Advocacy Tools

To communicate with your Members of the United States Congress, enter your Zip Code below. Then, view the Issues and Legislation section. You may print letters directly from the site that you can fax to your Congressional delegation or you may send e-mail directly to your Members of Congress. Always remember to customize your correspondence to highlight issues that are important locally in your Congressional district and state.


New advocacy tools for You to use!

NAAE Advocacy Tool Kit -- NEW!

Communicating with Elected Officials

Visiting Members of Congress on Capitol Hill

Congressional Staff Roles

The Legislative Process

Hosting Site Visits for Members of Congress

Add a "Write to Congress" Web Sticker to Your Website

Grassroots Advocacy Powerpoint Presentation

Agricultural Education Program Advocacy Plan (Microsoft Word file)

Issue Specific Advocacy Plan

10 Steps to Developing an Advocacy Plan (PDF file)

Advocacy Plan Worksheet (Microsoft Word file)

Example Advocacy Plan (PDF file)

State Ag Ed Association Advocacy Contacts (Microsoft Word file)

State Ag Ed Association Advocacy Contacts (Adobe PDF file)

ACTE Online Advocacy Toolkit

ACTE News


Communicating with Elected Officials

Tips On Telephoning Your Elected Representatives

To find your senators' and representative's phone numbers, you may use our searchable online congressional directory or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your senators' and/or representative's office.

Remember: telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member, not the member of Congress. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue about which you wish to comment.

After identifying yourself, tell the aide you would like to leave a brief message, such as: "Please tell Senator/Representative (Name) that I support/oppose (S.___/H.R.___)" or "Please tell Senator/Representative (Name) that I support/oppose the (specify the issue).”

You will also want to state reasons for your support or opposition to the bill. Ask for your senators' or representative's position on the bill. You may also request a written response to your telephone call.

Tips On Writing Congress

The letter is the most popular choice of communication with a congressional office. If you decide to write a letter, this list of helpful suggestions will improve the effectiveness of the letter:

It is best to write a personal letter rather than sending a “canned” form letter. But, a form letter provided by NAAE or some other source is better than no letter at all.

Your purpose for writing should be stated in the first paragraph of the letter. If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it accordingly, e.g., House bill: H. R. ____, Senate bill: S.____, or specify the issue clearly. Be as specific as possible.

Be courteous, to the point, and pay attention to grammar and spelling. Include key information using local and specific examples to support your position.

The addition of a “subject” line between the congressperson’s address and the salutation can assist the congressional staff in identifying the issue about which you are writing.

Address only one issue in each letter; and, if possible, keep the letter to one page.

Addressing Correspondence:

To a Senator:

The Honorable (full name)
__(Rm.#)__(name of) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator (last name):

To a Representative:

The Honorable (full name)
__(Rm.#)__(name of)House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative (last name):

Note: When writing to the Chair of a Committee or the Speaker of the House, it is proper to address them as:

Dear Mr. Chairman:
or
Dear Madam Chairwoman:
or
Dear Mr. Speaker:

Click here for a "sample" letter.

Tips On E-mailing Congress

Generally, the same guidelines apply as with writing letters to Congress. You may find and e-mail your senators and representative directly from the NAAE Legislative Action Center.

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Visiting Members of Congress on Capitol Hill

Meeting with a member of Congress or congressional staff is a very effective way to convey a message about a specific legislative issue. Below are some suggestions to consider when planning a visit to a congressional office.

Plan Your Visit Carefully:
Be clear about what it is you want to achieve; determine in advance which member or committee staff you need to meet with to achieve your purpose.

Make an Appointment:
When attempting to meet with a member, contact the Appointment Secretary/Scheduler. Explain your purpose and who you represent. It is easier for congressional staff to arrange a meeting if they know what you wish to discuss and your relationship to the area or interests represented by the member. Click here for specific tips on scheduling meetings with members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Be Prompt and Patient:
When it is time to meet with a member, be punctual and be patient. It is not uncommon for a Congressman or Congresswoman to be late, or to have a meeting interrupted, due to the member's crowded schedule. If interruptions do occur, be flexible. When the opportunity presents itself, continue your meeting with a member's staff.

