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
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
Dear Madam Chairwoman:
Dear Mr. Speaker:
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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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
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.
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.
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 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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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
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,
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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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
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
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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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
Here are 10 steps, developed by ACTE, to help you conduct
a successful legislative tour of your agricultural education program:
Before you begin any planning, get permission from school officials.
Keep everyone informed.
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
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
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.
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.)
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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a "Write to Congress" Web Sticker to Your Website
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
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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
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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's media staff works with reporters across the country
on a regular basis. To see where CTE is making headlines, please visit
The ACTE news will be updated on a regular basis.