Indivisible States: Letters of Support/Opposition to Policy Committees

In state legislatures, the committee process is extremely important. Once a bill is introduced, it is referred to a policy committee, which debates its content and may propose amendments. This is where interest groups on both sides of the aisle weigh in and lobby legislators hard because there are fewer people to convince of your position. As a result, bills can easily fail in committee and never see the light of day. So if there is a bill that you care about, engaging in the committee process is both absolutely critical and enormously impactful — a little effort can go a long way.

Sending a written letter of your Indivisible group’s position directly to a state legislative policy committee is a tried and true method of making your voice heard at the committee level. Committees keep a list of the written testimonies they receive from various interest groups. Sometimes, portions of your testimony may even be included in formal bill analysis documents that are provided to legislators when they are voting!

Tips for Sending a Letter to A Committee

  1. Find a template letter. Oftentimes, supporting organizations that are helping to shepherd legislation through the process will draft template support letters for other aligned organizations to use. These are a great starting point and will reduce your workload! If you’ve built strategic partnerships like we recommend, you should reach out to your coalition partners to see if there are materials already written for you to use.

  2. Writing a letter from scratch / customizing your letter. Sometimes, you may not have a template to work from. In this case you’ll need to draft a testimony that outlines why your group is supporting or opposing a bill.

    1. Do some research about the issue that the bill tackles and the provisions of the bill that you support. Don’t hesitate to the google the bill. Not all bills get a ton of press coverage but some do. Reading op-eds or news articles about the bills are another great way to find out info. Do not lift any information verbatim unless you are sure the text is not copyright protected.

    2. Try to be specific about how your specific community is impacted and personalize your letter to speak about your own constituency.

    3. Use our template below to get started on your letter.

  3. Get other groups to join your effort. A letter can be even more impactful if it is signed by Indivisible groups from different districts across your state. This will demonstrate how widespread your position is and signals the unity of the grassroots. If possible, reach out to other groups in your state and ask them to sign on to your letter or send a letter of their own.

  4. Sending the letter. Different states have different preferences for how they would like to receive these letters. Some have mechanisms to email letters, others like fax, and still others like snail mail. Your best bet is to call the office of the committee chair you are sending a letter about and ask for advice on how to send the letter. To be clear, you’re not calling the committee chair to urge them to vote a certain way (unless you are a constituent) — you’re just calling for information.

Media Strategy

Sending your letter to media covering the state legislature is easy to do. Your letter probably won't get a story written about it. But it may be written about and quoted in future stories.

Alternatively, you could submit your letter as a Letter to the Editor or Op-ed. Check your newspaper’s website to find the email address for the editorial department you should submit your letter to. At the top of your letter, ask if the paper publishes open letters like this and if they have suggestions for future ones. They may not but it's worth a try!

Committee Letter Template

<GROUP(S) LOGO(S)>

To:

<FULL NAME OF COMMITTEE CHAIR>, Chair
<FULL NAME OF COMMITTEE>

<DATE>
 

Re: <BILL NUMBER> (<LAST NAME OF LEAD AUTHOR>) – <SUPPORT/OPPOSE>

Dear Members of the <COMMITTEE NAME>,

<YOUR GROUP NAME> is pleased to <support/oppose> <BILL NUMBER>, which will <BRIEF ONE SENTENCE OVERVIEW OF WHAT THE BILL DOES>.

<YOUR GROUP NAME> is a grassroots group of energized constituents who have organized in the wake of the 2016 election to fight against the harmful Trump agenda and fight for advancing progressive policies in our communities. We are all volunteers and we come from many different walks of life but are united in our commitment to using grassroots activism to hold our elected officials accountable.

<PARAGRAPH OF BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROBLEM THE BILL IS TRYING TO SOLVE IN YOUR STATE>

<PARAGRAPH OUTLINING THE PROVISIONS OF THE BILL THAT WILL SOLVE/HARM THOSE PROBLEMS AND WHY YOU SUPPORT/OPPOSE THE BILL>

<YOUR GROUP NAME> strongly <supports/opposes> <BILL NUMBER> and we urge you to vote <in favor of/against> passing this bill out of <COMMITTEE NAME>.

Sincerely,
<GROUP LEADER SIGNATURE>
<GROUP LEADER NAME>
<GROUP NAME>

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