Be Prepared:
Whenever possible, bring to the meeting information and materials supporting your position. Members are required to take positions on many different issues. In some instances, a member may lack important details about the pros and cons of a particular matter. It is therefore helpful to share with the member information and examples that demonstrate clearly the impact or benefits associated with a particular issue or piece of legislation.

Be Political:
Members of Congress want to represent the best interests of their district or state. "All politics are local!" Wherever possible, demonstrate the connection between what you are requesting and the interests of the member's constituency. If possible, describe for the member how you or your group can be of assistance to him/her. Where it is appropriate, remember to ask for a commitment.

Be Responsive:
Be prepared to answer questions or provide additional information, in the event the member expresses interest or asks questions. Follow up the meeting with a thank you letter that outlines the different points covered during the meeting, and send along any additional information and materials requested.

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Congressional Staff Roles

Each member of Congress has staff to assist him/her during a term in office. To be most effective in communicating with Congress, it is helpful to know the titles and principal functions of key staff.

Commonly Used Titles

Administrative Assistant or Chief of Staff:
The Administrative Assistant reports directly to the member of Congress. He/she usually has overall responsibility for evaluating the political outcome of various legislative proposals and constituent requests. The Admin. Asst. is usually the person in charge of overall office operations, including the assignment of work and the supervision of key staff.

Legislative Director, Senior Legislative Assistant, or Legislative Coordinator:
The Legislative Director is usually the staff person who monitors the legislative schedule and makes recommendations regarding the pros and cons of particular issues. In some congressional offices there are several Legislative Assistants and responsibilities are assigned to staff with particular expertise in specific areas. For example, depending on the responsibilities and interests of the member, an office may include a different Legislative Assistant for health issues, environmental matters, taxes, etc.

Press Secretary or Communications Director:
The Press Secretary's responsibility is to build and maintain open and effective lines of communication between the member, his/her constituency, and the general public. The Press Secretary is expected to know the benefits, demands, and special requirements of both print and electronic media, and how to most effectively promote the member's views or position on specific issues.

Appointment Secretary, Personal Secretary, or Scheduler:
The Appointment Secretary is usually responsible for allocating a member's time among the many demands that arise from congressional responsibilities, staff requirements, and constituent requests. The Appointment Secretary may also be responsible for making necessary travel arrangements, arranging speaking dates, visits to the district, etc.

Caseworker:
The Caseworker is the staff member usually assigned to help with constituent requests by preparing replies for the member's signature. The Caseworker's responsibilities may also include helping resolve problems constituents present in relation to federal agencies, e.g., Social Security and Medicare issues, veteran's benefits, passports, etc. There are often several Caseworkers in a congressional office.

Other Staff Titles:
Other titles used in a congressional office may include: Executive Assistant, Legislative Correspondent, Executive Secretary, Office Manager, and Receptionist.

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The Legislative Process

Introduction:
Anyone may draft a bill; however, only members of Congress can introduce legislation, and by doing so become the sponsor(s). There are four basic types of legislation: bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, and simple resolutions. The official legislative process begins when a bill or resolution is numbered - H.R. signifies a House bill and S. a Senate bill - referred to a committee and printed by the Government Printing Office.

Step 1. Referral to Committee:
With few exceptions, bills are referred to standing committees in the House or Senate according to carefully delineated rules of procedure.

Step 2. Committee Action:
When a bill reaches a committee it is placed on the committee's calendar. A bill can be referred to a subcommittee or considered by the committee as a whole. It is at this point that a bill is examined carefully and its chances for passage are determined. If the committee does not act on a bill, it is the equivalent of killing it.

