Advocacy Tool Kit

Find Your State Lawmaker


Tips for Reading a Bill

  1. Check the top of the bill to be sure you have the correct version.
  2. The Clerk's office assigns a bill its official number, and the bill retains that number throughout a two-year General Assembly.
  3. Am. (for "amended") or Sub. (for "substitute") -- and sometimes both -- appearing before a bill number means the bill has been changed (e.g. Am. Sub. S.B. 13).
  4. The legislator whose name is listed first is the primary sponsor of the bill.
  5. The title includes a brief description of the bill's contents.
  6. A bill contains the entire text of amended and enacted sections of the Revised Code (a constitutional requirement); the sections are in numerical order, not in order by topic.
  7. Within amended or enacted sections: * existing language that is being retained is in lower case, * existing language that is being removed from an amended section is stricken, * through 2000, NEW LANGUAGE that is being proposed IS IN UPPER CASE, * beginning in 2001, new language that is being proposed is underlined.
  8. The text of a section that is being repealed outright is not included in the bill; look for the section number in the title and then locate the text in the Revised Code.
  9. Each bill has line numbers, and amendments are keyed to those numbers (e.g. in line 271, delete "two" and insert "three").
  10. Uncodified sections -- such as emergency clauses, appropriations, and provisions establishing temporary committees or task forces -- are usually at the end of a bill and are numbered as parts of the bill (e.g. Section 3, Section 4, etc.).

How a Bill Becomes Law in Ohio

The Legislative Service Commission has a useful Guidebook for Ohio Legislators. For an in-depth discussion on the legislative process, see Chapter 5. 

Writing to Legislators

Legislators need to know the opinions of constituents to serve their districts effectively. To make your voice heard, you should contact your elected representatives by letter, e-mail or fax on key issues that affect you personally and/or professionally. Ideally, you should use a combination of all three ways of communicating, until you learn your legislator's preferred method of communication. Like everything else, one size does not necessarily fit all.

Individualized letters can be an effective way to communicate with legislators when bills are not on a "fast track." Form letters provided by membership organizations are used to gage constituent support, but they usually do not have the same impact as a personal letter showing personal knowledge about the legislation and its potential impact on your practice. The proper way to address a letter to a state legislator is as follows:

The Honorable John Doe
Ohio House of Representatives
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43266-0603
The Honorable Jane Smith
Senate Office Building
Columbus, OH 43215-4276
Dear Representative Doe (Senator Smith):
Letters should be composed as follows:
  • A sentence identifying the legislation and asking your elected official to vote yes or no on the issue (legislation) that concerns you
  • A paragraph explaining why you believe he/she should vote a certain way on the issue. Using statistics that prove your point is an effective strategy. Always stress how an issue will impact access to care for your patients
  • A final statement requesting a response.

Calling Your Elected Officials

Before calling your elected official, make sure you have done your homework. State the bill number (SB XX or HB XX) and its topic.

  • Think about how the bill will impact your practice.
  • Calculate how the bill will affect your ability to operate and provide patient care.
  • Describe what you will do different if it passes (or fails to pass).
  • Ask for the legislator's support.

Meeting with Your Elected Officials

Legislators want and need to hear from their constituents and one way to do that is by a one-on-one visit, either at the legislators Statehouse office, or when they are in their home districts. As a key contact, you should meet the legislator in the district and become involved in community activities to show your civic support. Don't be nervous about scheduling the first appointment. Following are tips to ensure a successful visit:

  • Phone the legislators office and identify yourself as a constituent.
  • Tell the person who handles scheduling that you would like to schedule a short meeting with the legislator to discuss the topic(s) important to your organization; be specific.
  • If the legislator cannot personally meet with you, it may be possible to meet with the staff person most familiar with your issue. Meeting and getting to know staff is just as important as meeting the legislator.
  • Once a meeting is scheduled, send a brief note confirming the specifics of the meeting, including purpose, date, time and location.
  • Before the meeting, do your homework. Be sure you know both the pros and cons of your issue; providing a "position paper" that you leave with the legislator is a good way to keep the information fresh in the legislator's mind. Check with the AOA and OOA office to see if they have any materials that will help you.
  • Be sure to thank the legislator or staff person for considering your position and for taking time to meet with you.

Writing Position Papers and/or Testifying Before Committees

An important part of any lobbying effort is providing a position paper that can be given to legislators to explain the legislation and its impact. This paper can also serve as the basis for your oral testimony before the assigned committee for you bill.

If you want to testify before a committee, you should contact the OOA Central office for assistance. We can help determine when committees are meeting and when specific legislation will be heard. Due to the volatile schedule of the legislature, the number of witnesses that wish to address controversial bills, and the number of bills scheduled to be heard, testifying can become a full-day commitment.

The day of the hearing you will be required to fill out a witness slip indicating your desire to testify and whether you are representing yourself or an organization. You should have written testimony (and/or a position paper) and make enough copies for the entire committee. Even though it is permissible to provide written testimony only, your presence will add emphasis to your position.

Be sure to address the Committee chair as "Mr. Chairman" or "Madam Chair". When responding to a question, you should always address the chair first by saying, "Mr. Chairman," Representative Jones (the name of the committee member you are responding to) and then answer the question.

Writing a Letter to the Editor

A letter to the editor is a great way to educate people in your community, get your opinion across to policymakers or respond to a recent article or editorial. The following tips should help you write an effective letter.

  • Be certain you know your newspaper or magazine's policy on writing letters to the editor.
  • Know length requirements and what information must be sent with the letter.
  • Be timely and discuss recent information.
  • Keep the letter short and simple. Focus on one issue. Write four or fewer paragraphs. Shorter, concise letters are more likely to be published.
  • Prove local relevance by using local statistics, personal stories and specific names.

You can find out your newspapers' policies by calling them, or by using the internet to log on to their website. In some cases, you can send your letter via e-mail. Here's a list of Ohio newspapers .

Register to Vote

Ohio has a 30-day voter registration requirement. Mailed registration forms must be postmarked not later than the 30th day before the first election in which you want to vote. To qualify to register to vote, you must be a US citizen, 18 years old or older on Election Day, and a resident of Ohio for 30 days. Ohio law allows anyone to vote by absentee ballot -- without having a specific reason.

Visit the Secretary of State website for more information.