Advocacy 101
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Advocacy 101. TOPICS. Why advocate? Who is my Legislator? Where do Legislators work? What is the Legislative Process? How do I communicate with my Legislator? When is the best time to advocate? The 11 Commandments of Advocacy. Why be Advocates?.

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  • Why advocate?

  • Who is my Legislator?

  • Where do Legislators work?

  • What is the Legislative Process?

  • How do I communicate with my Legislator?

  • When is the best time to advocate?

  • The 11 Commandments of Advocacy.

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Why be Advocates?

1. Maintain Persons in their Own Homes with Dignity.

2. Remove Barriers to Economic and Personal Independence.

3. Provide a Continuum of Care for Vulnerable Elderly.

4. Provide Managed In-home and Long Term Care Services.

5. Protection from Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation.

6. Opportunity for Employment & Community Service.

7. Empower Elders to Volunteer and Serve the Community.

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The Legal Basis for Advocacy

  • Older Americans Act Regulations Section 1321.61: AAA advocacy role includes:

    • Serve as the public advocate for the development of community based systems of care.

    • Solicit comments from the public on the needs of the elderly

    • Represent the interests of older persons to local level and executive branch officials, public or private agencies on organizations.

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Allowable AAA Advocacy Activities

  • AAA’s may respond to specific requests for information, technical assistance and their opinions from elected officials or other agencies.

  • AAA’s may provide unsolicited communication to influence legislation if the issues are of bona fide interest to the AAA by their effect on the AAA or its constituents, i.e. budgets or Medicare.

    Prohibited AAA Advocacy Activities

  • Support of individual candidates for elected office.

  • Use of federal funds to advocate for issues that are not in keeping with the purposes and principles of the Older Americans Act. (Non-federal funds may be used.)

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How AAA’s Advocate

  • Identify local, state and national Aging Issues

  • Develop Public Policy Recommendations

  • Recommend Legislative Solutions

  • Inform Elders, Families and Elected Officials

  • Testify Before Legislative Committees

  • Participate and Provide Local Leadership

  • Mobilize citizens to advocate.

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Each Senior Services Board member is visiting their Delegate and Senator in August to present senior needs and issues.

The Senior Advocate Alertis published during the Virginia General Assembly Session every other week. Special issues are published as needed.

Call (757) 222-4525 and leave your message!

What should the General Assembly do for seniors in the 2011 legislative session?

Advocacy 101: Summer 2010

Advocacy 102: Fall 2010

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Who is my Legislator?




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An Example of an Issue: Challenge: Senior Home Owners

Problems faced by Senior Home Owners

  • Senior Services local needs assessment reveals that affordable housing is the second highest concern to seniors. 

  • ¾ of seniors own their homes. 

  • People are concerned about affording  the housing they own.

    What can the General Assembly do to help?

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An Example of an Issue: Challenges to Seniors Home Owners

Idea: “Senior Home Ownership Support Act”

  • Increase property tax relief income and property value  limits for municipalities throughout Virginia.

  • Cap Utility rate increases based on income for 60+

  • Create tax incentives to older home owners and builders to increase the number of accessory apartments

  • Study of local comprehensive plans with regard to strengthening code requirements for universal design.

  • Increased penalties for illegal home repair schemes.

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The Legislative Process

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How a Bill Becomes Law

Committee ActionAll bills are referred to a committee that hears the patron and any other witnesses.

  • The committee has several options when they vote:

    Option 1: Report it to the floor:

    Option 2: Pass by Indefinitely (PBI)

    Option 3: Defeat

    Option 4: Continue/Carry Over

    Option 5: Pass by for the day

    Option 6: No Action or Left in Committee

    Option 7: Incorporate into other Legislation

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How a Bill Becomes Law

The Governor

  • The Governor has three options:

    • Sign 2. Veto 3. Offer amendments.

  • If the Governor does not act on a bill, it becomes law without his signature.

  • The Governor's vetoes may be upheld or overridden. If the veto is upheld, the bill dies.

  • Governor's veto’s requires a two-thirds vote of both the House of Delegates and the Senate to be over-ridden.

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    The Tale of SB446



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    Communicating with Your Legislator

    Some Do’s & Don’ts of Communicating with Your Legislator

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    Communicating With Your Legislator

    Legislators want to know:

    • The problems we have, our feelingsabout laws that affect our lives.