Step 3. Subcommittee Review:
Often, bills are referred to a subcommittee for study and hearings. Hearings provide the opportunity to put on the record the views of the executive branch, experts, other public officials, supporters and opponents of the legislation. Testimony can be given in person or submitted as a written statement.

Step 4. Mark Up:
When the hearings are completed, the subcommittee may meet to "mark up" the bill, that is, make changes and amendments prior to recommending the bill to the full committee. If a subcommittee votes not to report legislation to the full committee, the bill dies.

Step 5. Committee Action to Report A Bill:
After receiving a subcommittee's report on a bill, the full committee can conduct further study and hearings, or it can vote on the subcommittee's recommendations and any proposed amendments. The full committee then votes on its recommendation to the House or Senate. This procedure is called "ordering a bill reported."

Step 6. Publication of a Written Report:
After a committee votes to have a bill reported, the committee chairman instructs staff to prepare a written report on the bill. This report describes the intent and scope of the legislation, impact on existing laws and programs, position of the executive branch, and views of dissenting members of the committee.

Step 7. Scheduling Floor Action:
After a bill is reported back to the chamber where it originated, it is placed in chronological order on the calendar. In the House there are several different legislative calendars, and the Speaker and majority leader largely determine if, when, and in what order bills come up. In the Senate there is only one legislative calendar.

Step 8. Debate:
When a bill reaches the floor of the House or Senate, there are rules or procedures governing the debate on legislation. These rules determine the conditions and amount of time allocated for general debate.

Step 9. Voting:
After the debate and the approval of any amendments, the bill is passed or defeated by the members voting.

Step 10. Referral to Other Chamber:
When a bill is passed by the House or the Senate it is referred to the other chamber where it usually follows the same route through committee and floor action. This chamber may approve the bill as received, reject it, ignore it, or change it.

Step 11. Conference Committee Action:
If only minor changes are made to a bill by the other chamber, it is common for the legislation to go back to the first chamber for concurrence. However, when the actions of the other chamber significantly alter the bill, a conference committee is formed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions. If the conferees are unable to reach agreement, the legislation dies. If agreement is reached, a conference report is prepared describing the committee members recommendations for changes. Both the House and the Senate must approve of the conference report.

Step 12. Final Actions:
After a bill has been approved by both the House and Senate in identical form, it is sent to the President. If the President approves of the legislation he signs it and it becomes law. Or, the President can take no action for ten days, while Congress is in session, and it automatically becomes law. If the President opposes the bill he can veto it; or, if he takes no action after the Congress has adjourned its second session, it is a "pocket veto" and the legislation dies.

Step 13. Overriding a Veto:
If the President vetoes a bill, Congress may attempt to "override the veto." This requires a two thirds roll call vote of the members who are present in sufficient numbers for a quorum.

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Hosting Site Visits for Members of Congress

You have a great agricultural education program -- right? But, do your elected officials know about it? It's time to show your program off for your legislators. Your legislators’ understanding will go a long way with an up-close and personal tour of programs. These are the people who can help you EXPAND and IMPROVE your program by ensuring funding and effective policies. A successful tour needs meticulous planning.

Here are 10 steps, developed by ACTE, to help you conduct a successful legislative tour of your agricultural education program:

Get Permission:
Before you begin any planning, get permission from school officials. Keep everyone informed.

Determine Goals:
What type of impression do you want the legislator to have of your school? What programs do you want to highlight to the legislator? Brainstorm and select the most important features you want to show off.

Develop a Draft Agenda:
Most importantly, make sure school is in session for the tour. Plan a short and concise introductory presentation about the school and programs the legislator will see. Following the brief presentation, schedule an organized tour.

