Your Words Matter: How to Write a Letter to Your State Senator or State Representative

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Your words matter. If you care about something, write a letter to your lawmaker

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Even if you’ve never taken political action in your life, never phoned a lawmaker, can’t remember that Schoolhouse Rock cartoon primer on how a bill becomes a law that you watched as a kid, and feel like politics are for other people, if you live in Oregon, you need to know about SB-442-3.

SB-442-3 is a bill sponsored by Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a doctor from Beaverton. The bill seeks to abolish all philosophical and religious exemptions to vaccines for children in Oregon. It has been written in a very sloppy way. If it moves out of committee and passes into the senate and the house and is signed into law by our new governor Kate Brown (she’s already said she’ll sign it) in its current form, Oregon’s children who are not fully vaccinated on the government recommended schedule will be barred from both public and private schools, as well as from “children’s facilities” (whatever that means).

I believe the bill’s sponsors have good intentions. They want what every Oregonian wants: good health for Oregon’s children.

How to write a letter to your state senator or state representative

But this bill is wrong on so many levels. I agree that we should educate parents as much as possible to make informed decisions about vaccines and explain to them why vaccines are necessary and effective, but ultimately the choice of whether or not to vaccinate lies with parents themselves. The state should not be making medical choices for our families.

This bill is, ultimately, not about vaccines. It is about a family’s freedom to make health care decisions for themselves.

Our country was founded on the idea of religious and civil freedom. This bill is un-Oregonian and anti-American. I’m disappointed to see any Democratic lawmakers voicing support for or staying silent about this bill. It’s a bipartisan issue with one bottom line: The people of Oregon do not want our children’s medical decisions made by state legislators.

If you care about this issue, you need to write and call state lawmakers and tell them how you feel and why. If you call, you will talk to an aide. That aide may be surly or may be chatty. Always be polite and thank them for their time. They are tracking how many phone calls they get. Your voice matters.

Here’s a tip sheet for writing to the Oregon Legislators, put together by and used with permission from Rebecca Tweed.

How to Write your Oregon Legislators:

• Address them by “Senator” or “Representative” and their last name.

• Introduce yourself in the first line with your name. Identify yourself as a constituent (if you are) or as a representative of an organization or an affiliation (if you have one).

• Be polite. Use appropriate and respectful capitalization and punctuation. Check spelling and grammar.

• Be clear and concise. Try to keep your letter as close to 250—300 words as possible, while including enough information about why you are writing to them.

• Explain your issue clearly and why it is important that you are contacting them. Give enough information for the legislator to understand your position.

• If applicable, include slides, charts or other documents that support your arguments as attachments.

• Be specific with your request. Tell the legislator you are asking them to oppose SB 442.

• Remember that SB 442 is not a partisan bill, regardless of your Legislator’s party affiliation. This is an issue that impacts all Oregonians.

• It is appropriate and encouraged to request a response. Ask what his/her position on the issue is or how s/he will vote on SB-442-3.

• Offer yourself as a resource if they would like any additional information.

• Remember any and all correspondence with staff and legislators at a state or government issued email address is part of the public record and is not considered private or confidential correspondence.

• Don’t forget to include your contact information.

• Conclude the letter politely with “Sincerely” or “Thank you for your time.”

Ready? Set? Go!

The five senators on the healthcare committee who need to hear from you today are:

Chairperson
Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson
Democrat – District 25 – Gresham
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1725
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, S-413, Salem, Oregon 97301
Email: Sen.LaurieMonnesAnderson@state.or.us
Website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/monnesanderson

Vice-chair
Senator Jeff Kruse
Republican – District 1 – Roseburg
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1701 District Phone: 541-580-3276
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, S-315, Salem, Oregon 97301
District Address: 636 Wild Iris Lane, Roseburg, Oregon 97470
Email: Sen.JeffKruse@state.or.us
Website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/kruse

Member and the bill’s sponsor
Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward
Democrat – District 17 – NW Portland/Beaverton
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1717
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, S-215, Salem, Oregon 97301
Email: Sen.ElizabethSteinerHayward@state.or.us
Website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/steinerhayward

Member
Senator Chip Shields
Democrat – District 22 – Portland
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1722 District Phone: 503-231-2564
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, S-421, Salem, Oregon 97301
District Address: 2104 NE 45th Ave., Portland, OR 97213
Email: Sen.ChipShields@state.or.us
Website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/shieldsc

Member
Senator Tim Knopp
Republican – District 27 – Bend
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1727
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, S-309, Salem, Oregon 97301
Email: Sen.TimKnopp@state.or.us
Website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/knopp

How to write a letter to your state senator or state representative

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