    • The facts on which our thinking and conclusions are based.

      3. The ideas we have to make things better.

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    Communicating With Your Legislator

    • A personal visit, is most effective.

    • A personal letter is the next most effective tactic. Writing sincerely and simply from your knowledge makes an impression.

    • As a taxpayer, constituent and someone knowledgeable in your field, what you say does make a difference!

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    Communicating With Your Legislator

    • Make personal contact with your legislators via personal visits especially in the “off-season”.

    • When legislation of particular interest is scheduled for consideration respond quickly but this is not the best time to be introducing yourself.

    • Try to know your legislator personally.

    • Encourage your co-workers, colleagues, and friends to contact their legislators to promote elder issues in your community.

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    Communicating With Your Legislator

    • Be Honest, Direct and Clear

      • Use plain or personal stationery, or

      • Identify the organization you represent and use the organization's letterhead.

      • Be sure to include your name, best way to contact you and your mailing address.

      • Legislators and their staff will follow up!

    • Send a follow-up letter

      • Acknowledge their involvement with legislation when it has been acted upon (passed or defeated).

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    Communicating With Your Legislator

    • ALWAYS

      - ALWAYS

      • ALWAYS…….

        Be courteous and reasonable.

        The golden rule applies – remember how you would want someone to speak to you.

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    Communicating With Your Legislator

    • Do your homework: Cite the correct name, number and contents of the bill.

    • Do what the Legislator asks when they want more information.

    • Do be brief and to the point. Time is of the essence in written correspondence, especially when the Legislature is in session.

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    Communicating With Your Legislator

    • Remember that legislators must decide how to vote on thousands of bills each session.

    • They need and want your help in telling them how these bills will affect their district.

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    Communicating With Your Legislator


    • DON'Tguess at facts or base your letters on rumors.

    • DON'T use mimeographed letters, printed post cards or form letters under any circumstances.

    • DON'T use generalities or be wordy.

    • DON'T use threats or promises ... ever.

    • DON'T inject party politics or criticize legislators or other organizations.

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    Communicating With Your Legislator


    DON'T apologize for writing or taking their time. If your letter is short and expresses your opinion, they are glad to give you a hearing.

    DON'Tsend a carbon copy to other legislators or House and Senate leadership. Write each one individually.

    (There are exceptions to this DON’T)

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    "10 Commandments"

    Bernie Henderson, a former director of the Health Regulatory Boards, and a successful participant in the legislative process passed this along many years ago.

    Whether professional or citizen lobbyist, these guidelines are very helpful.

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    Politics is both the art of compromise and the science of accomplishing the practical. To go to the legislature with the attitude that your way is the only way to address an issue is a virtual guarantee for disappointment and defeat.

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    It is almost always better to gratefully accept half a loaf than no loaf at all. Take as much as you can get and wait until another time to try for the rest. If your position is right, it will stand the test of time - if time proves you are not right - chalk it up to the wisdom of the legislature.

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    Don't fight the inevitable; instead try to use it to your greatest advantage or to at least minimize the damage.

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    There is a new day with every dawning and your strongest adversary today may be your closest ally tomorrow, so when opposing someone's position, be sure you don't oppose the person. Don't write off anyone, regardless of how wrong you believe they may be.

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    Intelligence is not only knowing the correct information, it is realizing what you do not know and having enough sense to admit when you don't have the answer to a question. There is no advantage in risking being considered unreliable, foolish, or untruthful. There is no substitute for honesty and candor, even if it means putting your proposal in jeopardy.

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    Pick your battles carefully. There is no need to waste everyone's time or consume your own influence on matters that have no chance or that are being sufficiently and fully considered without your involvement. Know when to keep quiet and when to sit down.

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    Never ask a legislator to take a position that you know will get him in trouble with his constituents.

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    Take time to say a sincere "thank you" even when a person has done no more than listen.

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    Be careful to give your word only after you are sure you can keep whatever commitment you make - and then never go back on it.

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    Success is not measured by getting everything you want - it is measured by doing the best you can and by being sure that no one could have done a better job under the same circumstances.

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    Finally:The Bonus Commandment

    • Be very careful what you ask for…

      you may get something very different and not at all what you were after. When the session is done you don’t want to be wishing you had never asked.

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    Some Helpful Websites