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Dear Representative or Senator _______,
Thank you for your concern for our nation's health. I am writing today to urge you to sign on as a co-sponsor to HR The National Nurse Act of 2015. This legislation designates the same individual serving as the Chief Nurse Officer (CNO) of the U.S. Public Health Service to be the National Nurse for Public Health.
The primary purpose of this new expanded CNO role would be to focus and provide symbolic leadership for a much-needed cultural and philosophical shift to prevention. The CNO/National Nurse for Public Health would provide a highly visible nurse leader to advocate for enhanced prevention efforts in all communities.
Obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are primary culprits for our nation's declining health and many of these conditions can be prevented. We in the United States are fortunate to have many choices in the foods we eat, in our means of transportation, and in recreational options. While these choices have contributed positively to the economy of our country, the less obvious yet equally important outcome has been disastrous, mainly the demise of our nation's health. People with preventable disease conditions suffer horribly but also become a liability to employers when they are unable to work and to our government which is currently overwhelmed by the costs of health care largely due to preventable conditions.
The CNO/National Nurse for Public Health would partner with the Office of the Surgeon General to promote health, improve health literacy and decrease health disparities. This nurse leader would encourage nurses in every community to join networks of volunteers to educate the public, promote prevention activities with health agencies and organizations, and participate in replicating successful prevention efforts.
Preventable epidemics are destroying our nation’s health; education and support through a National Nurse for Public Health is a means by which to address this problem.
We urge you to show your support for this important piece of legislation.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sample Phone Script
Hello, my name is __________________.
I am a constituent calling from (City) calling in support of HR 379 , the National Nurse Act of 2015. This legislation calls for the appointment of the individual serving as the Chief Nursing Officer of the US Public Health Service to become the National Nurse for Public Health.
The CNO/National Nurse for Public Health would provide a highly visible identified nurse leader to advocate for enhanced prevention efforts in all communities.
The CNO/National Nurse for Public Health, with nurses in each community, will provide Americans with the tools to prevent disease and manage chronic illnesses. Studies show that when nurses are involved early on in patient's care, they require fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
Our nation needs health care, not sick care. I believe every American needs a nurse and I urge Representative ______ to co-sponsor the National Nurse Act of 2015.
Thank you for taking my call.
Grassroots Lobbying Efforts—What Works
- Personal contact (visit or phone call) from a constituent who volunteered or contributed to their campaign.
- Personal contact (visit or phone call) from anyone who contributed or volunteered to their campaign.
- Appearing at a local constituent meeting in a group to raise the issue.
- Personal visit from a constituent or public testimony from a constituent.
- Public testimony from an expert who is not a constituent.
- Guest opinion in their local paper or a news event drawing attention to the issue in the local media.
- Letter-to-the-editor in their local newspaper.
- Personal phone call with a constituent.
- Personal letter from a constituent.
- Phone message or voice mail from a constituent.
- Personal phone call with a non-constituent.
- Personal letter from a non-constituent.
Better Than Nothing:
- Mail a form letter.
- Phone message or voice mail from a non-constituent.
The ideal grassroots plan involves realistically identifying resources and targeting their activities as high up the scale of effectiveness as possible.
It is not always possible to have the most effective impact. The whole concept of grassroots organizing is that you are growing from the ground up. Work with what people resources you do have and find ways to grow for the future.
Ten Commandments of Lobbying
- Do Your Homework—Learn as much as you can about the problem. Be able to explain how it affects you. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents arguments. Anticipate questions and have answers ready.
- Start Early—You have to be ready when the time comes and everything always takes longer than you think it will.
- Tell the Truth—Legislators rely on you for good information. You will never regain your credibility once you lose it. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. If you promise to find an answer, do it.
- Keep it Simple—Work from the KISS principle—Keep it simple and short. Think about what you want and why you want it. Legislators are busy people and appreciate a concise summary of what you want.
- Take Your Friends Where You Find Them—Find your friends and work with them. In politics, a friend is someone who helps you when you need help, whether a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. Never cut anyone off from contact—your opponent today may be your ally tomorrow.
