Lawmaker lobs netiquette
I try to respond to my legislative e-mail the same day I receive it, but by the end of most weeks, I am hopelessly behind. Last week, I received 636 e-mails—most from Nevada citizens wanting to express views on pending legislation.
After spending three hours on Saturday morning catching up on my e-mail, it occurred to me that some hints might help those who want to effectively communicate with their legislators. I think it’s safe to say that every legislator wants to hear from constituents; after all, we are there to represent you.
• Be clear and concise. If your e-mail goes on for three pages, rest assured the writing better be gripping with intensity, or I’ll be skimming it, and I’m probably going to miss your best point. Don’t forget to tell me why you think I should take your position—and don’t forget to tell me what position you want me to take—for, against or to change the proposed legislation.
• If you’re e-mailing your message, include your name and address so I can weed out the non-Nevadans. I care more about your opinions than out-of-state interest groups.
• Be specific regarding the bill you’re concerned about. I received more than 20 messages about a bill that did not do what the writers thought it did—the bill they were concerned with had not been introduced. This debacle reduced the group’s credibility and wasted my time trying to figure out what they were talking about.
• Treat me with the same respect you would like to receive. This means you should avoid insulting me, threatening me or being just plain nasty. If you accuse me of being a “Raggio puppet” in the first paragraph, I’m likely to hit the delete key and miss your point.
• Please don’t make assumptions about my personal motivations. I ran for this office because I wanted to serve the citizens of my district. These voters may not agree with all of my views all the time, but I hope they are convinced of my sincerity about representing their interests. I did not sacrifice a well-paying job to be in Carson City for 13 hours a day for four months and decide to live off my savings the last two months when we receive no salary (the state Constitution limits our salary to 60 days of the 120-day session) because I am part of a grand conspiracy against the public. I’m not making this stuff up; you would be amazed at the motivations people assign to public service.
Respect the legislative process and our democracy. Your involvement is the key to making this whole thing work. No one gets her or his way all the time, but your input may indeed change my vote, which may change the law the Legislature passes, which will directly impact your life. The process matters.