HELPFUL LEGISLATIVE TOOLS

Know Your Legislators

 

Members of the Congress of the United States and the Montana Legislature are your elected representatives.  Their function is to enact laws based on the will of the majority.

 

However, your elected representatives can represent you ONLY to the extent that they are aware of your wishes.  It’s your job to inform your representatives in Congress and in the Legislature as to how you stand on issues.

 

Don’t hesitate to phone, fax, or write them at any time.

 

From time to time, the Montana Optometric Association or an MOA Legislative Committee Member will contact you regarding pending legislation affecting the optometric profession and request that you phone, fax or write your representatives.

 

When you are asked to contact members of Congress or members of the Legislature, please do so immediately!  Remember, your representatives in Washington and Helena need to hear from you and want to hear from you on key issues with which you are concerned.  Your phone call, fax or letter can help them to decide how they will vote.

 

There is still another way in which you can participate effectively in legislative action to the benefit of you, your patients and the optometric profession; this is through personal contact with members of the Congress and members of the Legislature from your area.  Get to know the U.S. Senators, the U.S. Congressmen, the State Senators and State Representatives who are elected to represent you.

 

The men and women who represent you in Washington and Montana are writing legislation, which may have far-reaching effects on optometry services.  This legislation can have direct effects on you and your practice.  Unfortunately, many legislators are not aware of the kinds of services optometrists are qualified to provide.

 

You – yes, YOU – can change that.  You can do so by getting to know your lawmakers and inviting them to meet with you.

 

Get involved!

Keep informed!

Be active!

 

Our nation needs involved, informed, active citizens as much or more than ever before.  BE ONE!

 

 

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Write Your Lawmakers

 

An effective way to maintain contact with and influence your lawmakers is through letter writing.  Since virtually everyone can write a letter, no new talent is required.  However, a few pointers might be useful.  Here are some hints.

 

  • Use your professional letterhead or personal stationery, making sure that yourreturn address and date are clearly given.

  • Keep your letter short; one page is enough.  Use plain language, not jargon. Put your thoughts in your own words.  Avoid signing and sending a form letter.

  • Keep to one subject.  If you have separate topics to bring up, use separate letters.

  • Say what you want at the beginning.  Sometimes lawmakers will get a flood of mail on one subject and they want to know quickly what the pro-and-con count is without having to wade through long introductions.

  • Stick to the facts.  Don’t embellish your letter with complaints or emotion. Don’t ask for the impossible.  Show that you are reasonable.  Preface criticism, if you can, with praise.

  • If you are trying to influence a particular piece of legislation, tell how it will affect the lawmaker’s constituents.  Explain how the legislation would affect you, your patients, and health care services in general.  Be constructive.  If a measure deals with a problem that you admit exists, but you believe the bill takes the wrong approach toward solving that problem, explain what you believe to be the right approach.

  • Write to lawmakers when they do something positive.  A note of appreciation will make them remember you more favorably the next time.

  • Always invite your lawmakers to visit our conferences to learn firsthand how you provide quality services.  This invitation could be particularly welcome at election time when politicians seek out sizeable audiences such as those who live near, or can gather at, a convention site.

  • Be sure to use the proper form of address:

SENATOR                                 REPRESENTATIVE

Honorable (Name)                 Honorable (Name)

Address                                    Address

City, State  Zip                         City, State  Zip

 

 

 

Golden Rules

 

  1. Don’t underestimate public officials.  With very rare exceptions, they are honest,intelligent and want to do the right thing.  Your job is to inform them what you think is right.

  2. Don’t look down on government and politics.  They may have faults, but so does most any profession.  A disdainful attitude is an expensive luxury these days.

  3. Be understanding.  Put yourself in the public official’s place.  Try to understand theirproblems, outlook and aims.  Then you are more likely to persuade them to do the same in understanding your position.

  4. Be friendly.  Don’t contact public officials only when you want their help.  Invite them to be guests at meetings.  Take pains to keep in touch with them throughout the year – every year.

  5. Be reasonable.  Recognize that there are legitimate differences of opinion.  Never indulge in threats or recriminations.  They are confessions of weakness.

  6. Be thoughtful.  Don’t hesitate sending a note commending your legislator.  Any publicofficial will tell you that they get dozens of letters asking them to do something, but very few thanking them for what they have done.

  7. Don’t blame public officials for “failing” to do what you wanted.  The failure may be yours if you have not done a good job in preparing, presenting and following through on your case.

  8. Be cooperative.  If a public official makes a reasonable request, try to comply with it.  Don’t back away for fear that “it’s a deal” or that you’re “getting into politics.”

  9. Be realistic.  Remember that controversial legislation and regulation usually result incompromise.  It has always been so and it will always be so in a democracy.

  10. Be practical.  Recognize that each legislator has commitments and that a certain amount of vote-trading goes on in the give-and-take of the legislative process.  Try not to chastise a legislator who normally supports you if he happens to vote against one of your bills.  This doesn’t necessarily mean he has deserted your whole program.  Give a legislator the benefit of the doubt and they will appreciate it and remember that you did.

  11. Be a good opponent.  Fight issues – not people.  Be ready with alternatives or solutions as well as with criticisms.  This is constructive opposition.

  12. Be informed.  Never meet with legislators to advocate a position without first studying the facts and the arguments pro and con.  The mere fact that you want a legislator to adopt one position or another won’t be enough to convince them.  Do your homework.  Remember that while some votes may be firmly committed, there will be many others that can be swayed on the basis of sound arguments that are properly presented.

  13. Learn to evaluate and weigh issues.  Many bills which are tossed into the hopper “byrequest” are never intended to become law.  Try not to criticize legislators for bills which are introduced.  Don’t call out the army until you’re sure a bill is serious.

  14. Don’t break a promise.  This is a cardinal rule.  If you tell the legislator you will dosomething, stick to the bargain.

  15. Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream.  Never leave a legislator stranded out on a limb by changing your position after they have publicly stated a position that you have urged them to take.

MONTANA OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION

36 S. Last Chance Gulch, Suite A

Helena, MT  59601

Phone:  (406) 443-1160

Fax:  (406) 443-4614