How to Talk to Legislators

for Federation Member Organizations

How to Talk to Legislators

To identify your incumbent legislator, access and enter your home address.

Contacting Legislators

The most effective methods of communicating with Legislators include:

  1. Face-to-Face Individual or Group Visits;
  2. Testify before a Committee;
  3. Personal Letters;
  4. Telephone Calls;
  5. Emails;
  6. Resolution Passed by an Organization;
  7. Petition;
  8. News Report of Group/Individual Position; and
  9. Form Letter.


When writing to or speaking with a State official, keep the following in mind:

1. Writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Governor of Texas
State Capitol
PO Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711
Dear Governor (Last Name):

2. Speaking: “Governor (Last Name)”

Lieutenant Governor
1. Writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Lt. Governor of Texas
State Capitol
PO Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711
Dear Governor (Last Name):
2 Speaking: “Governor (Last Name)”

Speaker of the House
1. Writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Speaker of the House
Texas House of Representatives
PO Box 2910
Austin, Texas 78768-2910
Dear (Mr./Madam) Speaker:
2. Speaking: “Mr./Madam Speaker”

State Senator
1. Writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Texas State Senate
PO Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711
Dear Senator (Last Name):

2. Speaking: “Senator (Last Name)”

State Representative
1. Writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Texas House of Representatives
PO Box 2910
Austin, Texas 78768-2910
Dear Mr./Mrs. (Last Name):
2. Speaking: “Mr./Ms. (Last Name)”

Letters: When to Write

  • When you want a legislator to take a position on your issue. Timing is important. Write early, before he/she has made up his/her mind. Then write just before a vote on the issue.
  • When you want a legislator to reverse a position he/she has taken. It may be helpful to get influential person, who the legislator respects, to write on your behalf.
  • When you want the legislator to renew his/her position on an issue.
  • When you want to educate the legislator on your issue.
  • As a follow-up to a visit with the legislator outlining what you heard him/her say.
  • To thank the legislator after he/she has taken a positive action on your behalf.

Letters: Length and Style

  • Make it one page or less, covering only one subject. Avoid “computer print-out letters” that appear to be a form letter and try to avoid sending form letters altogether.
  • Get to the point quickly, in a clear and concise manner.
  • Attach supporting information, rather than including it in the body of the letter.
  • Letters should be brief, dignified, sincere, and respectful.
  • Be specific, logical and positive.
  • Don’t be argumentative or make threats.
  • Be sure to include your name and address on the letter and envelop–an anonymous letter will be ignored.

Letters: Content

  • Be specific. State why you are writing; what you want your legislator to do. Make your request reasonable and possible to accomplish; ask for specific action.
  • If you are writing about a specific bill, state the bill’s number, title, author, and the committee to which it has been assigned.
  • Note how the legislation will affect your patients and practice, using specific facts and case examples.
  • Provide reasons for your position on the issue/bill.
  • Avoid name dropping, but if there are several different groups on whose behalf you are writing, mention them in your letter.
  • Use statistics sparingly and carefully. Cite only one or two key ones. Concentrate on providing a brief case example with a few key facts.
  • Request an answer to your letter, asking the legislator to advise you how he/she will vote or at least how he/she feels about your issue.

Telephone Calls: When to Make

  • When you cannot have a face-to-face visit with the legislator.
  • When you want the legislator to vote a certain way on an issue, and time is of the essence.
  • When you want to say “thank you”.

Telephone Calls: Length

  • Make it short, sweet and to the point.
  • If he/she wants to talk longer, let them take the lead.

Telephone Calls: Style

  • Be respectful of the legislator and his/her time constraints.
  • Be appreciative that he/she has taken time to talk with you.
  • Remember, the legislator may not be able to personally take your call. If you are asked to talk with an aide, rather than the legislator, be appreciative. Aides have great influence with legislators and are often more knowledgeable about the issues than the legislators themselves.
  • Through an aide, your message will reach the legislator.
  • Be professional, positive and direct.
  • Be accurate in your facts, and do not relay rumor.

Telephone Calls: Contact

  • Make notes in advance about the points you wish to make so that you do not forget anything and so that it flows in a concise and logical manner.
  • Identify yourself by name, address, organization (if applicable), and hometown (if within the legislator’s district). If you vote within the legislator’s district, your call will carry more weight.
  • Identify the bill by title, number, author, and where it is in the legislative process.
  • Briefly state what your position is and how you would like the legislator to vote/act on it.
  • Ask your legislator’s view on the bill or issue. Try to be firm in obtaining a commitment from him/her regarding how he/she will vote, but be understanding if they have not yet studied the issue enough to make up their mind.
  • Show appreciation for his/her past votes. Be positive.
  • If they require further information, supply it as quickly as possible. Thank them for their time and attention.

Personal Visits: When to Make

  • When the legislator is home in his/her district office.
  • When you are at the Capitol, visit his/her office.

Personal Visits: Length

  • Be sure to make an appointment to see the legislator. Ask the aide how long the legislator usually takes in routine appointments. Generally it is safe to assume that you will have five minutes. If they want you to stay longer, they will offer.

Personal Visits: Style

  • As always, be professional, concise, clear and respectful.
  • Introduce yourself and whom you represent (if applicable), even when you think the legislator already knows you.
  • Never present inaccurate information. If you do not know the answer to a question, offer to get back to the legislator with the information…and do so promptly.
  • Have a one-page fact sheet to leave with the legislator. Leave your business card or be sure your name, address and telephone number is on the fact sheet in the event the legislator needs to contact you later.
  • Be informal in your first visit, and do not press for a commitment immediately after presenting your case for the first time. Be willing to check back later for an answer, if they would like time to study the issue and your fact sheet further. Remember that their other commitments could prevent their support; respect their position.

Personal Visits: Content

  • Chat briefly, then proceed to the point of your meeting. Be concise. Talk about only one issue per visit, and leave a fact sheet with the legislator.
  • Follow-up with a letter thanking them for what they agreed to do.

Public Testimony: Length

  • Prepare two versions of your testimony: one to deliver verbally and a longer, written version to give to the legislators.
  • Be able to present your testimony in less than five minutes.

Public Testimony: Style

  • It should be typed and you should bring enough copies for the committee members plus additional copies for the press and other interested persons.
  • Try not to ever read your testimony.
  • Be respectful, professional, brief and accurate.

Public Testimony: Content

  • Identify your concerns, and how you think the committee could make improvements to the bill, if appropriate.
  • Acknowledge originators of the legislation if you have this information.
  • If the legislation is a carefully worked out compromise among several groups, acknowledge this.
  • Address each legislator by name.
  • State what you would like to see accomplished. Do this at the end of your testimony.
  • Offer to answer questions of the committee. If you do not know the answer to a question, offer to seek a response and follow-up with committee members as soon as possible.
  • Remain aware of time constraints, but do not hurry through your testimony. Take your time so you will be relaxed and they can listen fully.
  • When questioned by committee members, do not be argumentative, play to the audience, try to be funny, drop names, or try to flatter yourself or a committee member insincerely. Do not lose your temper or your professionalism. Do not take their comments personally– realize that they are simply frustrated, in a hurry, and have to be concerned with hundreds of issues other than the one with which you are concerned. Direct replies to all committee members, not only to friendly committee members.
  • Offer to assist them and their staff in any way you can to resolve the issue.
  • Thank them for their time and consideration of your position.
  • Consult the Federation of Texas Psychiatrists and its representatives for any assistance.

Having completed this primer, you are now an expert. Make contact with your legislator…your voice will make a difference.

Excerpts from United Way of Texas Public Policy Handbook.