Invite Your Legislators:
Now that you have your agenda, the next step is to invite your legislators. Fax or mail a brief letter to the Member at his or her local district office at least six weeks before the scheduled date (you can find your Member’s contact information by visiting NAAE’s Legislative Action Center at http://capwiz.com/naae/home/). Briefly introduce yourself, your program, and state the purpose of the letter. Explain why you would like the Member to visit your program (to see how an example of an agricultural education program can work in the community, the importance of supporting such initiatives, etc.). Include specific information about the visit (date, time, location, others who may be invited, whether the media will be invited, what activities are planned for the visit). Legislators have very busy schedules, so you’ll need to be as flexible and accommodating as possible.

Follow Up with the Scheduler:
The legislator’s scheduler should be contacted seven to 10 days after you have mailed the letter. You should keep in mind that you need to be flexible with the date and arrange the legislative tour to fit the legislator’s schedule. You should take every step to accommodate the legislator. NOTE: Federal legislators will most likely be in their home districts Mondays, Fridays, and on the weekends.

Determine Press Activities:
Work with the legislator’s press secretary to determine appropriate press activities. Send a press release to the local media inviting them to attend the tour. In addition to giving your legislator publicity, it will increase the community’s interest in your program. Be sure to follow up with the media to make sure that they attend since the legislator will be expecting them! Take plenty of photographs. If you are unable to have the media present during the tour, send the local reporters a follow-up summary and a photograph for their use. (ACTE can help you with your media activities! Please visit the "Targeting the Media" section of ACTE's Online Advocacy Toolkit at www.acteonline.org/policy/grassroots_action/toolkit-media.cfm).

Conduct the Tour:
The day has finally arrived! When the legislator and his or her staff arrive, distribute descriptions of your programs, success stories about students and any other relevant information you feel promotes your program. Make sure that your name, address and phone number are on every document so staff can contact you later. Let the Member know the scope of the program: how many people you serve, what impacts the program has on families, the community, local businesses, and the local economy. Explain why continued funding for career and technical education is important to students, jobseekers and businesses in the state or district. Encourage interaction between the Member and students. It is helpful for Members to make connections with those who benefit from the program and see the changes in people’s lives that good agricultural education programs make.

Include Supporters:
Have a few supporters present, such as parents, students and business partners, to help you make the case.

Make Your Pitch:
Emphasize how additional resources could benefit students. While you have the legislator’s undivided attention, make a pitch for support. Ask the legislator to support your programs through increased funding and effective legislation. (Remember to be specific if current legislation is pending.)

Follow Up:
Congratulations! You conducted a successful tour, but you have another important step to take. Before you do anything else, make sure you:

  • Send thank you letters to the legislator and any staff who attended, reiterating the need for additional funding and more effective policies for your program.
  • Include copies of press coverage.
  • Include a photo of the legislator with your students and supporters to remind the legislator how important agricultural education is to your community.

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Add a "Write to Congress" Web Sticker to Your Website

Click here to review sample web stickers that you can get the HTML for and put on your own page! Just click on the sticker you want and the next page will give you the code to insert into your page. Then you can have your site visitors use the sticker to advocate issues to congress!

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Grassroots Advocacy PowerPoint Presentation

Here is a PowerPoint Presentation that will be helpful to you if you want to establish a grassroots advocacy program in your state or local area. (To download this PowerPoint file, right click on the link, then select "Save Target As.")

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ACTE Online Advocacy Toolkit

ACTE offers an online advocacy toolkit. The toolkit was developed to assist you in your advocacy activities, keep you informed, and promote ongoing support for CTE. When you visit http://www.acteonline.org/action.aspx you will find "How To's" on building relationships with policymakers, visiting and corresponding with your Members of Congress, hosting site visits for policymakers, targeting the media, and much more. We plan to keep expanding the toolkit with new advocacy materials, such as stories of successful state advocacy models and information on building coalitions, and welcome ideas and input on the Toolkit from our state association leaders. Please share these tools with your state members to assist efforts in connecting with your policymakers and advocating for CTE.

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ACTE News

ACTE's media staff works with reporters across the country on a regular basis. To see where CTE is making headlines, please visit http://www.acteonline.org/press.aspx. The ACTE news will be updated on a regular basis.


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