The most effective form of political activity is direct communication between voters and their elected officials. The purpose of this outline is to provide you with the basic information needed to communicate with your Delegates and Senators. On our website, you will find lists of home and Capitol addresses and telephone numbers for legislators, a section on how the Legislature operates and listings of useful toll-free telephone numbers. By utilizing this information and following the simple steps contained in this guide, you will be able to communicate effectively and in the process assure that our clients and industry have their concerns heard at the most influential levels of state government.
WHO IS YOUR LEGISLATOR
Everyone has their own local Delegate and State Senator and most of us know legislators who represent other districts as well. A list of all Delegates and Senators is provided for your use. These list the Delegates and Senators in alphabetical order and also show the district(s) they represent. It is entirely appropriate for any citizen to contact any member of the Legislature on any issue and IIAWV strongly encourages you to contact all members of our Legislature, particularly those who serve on the Banking and Insurance Committees. Included you will find rosters of the House and Senate Banking and Insurance Committees. These lists show committee Chairmen and members and provide their State Capitol mailing addresses and telephone numbers.
If you know any particular legislator well, please let the association know of your relationship, Sometimes the key to resolving a legislative impasse is simply in knowing who the best person is to discuss the issue with a particular legislator. You never know when your own legislator may be the critical ear.
WHY SHOULD YOU CONTACT THEM
Most people think that the Legislature runs on money. They're wrong. It runs on reliable information. Legislators will listen to a constituent far more quickly than they will listen to any lobbyist. If your Legislator believes that you are a fair and thoughtful source of insurance information, you'll find they will begin to rely on you for advice on insurance issues and you will begin to hear from them. Of the 134 members of the West Virginia Legislature, fewer than two dozen have ever had any direct experience with the insurance community other than that of consumer. Most have a difficult time in understanding technical insurance issues and look to the insurance community for education. The most critical role that you can play in our grassroots effort is to become that source for your Delegate and Senator.
HOW TO CONTACT YOUR STATE LEGISLATOR
There are three "can't miss" ways to contact your state legislator. You can call them. You can write to them. Or, preferably, you can go and visit them.
Before you do, be certain that you've done the following things to stay up to date on the issues.
Read the IIAWV Legislative Updates which are published when the legislature is in session and watch for special faxes and e‑mail communications from our association's Government Affairs Committee.
- Visit the WV Legislature Web site: www.legis.state.wv.us
- For copies of bills being considered in West Virginia, call the Legislative Printed Bills Office at (800) 642‑8650, visit the WV Legislature Web site at www.legis.state.wv.us, or call PIIAWV at (304) 342‑2440 or (800) 274‑4298.
- To obtain status information about bills being considered in West Virginia, call the Legislative Status Office at 800‑642‑8650 or visit the WV Legislature Web site at www.legis.state.wv.us.
- Read industry and consumer press articles concerning legislation that affects the future of our industry and your future as a small business owner.
CONTACTING YOUR STATE LEGISLATOR BY TELEPHONE
1‑877‑565‑3447 is a toll‑free call from anywhere in West Virginia. By calling this number you can leave messages for any Delegate or State Senator. The operator who answers at this number can also connect you to any department of the State Legislature.
Contacting a West Virginia legislator by telephone during the session is not easy. Because Delegates and Senators are normally either in Session or in a committee meeting you should not expect to speak directly with your legislator when you call. Remember that the staff person you speak with has influence with the legislator you're trying to reach. When leaving a message, remember to leave your name and telephone number, the date and time that you called and BRIEFLY tell them what you want them to know. If you know the bill number for the issue you're writing about, use it. Your legislator gets questioned about dozens of measures by dozens of people each day. They can't remember everything. Offer examples about how the issue will affect you and your clients. POLITELY ask your Legislator to return your call. Above all, please remember that these people are very busy and that you are asking them to do something. Being nice will help you and our association.
WRITING TO YOUR STATE LEGISLATOR
Included on our website is a listing of members of the State Legislature and their legislative addresses. During the session, legislators prefer to receive issue oriented mail at their Capitol office and they also tell us that they often gauge support for an issue by the number of pieces of mail they receive from their constituents. Ask everyone in your office to write. They are constituents too and, just like in insurance, numbers count.
When writing to your legislator, there are some basic rules. First, write the letter on your agency's letterhead. This serves to remind them of your status as a contributing member of their community. Second, remember that they are official representatives of our state government and are proud of their positions. Refer to them as either Delegate or Senator. Get to the point and don't ramble. Use your own words to describe our problems. Again, if you know the bill number for the issue you're writing about, use it. At the end of your letter, ask your legislator to contact you if they want to discuss the issue.
Protocol for Addressing Letters
| To a West Virginia State Senator
|| To a West Virginia Delegate|
| The Honorable (full name)
WV Senate address
Dear Senator (last name)
| The Honorable (full name)|
WV House of Representatives address
Dear Delegate (last name)
NOTE: When writing the Chair of a committee or the Speaker of the House, it is proper for the salutation to read:
Dear Mr. Chairman or Madam Chairwoman, Dear Mr. Speaker
When writing to the President of the State Senate, it is proper for the salutation to read:
Dear Mr. President
These same rules apply to e‑mail. The e-mail address for any Senator or Delegate is Cglagola@mail.wvnet.edu
and is available from the Legislature’s web site. You must specify the name of the Delegate(s) or Senator(s) in the subject line of your e-mail. When you use e‑mail to communicate, please send the association office a copy at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, and above all, please remember that these people are very busy and that you are asking them to do something. Being nice will help you and your association.
VISITING YOUR STATE LEGISLATOR
The very best way to get your point across to your legislator is to go and see them, either at home or, preferably, at the State Capitol. Your handbook contains Capitol addresses for each legislator as well as a map of the Capitol complex. Parking is available in the new parking deck located off Greenbrier Street. If you want to have your association's lobbyist go with you when you meet with your Delegate or Senator, all you have to do is ask.
AT HOME ON THE WEEKENDS
Many legislators go home on the weekends during the session and this is an excellent time to spend a few minutes with them discussing our issues. Believe it or not, most legislators will welcome the opportunity to talk with you "at home". A list of home addresses and telephone numbers is also provided for your use.
When you visit with your legislator on the weekends, the same basic rules apply. Be brief, be specific, be courteous and thank them when you finish. Keep in mind that lots of people want to talk with them (including their families) and their time is just as valuable as yours.
IN THEIR STATE CAPITOL OFFICE
The most important thing is to call and make an appointment. During the session, even though legislators are incredibly busy, most will make time to see constituents when they come to the Capitol. To make an appointment, call the toll‑free number we gave you and ask your Delegate or Senator for a meeting. Tell them what you want to talk about. This gives them a little time to prepare and helps them avoid the thing they hate worst, surprises. If you can make your legislator feel a little more comfortable, they are much more likely to give you a sympathetic hearing. Be on time. They may not be but you absolutely must be.
Get to the point and be prepared. It's fine to visit for a few minutes but get to the point. Keep in mind that your legislator is very busy and has other people waiting to see them and meetings to attend.
When discussing our issue, don't get personal and trash the opposition. Be prepared for the legislator to respond with the "other side" of the debate. They will have heard from people with other points of view. Remember, the job of the legislator is to choose which point of view is to prevail.
If you have supporting materials, give them to your legislator. They will appreciate it. One part of your mission is to help your legislator prove your case.
THANK YOU NOTES
The one thing that will get you remembered by a legislator or staff aide is a simple thank you note. A short hand‑written note to the legislator or legislative aide following a phone call or meeting will go a long way in building a solid relationship.