Write Your Legislator!

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Jan 2, 2008 No Comments ›› admin

January 2, 2008

“Thanks so much for writing. I am glad to know that someone heard my concerns.” The woman sent me an email in response to a letter I had written. She wrote me about a topic I had never heard about before. She educated me and I appreciated her writing.

I spent the holiday break catching up on some of the more than 5,000 emails folks have sent in the past year. Although I can’t respond to every email, I do review them and keep them in mind as the issues move through the legislature.

Many people send opinions about topics they’ve read about in the news or learned about through email. Some people send form letters. But the vast majority of people writing me are composing in their own words how they feel about a topic. I am very grateful for the time people spend letting me know their opinions.

Today, with modern technology, staying in touch is much easier – sometimes too easy. In the heat of passion words are said that hurt or cannot be taken back. So in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I offer a little unsolicited advice on writing your legislator.

First of all, write! Or call! Let me know what you think! Democracy works best when people get involved. You may have an opinion that no one has expressed or know about an issue that is completely new to me. You may have experience in an area that I need to know about when I am voting.

Recently a woman wrote about a bill related to changing the legal system. On the surface the bill sounded like a good idea. But she had a daughter whose experience put the whole issue in a different light. Without her letter, I would have never thought of the concerns she raised. Don’t ever think that your opinion in not valued.

Just last week a woman wrote about how she felt her opinion was not valued. She was not allowed to vote in her church. But she did vote in the elections. Still, she was unsure about writing me. But she did write and I am very grateful. She wrote on a topic no one before had ever written. And the bill is likely to come to a vote soon.

Every opinion is valuable. Every person’s voice needs to be heard.

A second bit of advice – follow the Golden Rule – treat others as you would like to be treated. (I know the other version – he who has the gold makes the rules – I worry about that rule too.) Be sure when you write that your passion has cooled enough to make your points clearly and respectfully. Take your time composing and give me the details I need, but don’t overwhelm me with too many details in your message.

The joke in the capitol is that all legislators have “attention deficit disorder” meaning they can’t pay attention to anything too long. While that may not be true, I do have a lot to read on a lot of different topics. Short is good. To the point is helpful. Focused letters keep me focused on your main concerns.

Finally, don’t assume I think one way or the other on an issue until we have a chance to communicate. I remember a rather lengthy letter chastising me for some state action when in reality I agreed with the author and had been working hard to change the problem. The woman assumed I opposed her but actually she and I shared the same concerns.

I may disagree with what is happening in Madison just as strongly as you do – but you may not know this until we communicate. I may disagree with my colleagues from another part of the state. I may even disagree with you.

It’s the wonderful thing about democracy.

Not every one agrees and sometimes the best thing we can do is to disagree. Respectfully, civilly, but thoroughly, disagree. It is through debate and disagreement we begin to arrive at a compromise that works for the whole state.

But the system only works when we all play our part – when we all participate. Learn the issues. Understand how the process works. Express your opinion. Let me know how you feel. The role of citizens is to participate in democracy.

After all – as Harry Truman said -“The highest office in the land is that of citizen.”

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Voters for Vinehout

P.O. Box 1274
Eau Claire, WI 54702