- What is Pharmacy Day at the State House?
It is a great time to show your support for the future of your profession!
- Where does SCPhA stand on pharmacy-related issues?
As we decide which bills we will support, they will be added to our Legislative Resources section. We will also include talking points and information about the particular bills.
You can start by:
- Providing us with any Legislative Contacts that you have. They could be your neighbor, friend, family member or gym buddy! Any connection helps! Submit your contacts to SCPhA here!
- Updating your online profile to include your Legislative district information.
- Communicating with your Legislator.
- Assisting with and/or attending our Annual Pharmacy Day at the State House.
If you would like to get involved in our legislative network, please let us know by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Communicate With Your Legislator
You have an opportunity to establish continuous, effective communications with your Legislators. Your communications can have an impact on the outcome of legislation important to your business and to the profession of pharmacy. As you work to develop a solid, working relationship with your Legislators and their staff members, you will find that personal meetings and written communications will be the most effective forms of contact. There are several ways you can communicate with your Legislators:
- Meeting with Your Legislator
Personal meetings, either to discuss a specific issue or just to introduce yourself as a local constituent and pharmacist, are the most effective means of political communication. Given a Legislator’s busy schedule, meetings are sometimes difficult to arrange, yet they are just as vital as any other important business meeting. The contact can be made with the Legislator directly or through key staff aides. Unless you already know your Legislator, you should write, rather than phone, to request an appointment.
Do not overlook the opportunity to meet with a staff aide, particularly if he or she is working closely with the Legislator on an issue of concern to you. Further, try to schedule meetings with your Legislator when he or she is in the district visiting constituents, including you!
If you want to meet to discuss a specific issue, it is important to be familiar with key aspects of the issue before the meeting. This does not mean that you must be an expert. You should, however, be prepared to discuss how an issue affects you, your pharmacy practice and your community. Here are a few pointers for a successful meeting:
- When talking to the Legislator, try to be concise and well organized. Demonstrate a regard for his or her schedule. You may not have more than 15 or 20 minutes for the meeting, and you should be able to state your views in half that time or less. State your views firmly, but be attentive to the Legislator’s views as well.
- The meeting should be an exchange of ideas, not a lecture. Your Legislator will welcome advice on the issues that affect you and should be open to constructive alternatives.
- Be sure to have a one-page summary, preferably on your letterhead, of key points about the issue and your position to leave with the Legislator after the meeting is concluded. You may wish to use information provided by SCPhA to develop your one-page summary.
- After the meeting, follow up with a thank-you letter and re-emphasize key points that were discussed. You may also want to write a note of thanks to those staff people who helped to arrange or participated in the meetings. Be sure to also send any data or information that you have promised to provide.
- Advise SCPhA of your meeting, the items which were discussed during the visit and any specific requests made by the Legislator.
- Writing to Your Legislator
When writing to your Legislator, it is important to keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Use your personal or business stationary when writing to the Legislators. Typed letters are preferable for readability, but handwritten letters are also very effective.
- Don’t forget your own return address
Address the letter correctly:
Members of the State Senate The Honorable (name)
South Carolina Senate
P.O. Box 142
Columbia, SC 29202
Members of the State House of Representatives The Honorable (name)
South Carolina House of Representatives
P.O. Box 11867
Columbia, SC 29211
- State the reason for writing. If applicable, provide brief background information about your pharmacy practice (length of time in community, number of employees, etc.)
- Keep your comments short and to the point. Cover only one issue per letter.
- Identify the subject clearly. Use the bill number and title.
- When communicating your views about an issue, explain how the issue would affect you, as well as any specific impact it would have on your community.
- Know the facts. Communicating inaccurate statements and half-truths will cause your opinion to be ignored and could damage your credibility in future communications.
- If you know how your Legislator stands on the issue, acknowledge this position in your letter. When it agrees with your own, don’t spare the praise. When it conflicts with your view, be courteous, but do not hesitate to state your beliefs and request that the Legislator reconsider his or her position.
- If you have written previously on the same issue, acknowledge any reply that you received. Do not become a “pen pal,” however. Don’t write so often that your letters become annoyances.
- Be reasonable. Don’t ask the impossible. Don’t use threats. Be courteous and respectful in all communications. Ask the Legislator to respond and explain his or her position on the issue.
- Be constructive. If a bill deals with a problem but seems to represent the wrong solution, purpose constructive alternatives.
- Avoid form letters or stereotyped phrases and sentences that give the appearance of form letters. Communications written in your own words that reflect your own personality and cite your own expertise are most effective.
- Don’t forget to write when your Legislator does something that deserves approval or thanks. A word of appreciation is rare and will be noticed.
- By the same token, you may write to express your disappointment when the Legislator does not support your position on an issue and votes against your interests. This must not be a rude or threatening communication, but merely a letter letting your Legislator know that you will follow his or her actions. Always leave the possibility open that the Legislator will support your view on future issues.
- Calling Your Legislator
There are usually several options for where to call your Legislator – at their home, work office, or State House office. If you know your Legislator personally and are comfortable calling him/her at home, feel free to use that option. Otherwise, call their State House office for information as to the best place to get in touch with them. If you do not know the number, call SCPhA at 803.354.9977 and someone will be glad to assist you.
You should keep in mind that many of the etiquette tips and communication techniques mentioned in the previous sections also apply to telephone calls.
Be aware that you will only have a few minutes or less for the conversation and that you will need to be very concise and exact in expressing your view. First and foremost, always be sure to identify yourself as a constituent and pharmacist. If you cannot speak directly with your Legislator, leave your message with a member of his/her staff.
- House of Representatives Information: (803) 734-3143
- Senate Information: (803) 212-6500
- Store Tours
Inviting your Legislator to visit your pharmacy or to attend a special event sponsored by your pharmacy is a valuable opportunity for him or her to meet you and your colleagues who are constituents. It also helps the Legislator to develop a better sense of your practice and the role it plays in the community. Finally, it gives you an opportunity to get to know your Legislator better and to describe first-hand your legislative concerns and interests.
Carefully planning for a visit by a Legislator maximizes results.
Tips for planning a visit from your Legislator:
- Send a written invitation to the Legislator. Don’t be discouraged if it takes several invitations before the Legislator accepts. They have many demands on the time they spend in the district. Your persistence will pay off.
- Develop a schedule that allows enough time for the tour or special event and to enjoy an informal discussion.
- Let your co-workers know the exact date and time of the visit in advance. If possible, share highlights of the Legislator’s biography.
- During the visit, introduce your staff and try to include those who you know are politically active locally or who have a special relationship with the Legislator.
- Make sure that you share information about your pharmacy that the Legislator might want to know, e.g., number of employees, annual payroll, dollars spent in taxes, number of prescriptions dispensed daily, patient counseling that is offered, community projects you may be involved in, etc.
- Write a note of thanks after the Legislator has visited your pharmacy or attended a special event. Be certain to include any additional information your Legislator requested or you promised.
- If photos were taken during the visit, send copies to the Legislator.
In addition to helping you establish a constituent relationship, visits and special events set the stage for mutual understanding between you and your Legislator. They tell the Legislator that you and your pharmacy are part of the “back-home” constituency.
If you have any other questions regarding Legislative Advocacy or Legislation, please feel free to give us a call at 803.354.9977.