Introduction to Public Policy
Find Your State Representatives Locate your state representative and senator
Status of State Legislation From the Indiana Legislative Services Administration
Contacting Your Federal Legislators
Find Your Federal Representatives Project Vote Smart can find this information for you
Status of Federal Legislation The Library of Congress can help.
United States House of Representatives
1st District: Pete Visclosky
2nd District: Jackie Walorski
3rd District: Marlin Stutzman
4th District: Todd Rokita
5th District: Susan Brooks
6th District: Luke Messer
7th District: Andre Carson
8th District: Larry Bucshon
9th District: Todd Young
House switchboard: 202-224-3121
United States Senate
Joe Donnelly (Web site)
Letters may be written to a legislator’s home address or to the State House during hearings, committee process or legislative sessions. The structure of the letter should include:
- The focus of your letter (preferably an action statement informing your legislator what you want done).
- If a bill, identification by name and number.
- Your credentials or why you have special knowledge about the issue.
- Major consequences of the proposed legislation.
- Rationales for your point of view (facts and statistics).
- Observations, personal anecdotes, or concrete examples supporting your rationales.
- A reiteration of what you want the legislator to do (vote yes, vote no, introduce legislation, encourage others to act).
- The effects proposed legislation will have on constituents (not just nursing). 9. A request for your legislator’s response (you are entitled to this information).
Other suggestions for improving your letter writing are as follows:
- Letterheads portray to legislators whom you represent. Use personal stationery rather than letterhead from your health care facility, agency or school. ISNA stationery is acceptable when representing official association positions authorized by ISNA headquarters and mailed from the ISNA office.
- Always include your name and address on the letter. A letter cannot be answered if there is no return address or the signature is not legible. Envelopes with return addresses are usually discarded.
- Letters may be handwritten or typed. The deciding factor will be the legibility of your handwriting. Form letters are discouraged, because of their limited influence on legislators. Lawmakers want to hear their constituent’s viewpoints, not “canned” responses funneled through their constituents. Sample letters designed to assist nurses in composing letters should be used only as a guide. Personalize your letter and make it your own.
- Keep your letter brief. Legislators are far too busy to read much more than one page. Include relevant and concise information – such as a fact sheet, summary document or newspaper clipping – when it lends more power to your letter. Do not apologize for writing and taking the legislator’s time.
- Letters are most effective when written to your legislator and when directed toward legislators in key decision-making positions (for example, chairpersons and pertinent committee members).
- Time your letter to coincide with key events in the legislative process. A letter campaign is most effective during interim study committee meetings pre-session and during committee meetings in-session. Committees are where ideas are honed and formalized for presentation to the General Assembly. Do not write members of the House while the bill is still being considered in the Senate and vice versa. The bill may be quite different by the time it leaves one chamber.
- Keep in mind that you write letters to legislators to help them better represent you. It is not your place to cajole, demand or threaten. Avoid emotionalism or righteous clichés like “as a citizen and a taxpayer.” Legislators respond best to courtesy and recognition of their previous actions supporting health care and pro-nursing initiatives.
- Generally avoid writing a legislator more than once on the same issue. Your time will be better spent persuading peers in your legislative district or peers of every legislator to write letters on the same issue. Also, avoid covering more than one topic per letter. Multiple topics dissipate the force of your argument.
- Follow-up to a legislator’s actions may include a letter of commendation or “Thank-you” note when he or she has done something of which you particularly approve. Legislators like to be rewarded for “good behavior,” too. Follow letters with visits.
Adapted from Communication materials provided by Melinda Rider, 1988. Address your elected officials in a respectful manner with attention to the correct spelling of their names and proper titles.
The Honorable (full name)
Indiana State Senate
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Senator (last name):
The Honorable (full name)
Indiana House of Representatives
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Representative (last name):
The Honorable (full name)
Governor of the State of Indiana
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Governor (last name):
Source: League of Women Voters.
Please send a copy of your letter to ISNA headquarters.
Sample Letter Format
(Write letter on your personal letterhead)
The Honorable John Smith
Indiana State Senate
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Senator Smith:
Paragraph 1: I am writing to urge you to support/oppose (State Bill Number) which would (explain expected consequence of the proposed legislation.)
Paragraph 2: Briefly state why you support/oppose the proposed legislation. Use facts, observations and statistics to strengthen your argument. Follow with personal experience or example.
Paragraph 3: I urge you to vote yes/no for (bill #) so that (the general effects legislation will/will not have on constituents.) I would appreciate your response on this legislation.
Jane Doe, R.N. Staff Nurse
cc: Blayne Miley, Director of Policy & Advocacy, Indiana State Nurses Association
Note: Your letter should be well organized, free of smudges, misspelling and typographical errors to convey your professionalism. Never write on a postcard.
Preparing for Your Visit Most legislators make themselves available during elections, prior to and during legislative sessions, at legislative forums or workshops, community in their districts and by appointment. The following suggestions are ways to maximize the effectiveness of your interaction with a legislator.
- Prioritize visits to the legislators of your district and to legislators of committees hearing the issue.
