Each year, many bills and regulations affecting the certification industry are introduced at the federal, state, and local levels. The purpose of this toolkit is to provide I.C.E. members with background materials that can assist them with their own advocacy strategies and other government relations efforts. Members will find tools to help them contact and effectively communicate with their Representative or Senator. These materials may likewise be adopted for use in advocacy before state legislatures.
This toolkit includes:
How do I identify my elected officials?
Find your U.S. Senators by state (each state has two Senators)
Find your U.S. Representative using your zip code
Locate your state legislators
How should I communicate with my elected officials?
Writing a letter to your elected officials is easy. Here are just a few tips designed to make your communications concise and effective.
- The best way to communicate with your Senator or Member of Congress is by sending a fax on your personal or business stationery or via e-mail. Capitol Hill measures to guard against threats through the mail delay regular mail delivery by several weeks.
- Keep the text of your letter as short as possible (one page only).
- Let the legislator know your connection to him/her, such as “My organization represents ## certificants in your district/state” or “my organization provides XX jobs in your district/state.”
- Keep your letter focused on one issue only. Do not clutter it with complaints about a variety of other issues – if you are writing to ask the elected official to cosponsor bill HR123, then ask him/her to cosponsor it based on sound public policy reasons.
- Use short anecdotes to make your case. Your might describe a successful partnership with a local community college or One Stop Training Center or some other initiative. Legislators enjoy hearing about these kinds of success stories.
- If there is a program that your elected official could visit, please invite him/her to do so.
- Include a return address so your Senator/Representative can respond to you.
Download a sample letter to your Senator/Representative.
How do I schedule an appointment with my legislators?
You must make an appointment in advance of your visit. Your legislator will likely want your scheduling request in writing. Members’ schedules fill up quickly, so send in your appointment request promptly. If you are not planning a trip to Washington, DC, it is possible to set up an appointment in the legislator's district office.
Put your appointment request on your business stationery. Your legislator cannot get in touch with you if you do not provide contact information, so ensure the information is complete. FAX your request to the legislator's Washington, DC office. Contact the office scheduler to confirm receipt of your scheduling request. Continue to work with the scheduler on an appropriate appointment time.
Download a sample letter to request an appointment.
How do I prepare for a meeting with my elected officials?
Gather information about your credential to present to the legislator, such as the population you certify, the requirements for certification, does your credential count towards licensure in your state, the cost, and the number of certificants in your state. Legislators very much appreciate state-specific information.
Tips for Making Your Hill Visit Effective
- Be prompt and patient. It is important that you be on time while also being patient if the Member is running late. It is common for elected officials to have crowded schedules that may cause them to inadvertently delay your meeting. It is also quite common for last minute meetings to occur and for interruptions to take place during your meeting. Be respectful of the hectic pace.
- Be flexible. While you may have specifically scheduled a meeting with a Member, a legislative aide may be asked to meet with you at the last minute should a conflict arise for the elected official. This happens very frequently due to the frenetic pace on the Hill. Don’t interpret this to mean that you are not important to the Representative or Senator. Keep in mind that staffers are an elected representatives’ life line and advise the Member on all policy matters.
- Be prepared. Bring materials describing your organization or supporting your position on specific issues. Members are constantly asked to advocate a myriad of issues. Details that support your particular issue are likely to assist the Member in his/her decision.
- Stay on message. Be concise in your conversation by following a script or talking points. Don’t waste yours or your elected representatives’ time by addressing irrelevant issues.
- Be political. Whenever possible, remind the Member of the connection between your organization or issues and the interests of the Member’s constituency. Describe how your group may be of assistance to the Member and ask for a commitment when appropriate.
- Be professional. You may be meeting with a policymaker who you don’t care for personally or disagree with politically. Likewise, the legislator may not agree with you after you make your points. Maintain your professionalism and disagree without being disagreeable. Don’t threaten or behave rudely.
- Be responsive. Be prepared to answer questions or provide additional information if the Member shows an interest or asks questions.
- Follow up. Be sure to send a thank you letter that outlines the main points covered in your meeting, as well as any additional information and materials that were requested or might prove helpful.