- Know Your Opponents—Don’t waste time trying to convince those who are publicly committed to their position. Put your energy into swaying undecided votes. But keep lines of communication with your opponents open for possible compromises.
- Think Big, But Always Know Your Bottom Line—Always ask for more than you think you can get. The legislative process is one of compromise-legislators try to give everyone something. Have something you can give up to your opponents without hurting you. This means you must prioritize. Decide what is most important and be willing to compromise on everything else.
- Build Coalitions—Work from a united front. Find groups and individuals who agree with you on an issue and work with them. Don’t expect them to agree with you on every issue or expect the coalition to last forever. It does’t matter who gets the credit as long as it gets done. Grabbing credit is divisive and gives your opponents something to exploit. Don’t air your dirty laundry.
- Work at the Local Level—Legislators pay most attention to their constituents. Sometimes you can affect the key-decision-makers directly, but more often it is best done through local contacts with legislators, media, and allies.
- Thank People That Help—Everybody likes a pat on the back.
Lobbying Your Legislator: Preventing a brush off
"I don’t have time for this right now."
“You must be very busy but we would like an indication of where you stand. We will contact you later to set up a time for a more in depth discussion of this.”
"I need more information."
“I would be glad to get it for you. What in particular would you like to know more about? Here is our fact sheet/research report on the matter.”
The non-commitment ploy, such as "Let me think about it."
“Great! I will call back on ______. I would be glad to answer any questions you have now or then.”
“Of course. As you know the ____ and ____ have also endorsed this bill along with ____ and _____. It’s important to all of us because ______.”
The change the subject ploy, such as "I was thinking the other day about how the environment affects health care."
“Yes. That is important to us to. But I’m most concerned about having a visible and prominent nurse leader to engage nurses to participate in successful health promotion activities in their communities...”
The who else likes this ploy, such as "Well who else have you gotten to support this?"
“Current supporters include ______. But I am a voter in your district. We have lots of voters in your district and we really want your support on this issue. We know we can’t always get what we want, but we believe your support will help constituents in your district.”
The labeling ploy, "This is part of the liberal agenda."
“I am sorry that we can’t talk about this issue as it pertains to helping your constituents. Let me remind you that supporting our position will aid ____ in your district.”
The talk to my staff ploy.
“I’d be happy to. Who exactly should I talk to and how can I reach them?”
- Always try to get a clear commitment or stand. If need be say, "I am unclear as to your position. Are you supporting this legislation or not?"
- Always be conscious of time constraints. If you have two minutes, go immediately to getting a commitment. If you have 30 minutes, fully explain the issue.
- Take notes and write a thank you letter.
Lobbying Your Legislator:
Lobbying by Personal Visit:
One of the most effective ways to lobby legislators is in face-to-face visits with them. It’s difficult to predict a legislator’s availability when the Legislature is in session. But if legislators know that their constituents have traveled from a distance, they will generally try to see them. It is always best to call first and make an appointment. Contact both your Representative and Senator. Here are some suggestions for your visit.
- Be on time for your appointment. But don’t expect legislators to be on time; they often have hearings or meetings they cannot anticipate and cannot leave.
- Before the appointment, practice a three-minute statement with the information you want to present. This will help you to be concise about what you want and why you want it.
- It is usually best to visit your legislators in a small group, three people is optimum. Never plan on staying more than 10–15 minutes. Going alone may be unsatisfactory because legislators may try to out-talk you or you may reach an impasse too quickly.
- If you are a constituent, begin by telling the legislator that. Let your legislator know if you are working with others on the issue, if you are active in the community, or if you are representing members of an organization.
- Present the legislator with a Fact Sheet and a copy of the bill. Include amendments if any are being proposed. Remember that your issue is probably one of dozens she/he is having to deal with. The information you provide to the Legislator will go into a bill file and will be available for reference at a later time.
- Talk to legislative staff, preferably, the Legislative Assistant, and present the same information and materials. Establishing a relationship with key staff is very important. They typically have the ear and the confidence of the legislator and are most likely going to be doing most of the leg work on the issue. They are also more accessible to you on an on-going basis.
