Your Representative
- 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.
- 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.
- Even with an appointment, there are occasions in which the member is unable to meet with you. Very often a staff member will be assigned to discuss your issue with you. Treat the staff member with respect and provide all relevant information to him/her.
- 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.