June 16, 2022

The Value and Process of Letter Writing

Written by Mary Eargle, SOC Intern

Written by Mary Eargle, SOC Intern

This month, I was able to attend a training event held by HEAL Utah. The topic this time was on using advocacy and letter writing as a tool for legislative change. At the start, the group of us went around and shared why we got into the field of advocacy in the first place. It was enlightening to hear people share how their individualized backgrounds led them to “stand up for the little guy.” I shared how my privilege made me uncomfortable, knowing there are people out there suffering. I think a lot of people out there find that feeling relatable. For one reason or another, we all found ourselves sitting in that circle hoping to become a louder voice for our communities. As one HEAL member put it, “Being an advocate is messy and imperfect.” We’re all just trying our hardest to make an impact and protect the nature and world that we love. Kenna from HEAL is a pro at breaking down the complex legislative system into layman’s terms. 

Essentially, from January to March there is a 45-day session when the majority of bills are introduced by the legislators. After this, they meet once a month for a number of days to introduce new bills and receive public comments. This is important to know because the best time to contact your representative is during these monthly breaks.

So, if you’re like me, you never really considered that you *could* talk to your legislator, and they would listen. HEAL assured us that this is not true. In fact, some Utah lawmakers reported that the direct inspiration for their bill came from a letter sent by a concerned citizen. Local lawmakers have a lot more time for their constituents, and some even give out their personal cell numbers. Yes, you could even personally text your Utah representative!

This leaves the question of how to best address your concerns in your letter. Representatives are humans too, sometimes shockingly so. They respond best if you paint a story along with your comments, instead of just giving the facts. HEAL suggests identifying yourself as a “future parent/grandparent”, “concerned parent”, “registered voter”, or whatever else makes you more personable in their eyes. That last example is especially helpful because ultimately your representative wants your support in the next election. Your role as a constituent is a powerful tool in swaying the legislative vote on your issue!

Aside from making it personable, a helpful hint for your letter-writing toolbox is to present data your legislator will most care about. Often that means looking at your issue from the economical approach. Although you may be most concerned about the impact a proposed bill will have on nature, your local leader is likely going to be most swayed by data about monetary costs that could occur (now or in the future) if they vote against the issue.

If you’re ready to try out your new letter-lobbying skills, check out www.le.utah.gov and click on ‘My Legislators.’ Once you put in your address, you will find the names of your district’s House of Representative member and your Senator. These are the legislators that it is most beneficial for you to contact, but you can talk to any Utah leader about your concerns. Leave a comment or email us at ____ to let us know how your letter-writing experience goes! And once you're ready for the next level, check out HEAL’s website to see when their next lobbying training is on Capitol Hill. Good luck ecowarriors!

(P.S. if letter writing really isn’t your thing, call out your elected official on Twitter! Social Media is proving to be very effective at keeping legislators accountable).

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