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AVASW Guide to Engagement with Legislators

Background

Passing legislation is an uphill battle. It is not a linear process. It may take an average of 5-10

years to advance a bill to law. We have been working on Social Work Safety legislation at the

federal level for nearly 10 years (S 1176 and HR 2663 in the current 118 th Congress). You must

get to know your elected officials and understand the legislative process and influences.

Things to consider:

Many groups compete for a legislator’s attention along a broad range of issues.

At the state level 1-2,000 bills are introduced during a session, and, at the congressional

level close to 7,000 bills are introduced in a two-year session.

The process is intentionally slow and deliberative.

At the state level approximately 15-20% of bills are processed to become law, and at the

federal level, about 4% pass.


Engagement

It is important that lawmakers hear from constituents early on, such as prior to each session.

You can introduce yourself, note that you are in the lawmaker’s district, and the priorities of

your organization (i.e., AVASW). You may also get to know their staff. Staff contacts may be

just as valuable as contact with the legislator.

You can make your organizations’ expertise available to the legislative leaders and be prepared

to work with them to draft legislation, providing feedback on legislation, amendments, or

compromise legislation, as necessary. Some years ago, AVASW testified at the federal level and

offered this year to testify, if needed, on the Multiorganization Statement for the Record on the

utilization of care in the community, prevention of veteran’s suicide and other veterans related

bills. The interaction you have with a congressperson allows you to cultivate a relationship that

will continue from one issue to another including opposition to legislation.


Key ways to have influence with legislators:

1. Calling your member of Congress

2. Writing a letter to your Member of Congress

3. Meeting with a Member of Congress


Calling your member of Congress

Phone calls are a quick and effective way to let a member of Congress know how you feel about

an issue. When a legislator gets a number of phone calls from constituents on an issue, they

begin to pay more attention to that piece of legislation.

How to make a phone call:

Let the legislators know that you are a constituent and member of AVASW or other

organization.

State your position on the issue or piece of legislation and ask if they will support the

bill. Give them the bill number (i.e., HR 200 or S.200) and the name of the bill (PACT Act).

Leave your address and telephone number so that you can receive a response from your

member of Congress.


Writing a Letter to your Member of Congress

How to make your letter effective:

A personal letter to a member of Congress is a powerful tool. It is especially valuable if you can

include a case example that details a more personal approach and effect of the proposed

legislation. Some organizations provide a pre-written letter that you can modify and mail or

email to your members of Congress.

Effective letters are short and concise (limit letter to one or two pages)

Make sure that you have the correct address for the Congressperson and use the appropriate

title and salutation.

Always run a spell check on your letter after completing the draft.

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