- Be clear about what your position is and what you would like your legislators to do. Identify your bill by name and number whenever possible. Give the legislators some key words: "This is about having a National Nurse for Public Health teach Americans ways to live healthy."
- Be firm but courteous as you express your position. Do not try to force your legislators into changing their minds or committing themselves when they don’t want to, but it’s fair to ask them how they stand on the issue.
- Follow up your visit with a thank-you letter. Use it to restate your position.
Lobbying by Telephone:
You can find the telephone numbers of your elected Representatives and Senators by visiting Contacting Congress or by calling these toll free numbers:
1-877-762-8762, 1-888-723-5246, 1-800-426-8073
Here are recommendations for making calls to your legislators.
- Identify yourself by name and address.
- Identify the bill you want to talk about by name and number.
- Briefly state your position and how you would like your legislator to vote.
- Ask for your legislator’s view on the bill or issue; then ask for a commitment to vote for your position. Don’t argue if the legislator takes a position against you or is unwilling to take a stand.
- Supply requested information as quickly as possible. The legislature moves rapidly during the session.
- If you cannot speak to your legislator directly, talk to a secretary or legislative aide, identify yourself, the bill you want to talk about by name and number, and state how you would like your legislator to vote. Legislator’s staff are very reliable and will tell the legislator that you called and what you said.
- Follow up the call with a note thanking them for their time. Use the note as an opportunity to briefly restate your position.
Lobbying by letter:
Letters are important, even critical to influence legislation. Letters to the writer’s own Senator or Representative are especially important.
Here are some guidelines to follow in writing effective letters.
- Address the letter correctly.
(Note: because of security related to 9/11, it is best to email your letters—you can find the email address of your U.S. Senator or Representative at Contacting Congress)
- Always put the Honorable Senator ____ or the Honorable Representative ____ in your introduction.
- Clearly identify the issue about which you are writing and your position, in support or in opposition at the beginning of the letter. Be sure to include the bill number, if there is one.
- Write in your own words and include thoughts of your own. Tell how the problem and the proposed legislation affects you.
- If you are a member of an organization which is pursuing the issue, include the organization’s name. "I’am a member of the National Nursing Network Organization."
- Show as much knowledge as you can, but avoid sending a postcard or form letter. Handwritten letters are fine if they are legible. Include your name and return address so legislators can respond.
- Write briefly, on only one subject at a time.
- If you live in the legislator’s district, be sure to say so.
- Ask for a response and the legislator’s position on the issue.
- If you don’t get a reply to your letter, follow it up with another letter asking for a response.
- When a legislator votes as you asked, send a thank-you note. A thank-you is a refreshing change that is likely to be remembered.
Using the Media to Lobby:
Keeping your issue or bill in the local or statewide news demonstrates public concern and support. Media coverage can mean the difference between victory and defeat for a bill. Remember you are speaking to the public and to legislators when you’re dealing with the media. Several kinds of media coverage should be considered.
- Letters to the editor can accomplish four objectives: alert the community that the issue is before the legislature; persuade readers to your position; demonstrate that there are responsible and articulate people who agree with your position; enlist others to engage in lobbying.
- Submit an article to your newspaper’s opinion and editorial page.
- Local radio and television talk shows. Make sure that your position is well represented in all call-in radio programs. Cajole the stations into scheduling a program on the issue and then provide an articulate spokesperson.
- If a radio or television station takes an editorial position with which you disagree, ask for equal time—a requirement by law that all opposing viewpoints be aired through editorial replies.
- Try to influence the editorial position of media outlets by writing to editors and columnists of local press and managers of local stations. You can also request, as part of a larger group, a meeting with your local paper’s editorial board. Legislators are particularly sensitive to the editorial comments of their local media.
Adapted from the Oregon Human Services Coalition Legislative Advocacy Packet by:The Oregon Health Action Campaign 3886 Beverly NE Bulldog I, Suite 21 Salem, OR 97305 503-581-6830; 1-800-789-1599