How to contact your State Board of Education Representative and State/Federal Legislators
Board of Education Representatives

Contacting State/Federal Legislators (General Assembly) in Tennessee

Tennessee Federal Senators and Representatives in Washington, D.C.

Tips to use when contacting legislators

We realize that families often feel overwhelmed in the day-to-day activities of life. Keeping up with new and proposed legislation is often far down the "to do" list. Part of the reason for this is that families don't realize the power they have to influence legislation that affects their lives. A quick phone call or one page letter to an elected official is all it takes to express a point of view. Families don't need to provide detailed information about policy. However, when a parent describes how proposed legislation will affect them and their child, it puts a "face" on the issue. When things go well because of action taken by a representative, be sure to let him/her know. A phone call or short thank you note will be greatly appreciated - and remembered.

Golden Rules for Advocates When Dealing With Elected Officials

1.Be understanding, Put yourself in the legislators place. Try to understand their problems, outlook, and aims. Then you are more likely to persuade these legislators to do the same in understanding yours. Remember, we must have people who are willing to commit themselves to public service positions.

2.Consider yourself an informed source. Legislators have limited time, staff and interest on any issue. They can't be as informed as they might like on all issues - or the ones that concern you. You can fill the information gap for them.

3.Be thoughtful. Commend the right things public officials do. That's the way you like to be treated. Public officials will tell you that they get dozens of letters asking them to do something, but very few thanking them for their actions.

4.Make the legislator aware of any personal connection you might have. No matter how insignificant you may feel it is, if you have friends, relatives, and/or colleagues in common, LET THEM KNOW. Our legislative process is very informal and though it may make no difference in your effectiveness, it may make the difference in their mind.

5.Be specific about what it is you are asking for. If you want a vote, information, answer to a question, whatever it is, make sure you ask for it directly and get an answer.

6.Don't look down on government and politics. They may be faulty, but so are other professions. A disdainful attitude is an expensive luxury these days. Whatever affects your business is your business, even if it is politics.

7.Don't be afraid to admit you don't know something. If a legislator wants information you don't have, or asks something you don't know, tell them you don't know and then offer to get the information they are looking for. Be sure to follow through.

8.Don't be a busybody. You don't like to be scolded, pestered or preached to. Neither do public officials.

9.DON'T "BURN ANY BRIDGES". It is easy to get emotional over issues you feel strongly about. That's fine, but be sure that no matter what happens, you leave your dealings on good enough terms that you can go back to them. Remember, your strongest opponent on one issue may be your strongest ally on another.

10.Remember, YOU ARE THE BOSS! Your tax money pays legislators' expenses, pays for the paper they write on, and the phone they call you on. YOU are the employer and they are the employee. You should be courteous, but don't be intimidated. They are responsible to you, and nine out of ten legislators are grateful for your input.

The Coalition's Quarterly Connection, December 1998.

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