The mission of VCDR is to advance the human and civil rights of people with disabilities to ensure full and equal participation in all aspects of community life and the political process.

 

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Communicating with your Legislator

Write

Any Senator or Representative may be reached by writing to them care of:
The State House
115 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05633-5301

Home addresses of legislators are available online at: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/legdir/legdirmain.cfm

Call

Call the State House Sergeant at Arms office at (during the legislative session): 1-800-322-5616 or 1-802-828-2228 V/TDD

If you call the State House during the day, the person who answers the phone will take your name and number and the legislator will call you back. If you do not receive a response in a couple of days, call again or call the legislator at home.

Fax

Fax for the Sergeant at Arms office is: 1-802-828-2424

E-mail

Many legislators now have e-mail. Use the links above to find email addresses as well.

Visit

Set up an appointment to meet your legislator at the State House, or a mutually agreeable location, such as your home.

Why Participate?

Anyone who is willing to spend even a little time and effort to influence the process can make a difference. It is very important to remember that legislators want to get re-elected, and to get re-elected they need votes. Your vote is important, and as a constituent your opinion makes a difference to your representatives.

Ways to Participate

How to Write to Your Legislator

Write to the State House (see address above), or to their home address. Well written, personal letters are probably one of the best ways to try to get support for your issue. Your letter may also convince your legislator that there are other voters who are also concerned about an issue, but did notbother to write. One letter can make a difference.

When you write to your representatives, following these suggestions may make your communication more effective:
Let the legislator know if you are a constituent. Legislators respond best to the voters in their district. Include your home address. (You do not have to be a constituent to write a legislator; often it is a good idea to write to other key legislators in addition to your own representatives and senators. Your Government Relations Committee or VCDR can let you know of key committee members to contact.)

Make your case in a short, persuasive manner. The best letters are short and direct. You do not need to write a long detailed letter to get your point across.

Include information that shows you know something about your legislator or the Legislature. For example, you may want to cite a recent vote or a bill she or he has introduced, or something you saw in the newspaper or heard on TV or radio.

If you know it, cite a bill number and other specific information when writing about a piece of legislation. If you are writing in support of or in opposition to a particular bill, it helps to include the bill name, its number, and its status in your letter. For example: "I am writing to support the drug cost containment bill, S. 88, that is currently in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee."

Include local arguments or facts whenever possible. This helps show the importance of the issue in the legislator's own district. Legislators often respond favorably to accounts about how a given issue is affecting real people both in their district and across the state. These make the issue real and tangible.

Tell the legislator exactly what you want him or her to do, and ask for a response. You have the right to ask your representatives what position they will take on an issue. If they say they support your position, ask what they are going to do. Depending on the status of the bill, you may want to ask them to become a cosponsor of the measure, to write to the leadership or appropriate committee chair, or to speak out on the issue in a committee or on the floor.

Write a follow-up letter. Whatever response you get, it is a good idea to follow up, whether to thank the legislators for their support, or if the answers you got the first time were unsatisfactory, to try again.

In addition to your own representatives in the House or Senate, you may also want to write to other key members such as the Speaker, Senate President, Lt. Governor, the leadership in the appropriate chamber, or committee Chairpersons.

Letters are most effective in combination with phone calls!
How to Call Your Legislator:

You can call your legislator during the day at the State House (see above), or at home in the evening or on a weekend. Most legislators are at home in their districts on Mondays, as well. When you call, follow the general guidelines on writing your legislator (above). Here are some additional suggestions:
Do not call at dinner time, early in the morning, or late at night, if you are calling the legislator at home or over the weekend. They have families and do not see much of them during the week. Be considerate. Always ask if this is a convenient time to call. If not, ask when is a good time.

If the legislator is not at home, ask when is a good time to call back. Do not tell your story to a spouse or child. Your story will not get repeated to the person you want to hear it.

Always be polite. Tell the legislator your name. Also tell him or her that you live in their district, and that you want to talk about a particular problem or bill.

After you have said your piece, the legislator may have some questions. Give them as much information as you can, but if you do not know the answers, say so, and also say you will try to find out. Say you would be happy to give him or her more information, and ask if he or she would like your phone number. Thank him or her for their time.

A phone call may be more effective than a letter if you are contacting a legislator for the first time on a particular issue. You can follow up your call with a note. The note could again briefly describe what you said on the phone, repeat the offer or further information, and again thank the legislator for his or her time in talking to you.

After you have made your phone call and written your letter, ask someone else you know to do the same. Better yet, ask a group of people to call, because the more calls the legislators receive on an issue, the more they pay attention. Ask other consumers to let you know about their calls and the response they received from their legislator.

BACK TO TOOLS AND TIPS

Contact VCDR

To Contact VCDR by mail:
VCDR
11 East State St., Suite 2
Montpelier, VT 05602

VCDR can be contacted by phone via VCIL at:
Phone: 1-800-639-1522