Fight for the Rights of Professional Truckers since 1973
Issues & Actions
Legislative

Guide to Contacting Lawmakers

Your Lawmakers: How to Contact Them

While many issues important to you will be debated by lawmakers in your own home state, what happens in Washington, DC, is certain to be critical to your trucking business.

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Speak up
Lawmakers can't address your concerns if they don't know what they are. Your job is to clue them in.

You may feel as though you are one small voice in our big country, but if you don't speak up, who is going to do it for you?

OOIDA has a membership of over 160,000 professional truckers.   

If each member did their part to contact their elected officials, it would have a powerful impact on the decisions lawmakers make.

There are several ways to educate your lawmakers - write a letter to them, make a telephone call to his or her office, send them an e-mail or meet with them in person.

Write letters
Letters do not have to be long, complicated or literary masterpieces. Simply state your concern for an issue in your own words, speaking from your heart. Keep it to one subject.

At the beginning of the letter, state clearly what your subject is and your position on it. If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, it helps to include the bill number.    After that, personalize the letter by describing how the issue affects you.  Then tell them how they can help.

Make sure you type or write your name and complete address clearly so that they know where to send a response. Lawmakers pay particular attention to letters because an individual person has taken the time to write them. Legislators often believe that a well-written letter represents the views of many constituents who did not take the time to write.

Letters can be sent by regular mail or fax.

Calling
There are significant benefits to phoning lawmakers, especially when time related to an issue is limited.

The first thing to do is ask to speak to their legislative assistant - sometimes referred to as an LA - handling the issue you are calling about. If you are calling about issues related to trucking, ask for the "transportation LA." If the staffer is not there, ask for his or her name, leave a voice mail, and keep calling until they take or return your call.

E-mail
While the best methods of communicating with lawmakers are face-to-face meetings, letters or telephone calls, it may be appropriate to send emails at times as well. Keep in mind that some offices reply and some do not.  The trend, however, is to respond to all e-mails with an automatic general acknowledgement e-mail and then follow that up with a traditional letter reply if the e-mail sender lives in the lawmaker's jurisdiction and provided his or her postal address in the e-mail message.

Be respectful
No matter how mad you are about an issue or at a lawmaker, always try to communicate in a civil tone and use respectful language. If you are upset, by all means tell them, but do not use them as a punching bag for your words. You want them to be sympathetic to your words, not turned off.

Where to phone or write
There are only two addresses and one phone number you need to write or call your lawmakers in Washington, DC.

Addresses for Congress

You need to know only one of two addresses to send a letter to your U.S. representative or senator, no matter who they are.

For Senate members
The Honorable (senator’s full name here)
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

For House of Representative members
The Honorable (representative’s full name here)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

That’s it. You do not need to know what building their office is in or what their room number is. You just need the right ZIP code and your letter will get there.

Phone number for Congress

(202) 224-3121

This is the Capitol switchboard operator, who can transfer your call to any representative or senator’s office.

The Bill Process: Understanding How it Works

Your involvement in the bill process is essential to getting lawmakers to craft legislation that reflects your views. The earlier you get involved in the process, the better.

How a bill becomes law may, at times, seem confusing. The bill process, however, is quite simple to follow once you know the basics. The process is virtually the same in state legislatures from Juneau to Jackson.

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Here is how it generally works:

Idea conceived
A state representative or senator decides to sponsor a bill, which either changes current law, adds new law, or deletes existing law, sometimes at the suggestion of a constituent, interest group, public official or the governor.   

The lawmaker may ask other legislators to join as co-sponsors.

Bill drafted
At the lawmaker's direction, an office of legislative services provides research and drafting assistance, and prepares the bill in proper technical form.

Bill introduced
The sponsoring lawmaker gives the bill to the clerk's office, and the bill's title is read aloud. This is known as the first reading.  

The bill is then referred to an appropriate committee.

Committee action
The members of the committee consider the bill and decide what action to take. The committee may amend, hold, table, substitute or make a favorable recommendation on the bill. The committee can also have public hearings on the proposal.

Floor action
The bill's title is read aloud before the entire body. This is called the second reading. The bill is then debated in open session, also called "floor debate."

During floor debate, the measure can be amended or substituted. It is then given a third reading and voted on.

If approved, it heads to the other chamber - either the House of Representatives or the Senate - where the process is repeated.

However, there is one state legislature that has only one chamber - Nebraska.

Conference committee
If the bill is amended while in the second chamber and the chamber of origin disagrees with the change, a conference committee of members from both chambers may be formed to resolve differences.

Enrollment
After being approved in identical form by both chambers, the bill is printed as an enrolled bill, examined and signed by the presiding officer of each chamber.

Governor's action
The bill is then sent to the governor. The governor can sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

Register to Vote: Make Your Lawmakers Listen

While a recent poll of the Association's membership shows that the majority of OOIDA members do take part in elections, the Association is continuing its efforts to get all truckers to make their voices heard.

In this election year, the most effective way to accomplish this task is to register to vote. If you haven't already registered, go ahead now and join the rest of the truckers who cast ballots to effect change.

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In most states, you can register to vote in person or via mail. Depending on which state you live in, you can print your registration form off the Internet or pick one up in person from the Department of Motor Vehicles, local board of elections office, post office, library or other location.

Contact your local elections office or secretary of state's office for specifics. Listings for these offices can usually be found in the "government pages" section of your local phone book.

Once registered, be sure to vote.

Admittedly, the lifestyle of the professional trucker can often make voting a difficult exercise, and one for which a bit of early planning is sometimes needed.

To aid voters who aren't able to visit the polling booth on Election Day, many states allow advance voting and mail-in ballots in addition to traditional absentee ballots. A handful of states even offer permanent absentee ballots.

Your local elections office or secretary of state's office can tell you what options are available in your state.

And if all else fails, make time to head to the booth on Election Day.

Q&A: questions you might have

Q. How many votes by lawmakers does it take to override a governor’s veto?
A. Most states require a two-thirds majority to override the governor; some require a three-fifths or simple majority.

Q. What’s a “pocket veto”?
A. A pocket veto occurs when the governor fails to take action on a bill within a certain amount of time after the session has ended. However, in some states, if the governor fails to take action on a bill, it automatically becomes law.

Q. How can a bill carry over to the next year?
A. About half of all states have two-year, or biennial, legislative sessions. In that type of schedule, if a bill hasn’t been signed into law or defeated at the end of the first year, it can be re-submitted for discussion the following year.

Q. Why do some states have “companion” bills?
A. Some state legislatures require that a House or Senate bill be introduced with a companion in the other chamber. This enables both chambers to discuss legislation simultaneously. These can also be referred to as “duplicate” or “identical” bills.

State-by-State Directory

FYI: A number of legislatures have brief sessions. Wyoming's actual session for the year, for example, is less than 30 days. Many state legislatures run longer than one calendar year. Also, many states recess at various times throughout the year or session.

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Alabama Alaska
Arizona Arkansas
California Colorado
Connecticut Delaware
Florida Georgia
Hawaii Idaho
Illinois Indiana
Iowa Kansas
Kentucky Louisiana
Maine Maryland
Massachusetts Michigan
Minnesota Mississippi
Missouri Montana
Nebraska Nevada
New Hampshire New Jersey
New Mexico New York
North Carolina North Dakota
Ohio Oklahoma
Oregon Pennsylvania
Rhode Island South Carolina
South Dakota Tennessee
Texas Utah
Vermont Virginia
Washington West Virginia
Wisconsin Wyoming