Contacting your legislator

Find your state legislator

Calling your legislator

To get a legislator phone number, call the state's switchboard at (651) 296-6013.

Remember that being a legislator is a part-time job, so try to get the number for your legislator's home district office. Calls are usually taken by a staff member on the actual legislator's behalf.  Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue you want to comment on. If they are not available, you may also leave a message. If you speak with someone other than your legislator, write down their name and title for future reference. 

Once you get your legislator or an aide on the phone, follow these basic steps:

Identify yourself by name and the organization (if any) that you represent or the town you are calling from.

Explain why you're calling: "I am calling to support/oppose House file: HF_____, Senate file: SF_____. "

Be polite. Be concise. Follow one or two talking points to focus your message.

Ask for a written response to your phone call if you didn't get through to the legislator personally.

If the legislator requires further information, provide it as soon as possible.

Finally, thank the person who took the phone call for their time and consideration.

When you visit your legislator ...

Know the issues. Read MMA issue briefs, backgrounders and talking points. If you have questions, call the MMA's Legislative team.

Present the issue in terms that will interest your legislator.

  • What will be the impact on your practice in the local community?
  • What will be the impact on jobs in the legislator’s district?
  • What will be the impact on the general public in terms of access to health care, safety, cost, etc.?

Time it right. Whenever possible, contact your legislator(s) before the session begins, or very early in the session. It is always a nice touch to meet in the district for breakfast, or a cup of coffee to underscore the fact that you are a constituent who lives and practices in the district.

Be brief.

Do your homework. Find out about your legislators' policy interests at the House or Senate Web site. Compliment them on their service.

Use "human interest stories" whenever possible. Use anecdotes involving your patients. Avoid jargon.

Be nice — never sarcastic or obnoxious or angry.

The legislator's staff person may attend. Be sure to jot down the staff person's name for later use.

Ask for feedback. Ask how your legislator plans to vote.

Offer to help in the future and to be a resource on health care issues.

Follow up with a thank-you note — and reiterate your main points. 

What Legislators like to hear:

"We have done thorough research on our issues."
"There is no opposition to our issue; or the opposition is minimal; or we have met with the opposition and have worked out a compromise; or we have attempted to work out a compromise but the opposition is unwilling to meet/compromise."

"Our proposal will save tax dollars, or our bill is revenue neutral."

"Our bill will improve health care for consumers." (Show how.)

"Our bill is supported by organizations in the legislator’s district." (List them.)

"Similar measures have been enacted in other states with positive results." (List them.)

What Legislators don’t like to hear:

"Our profession is of two minds on this issue." (Unite, then proceed.)

"We can pay for this by cutting 'waste in government.'" (Be specific, not insulting.)

"We're not certain what the cost implications are." (Get certain!)

"Really about the only opposition is the (insert opposition group name here)." (Really?)

Writing your legislator

Writing a letter is a great way to communicate directly with legislators. When writing a legislator, consider these suggestions:

Individually written letters, rather than mass generated form letters, make a greater impression on your legislator.

Type your name, address, and phone number at the top.

The Minnesota State Legislature is only in session during the first few months of the year. When the legislature is out of session, address your letter to your legislator's district office. 

How to address your letter:

To your Minnesota State Senator:

The Honorable (Full Name)
State Capitol
Minnesota Senate
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
St. Paul, MN 55155

To your Minnesota State Representatives:

The Honorable (Full Name)
State Capitol
Minnesota House of Representatives
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
St. Paul, MN 55155

Be specific. Your purpose for writing should be stated in the first paragraph of the letter.

If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify its name and number; e.g. House bill or file: HF_____, Senate bill or file: SF_____.

Be current. Send your letter while the issue is still alive.

State your position. Explain why you support or oppose this particular issue. Keep in mind that local examples concerning the impact of this legislation are very powerful. Be courteous and to the point, keeping your letter focused on one issue.

Ask for a response. Indicate that you would appreciate a reply containing his/her position on the issue.

"Sincerely" is a proper way to conclude your letter. 

Follow up. If you agree with your legislator's eventual vote, say so. If you disagree, say so.


Support political campaigns

All legislators share the experience of running for office. This is a noble but difficult undertaking for most, and those folks who help in this effort by volunteering, contributing money, hosting fundraisers, etc. will be given priority in access to the legislator. This does not mean your legislator will always agree with you, but it does mean that your phone message will probably be answered first.

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