- Make an appointment to see your legislator or executive official. (Legislators seldom have time free for unannounced visitors.)
- You may wish to go as a team with other nurses or influential constituents in order to maximize visibility. If your lawmaker is unavailable, meet with the legislative assistant. Staff can be very influential in persuading your legislator to listen to your point of view. Lawmakers are confronted with countless pieces of legislation each year – in addition to numerous problems raised by constituents. They often must rely on staff members to develop positions on legislation.
Meeting the legislator(s)
- Introduce yourself. Carefully choose those characteristics about yourself that will establish you as a credible resource to the legislator; for instance, where you live, where you work and what you do. Be brief and selective.
- Be prepared. Be factual. Rehearse the main points that you want to make. This may involve preparing sample questions and possible answers for what you anticipate will be the most difficult queries. Role-play your responses with friends or in a mirror. Do as much homework as possible about the personal style of the legislator.
- Talk to professional lobbyists in the state who have dealt with the legislator in the past. Elicit suggestions on the best way to approach him or her based on personal experience.
- Create a professional image. Pay attention to your body language. Nervous mannerisms may say more than spoken words. Convey by word and gesture that you are an authority on the issue. Dress professionally.
- You set the agenda. Decide ahead of time what you are going to talk about. You should be familiar with the legislator’s background, perspective on the issues, and legislative interests. Take your profile of the legislator into consideration when preparing for your visit and try to approach the issue from an orientation that will appeal to him or her. If you are asking a series of questions, you may want to submit your agenda to the elected official before the meeting to allow for thoughtful responses. If you are appearing with a group, select a spokesperson to lead the discussion. Be brief and confine your comments as much as possible to the specific issues being discussed. Appointments seldom last longer than 30 minutes.
- Be able to articulate rationales for why ISNA supports a piece of legislation as well as reasons given by opponents. You must be able to anticipate and intelligently respond to contradictory positions. Constructively criticize opposing positions, NOT their proponents. Share factual information and statistics in support of your position. Avoid nursing jargon.
- Legislators need not be intimidating. Remember, you can control the nature of the meeting. For instance, field inappropriate questions by responding, “To answer that question, you first have to ask,” then pose the question you want to answer. Remain calm throughout the visit. Always move the conversation in the direction of the needs of the public.
- Share anecdotes or examples which reflect the effects the legislation will have on you as an individual and members of the lawmaker’s constituency. Keep in mind we are interested in protecting the rights of consumers and nurses.
- Humanize the issue by giving concrete examples of how a proposal will affect the lives of your clients and their receipt of health care. Help the legislator feel the issue at a level beyond numbers, budgets, and cost overrides.
- Do not overstate your case or you will risk losing credibility. Use only factual information and concrete examples to support your position. Do not make statements or promises on behalf of ISNA on issues for which there is no position. Only your personal assurances to explore a legislator’s concerns or suggestions are appropriate. Then get back to him or her. It is better to admit you do not know than to promise and not deliver or convey erroneous information. Clearly demarcate what constitutes ISNA’s stated position versus your personal opinion as a nurse and constituent.
- Learn your legislator’s position. Listen carefully to your legislator’s views with regard to specific issues. Ask questions and try to find areas where the legislator may be sympathetic to your point of view. Avoid prolonged or heated arguments. Controversy will not help our case. Remember, the impression you leave may be more important than the substance of your discussion.
- Develop an on-going, reciprocal relationship. Try to establish a rapport with your representative prior to needing his or her assistance. Contacting a legislator only when you need a “favor” is bad business and markedly reduces your effectiveness. When interacting, it is better to leave your legislator undecided than committed against you, so take every possible step to prevent a firm commitment against your position. Create a friendly or at least a respectful environment which leaves the way open for another visit. Keep visiting legislators even when they do not agree with your position. Prolonged contact may lessen the intensity of their position over time.
- You will make a lasting impression if you emphasize the main issues clearly and concisely rather than trying to cover too many topics at once. Be sure to leave a fact sheet, one page position paper, and/or lengthier resource document if it reinforces your position. 14. Offer to be of service to the legislator in the future. End the meeting with a smile and a handshake.
After the meeting
- Follow-up your contact with a letter thanking the legislator for his or her time and summarizing your perception of the subjects discussed. Thank your representative in advance for any proffered assistance or support voiced at the meeting. Include any written materials you promised to send, and again assure him or her of your willingness to answer questions or provide additional information.
- Keep a written record of the contact for your files and notify ISNA headquarters so they can follow-up with your legislator.
Compiled using Excerpts from:
“Communication How-tos: How to Handle the Media” by Angela McBride, 1987
Communication materials provided by Melinda Rider 1987
The Washington Nurse 1986 16(2), 5
The Missouri Nurse 1988 Moore, J.R. 55(1), 5-6.
Steps In The Legislative Process
Step 1 – Drafting
A member of the General Assembly has an idea for legislation, which he or she has drafted and processed for introduction by the Legislative Service Agency’s Office of Bill Drafting and Research and Office of Code Revision. A fiscal note is prepared for each bill to be introduced by the Office of Fiscal Review of the Legislative Services Agency.
