So, I’ve had questions regarding the safety of using one’s amateur radio while operating for a while; but, over the last week, in the words of my sister “this shit just got real.” The Massachusetts House passed an anti-mobile phone bill that, while not banning mobile amateur radio operation outright, is sufficiently vague that such operation may be banned. While I often wonder about how safe mobile amateur radio operation is, I bit the bullet and wrote to my state senator asking for an exemption to federally licensed radio operators.
Now… This bill has caused a bit of a hoopla on the local amateur radio discussion lists I follow. After the house passed the bill, there was some questions and people were concerned regarding how it applied to Amateur Radio. Then, after the ARRL Eastern MA State Government Liason posted his analysis (Very timely! 2-3 days after the bill passed the House! Thanks for keeping us ahead of things!) people started posting e-mails that they were sending to their senator. The e-mails all consisted, more or less, of the message suggested by the SGL, which while a nice skeleton, left much to be desired. That, combined with the fact that everyone is sending e-mail, made me cringe. So, let me stand on my soapbox for a moment…
Ben’s Guide to Harrassing Lobbying Your Elected Official
For some reason, I like to put my two cents in when a topic that matters to me comes up on a state or federal level. I blame my Dad for being so active in elections when I was a kid. Since I seem to do it on a semi-regular basis, I seem to have developed a knack for it. So, let me attempt to offer some tips on lobbying (that’s right, you’re your own personal lobbyist) your elected official.
For the love of God, don’t e-mail if you have another way of making contact - e-Mail is great. It’s quick, easy, and simple to send. This makes it a horrible medium for lobbying. Since so many folks do it, your message will likely be lost within the noise of all the other messages. The best way to contact your elected official is good old snail mail, it’s harder to ignore. When I brought this up on one of my mailing lists one of the curmudgeons replied “nah, they go through the shredder just fine…” While he is 100% correct, what’s easier to ignore? 100 e-mails in your Inbox or 100 letters being delivered by USPS?
Now, this is my personal opinion, but I feel the next best way to contact your elected official is via Fax. Fax edges out a phone call ever so slightly because there is a physical object delivered. While I’m sure that no receptionist would ever not write down your message, I think that a piece of paper showing up is just a bit more “real”
Be Informed – K3HI hit on this in his message. You’re speaking for all of us fighting to change the bill. If you look dumb, we all look dumb and you hurt our cause. Don’t berate, yell, or annoy. You’re not helping anyone.You attract more flies with honey then vinegar.
Be Brief – Don’t write a 20 page dissertation on the subject. Keep it to one page maximum. Say who you are and why you’re writing, list any credentials you may have on the subject, go into detail on your position, and close with what you would like your elected official to do.
Let me toot my own horn and show off my letter.
First off, I started with my name and address, and my senator’s name and address. This is a formal letter, so follow all those rules you learned in 7th grade English class (Mrs. McGuinness would be so proud of me!). Also, including your address will give the official a chance to respond.
Dear Senator Montigny:
Hello. As a constituent, I am writing you to ask you to oppose House 4475 in its current state. The definitions in this bill are vague enough that it could unfairly include amateur radio operators in its ban.
I started off with the fact that I’m a constituent. People write other people’s elected officials all the time because of the fact that they’re on some committee or just want to spam the entire legislative branch with their lobbying. By stating that I vote for him, I give myself a little more attention. I also state why I’m writing.
Now, I go into detail as to what I’m writing about. Lay it on thick. Tell a fun story. Why should your official see it your way? While this is 100% anecdotal evidence, but it is also 100% fact:
I am a FCC licensed Amateur (“Ham”) Radio operator. I have been since 1995. In order to reach my current license level (“Extra”), I’ve had to pass three separate exams. In these exams, safe operation radio operation is covered. I know that operating a radio while driving needs to be done with the utmost care, and shouldn’t be done in certain situations. Because of this, I also know that the same applies to mobile telephones. My wife often pokes fun at me because I don’t answer my mobile phone if I don’t feel the situation is safe enough. Amateur Radio operators have been operating in their cars for years, and we have never had issues with legislative action trying to ban us from operating. We only seem to be caught up in vaguely worded cell phone bans.
As much as I wonder how useful such services are, I decided to toe the party line and wave the bloody shirt of public service too…
Amateur Radio provides a valuable public service for the community at large. This past Wednesday during the snow storm, SKYWARN, an amateur radio weather observation group, passed information to the National Weather Service and MEMA regarding storm and road conditions. If this ban takes effect, this information will be limited to amateurs operating in fixed locations, which will limit the timeliness and accuracy of information.
I now wrap up by restating what I would like him to do. Note that I didn’t specifically ask for an exemption of Amateur Radio. I asked for an exemption of any FCC licensed radio operator. No sense in splitting hairs.
I am asking you to please oppose House 4475 in its current state. Alternatively, if you would like to support it, please amend the bill to include a exemption for federally licensed radio operators like myself operating radio equipment.
Finally, I always close with my contact information, on the off chance the official wants to talk further. I will be shocked if this ever happens, but I feel that it shows that I don’t mind having a dialogue. I also thank the official for his or her time. Always be polite!
If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to call me at <my telephone-o-rono>, or e-mail me at <my e-mail address>.
Thank you for your time.
There you have it. This fit onto one page with 11 point font and it was put in the mail today. I hope it will arrive on Beacon Hill by Tuesday and that it will start a revolution regarding exemptions for two-way radios in any future cell phone bill.
Hope this might have given you some good ideas about writing and may have inspired you to start lobbying yourself. It’s hard to complain about the system when you don’t participate.