Step 2 – First Reading
The bill is filed for introduction by the author in the house in which the author serves (called the “first house”), assigned a number and referred to a standing committee.
Step 3 – Committee Action
A committee of the first house may consider the bill. Assignment of a bill to a committee is solely within the discretion of the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Public hearings may be held, after which the committee debates and votes on the course of action to be taken and reports its recommendations to the first house. A committee may, if it chooses, retain a bill in the committee and not report any recommendation to the first house. If the committee report is adopted by the first house, the bill is printed along with amendments made by the committee.
Step 4 – Second Reading
A bill on second reading may be amended, recommitted to the same or another committee or sent on to its final passage without change.
Step 5 – Third Reading
Debate on the final passage of a bill occurs on its third reading. At the close of debate, a roll call vote is taken on the passage or rejection of the bill.
Step 6 – Second House Consideration
If a bill passes the first house, it is sent to the other house (referred to as the “second house”) for consideration. A sponsor, who is a member of the second house, is identified. The bill must progress through essentially the same steps as in the first house (See Steps 2-5).
Step 7 – Enrollment
A bill passed in identical form in both houses is returned to the first house for final printing. If, on the other hand, the two houses pass a bill in differing forms, it is returned to the first house for concurrence in the second house amendments. If no agreement can be achieved at this point, a conference committee may be appointed to resolve the differences. Each bill must ultimately be approved in identical form by both houses or it dies. When a bill is approved in final form, it is enrolled, which means it is printed with all amendments incorporated in the text. The bill is then signed by the presiding officer of each house and sent to the Governor.
Step 8 – Governor’s Action
The Governor may sign the bill, which is then filed with the Secretary of State and becomes effective when specified by law or in the bill. The Governor may file a bill with the Secretary of State without signing it, allowing it to become law but indicating some disapproval of it. The Governor may choose to veto a bill, returning it with reasons for the veto to the first house for consideration. If the General Assembly has adjourned at the end of a session when a bill is vetoed, the vetoed bill is filed with the Secretary of State for reconsideration at the next regular or special session.
Step 9 – Override of Veto
The General Assembly may override a veto by vote of a majority of all members elected in each house (51 in the House, 26 in the Senate). If either house votes to sustain the veto, the bill dies at that point.
Glossary Of Terms
Bill stripping: Substituting a completely new bill under the title of an old bill. Now prohibited unless the author of the original bill agrees.
Committee report: After the bill has been considered by the committee (with or without a public hearing) it may kill the bill, recommend passage, amend or make no recommendation to the parent house. Committee votes are recorded and are public information.
Constitutional majority: 51 votes in the House, 26 votes in the Senate. Required for final passage of a bill, concurrence on an amendment from another house and adoption of a committee report.
Engrossment: Reprinting of an amended bill.
Enrollment: After the bill has passed both houses, it is printed, signed by the Speaker of the House and then the President of the Senate and sent to the governor.
Introduction and first reading: The reading by the clerk of the respective house of the number, title, author and committee referral of each filed or pre-filed bill. No vote is taken. Bills can be introduced 30 days prior to the beginning of the session and up to the 22nd day of the session, unless suspension of the rules is obtained.
Reconsideration: Bills that have received a plurality but not a constitutional majority, and under other special circumstances, can be “reconsidered.” This is typically a tactic used to kill a bill by moving to “reconsider” and then voting to table the motion to reconsider, or to revive a bill that has been killed.
Resolution: There are three types of resolutions:
Simple – A motion passed by a majority of a single house which has no title, is usually adopted by voice vote, is only in effect until the Assembly adjourns and is usually a recognition or expression of sympathy;
Concurrent – A simple resolution that has been adopted by both houses;
Joint – Passage requires the same procedure as bills (except it may be passed on any reading), must be passed in a recorded vote by a constitutional majority, usually goes into effect as soon as it passes both houses, is signed by the presiding officers and does not require the signature of the Governor. An amendment to the Indiana Constitution must be passed by two successively elected Assemblies and ratified by the people. For example, any proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution passed by the 2003 General Assembly cannot be considered for the second time until the newly elected Assembly meets in 2005 and then must be placed on the ballot for ratification.
Second reading: After the Committee has made a report, bills are considered in the order in which the reports were filed in the House, but are called down for consideration by a member of the Senate. To be eligible for second reading, a bill must be printed and on the member’s desk for 24 hours in the House and 48 hours in the Senate. Bills may be amended or stripped and are passed (or killed) by voice vote. However, two members can request a roll call vote in the House, one member in the Senate.
Third reading: At this point the author or sponsor of the bill explains and asks for support for the measure. Floor debate occurs on the entire bill. Final passage is by constitutional majority and roll call vote. In the 61-day session, bills must be considered for third reading by the 48th day in the house of origination and by the 56th day for bills from the other house.
Taken from: Melinda Rider, unpublished paper “Legislating Hoosier Style” 1987