What does a California State PTA advocate do?
The basic job of a California State PTA advocate is to research bills written by California legislators and present the bills to the Legislation Action Committee (LAC). That committee then votes to take a position on the bill presented. That position could be support, oppose, support if amended, oppose unless amended, seek amendments, approve, watch or no position.
Advocates have specific areas that they cover. There is a Family Engagement Advocate, a Health Advocate, a Community Concerns Advocate and usually three Education Advocates. Each advocate follows bills that fit into his/her area.
The job of an advocate begins in late December or early January when bills are introduced by legislators. Advocates search Capitol Track (specialized software used to track bills) for bills which affect their area of focus. This search ends in late February when the bill deadline occurs.
An advocate could have anywhere from 40 to over 100 bills to examine. The bills that are chosen for further study must be of statewide significance, affect the education, health and/or well-being of children, be consistent with PTA priorities, and be supported by PTA authorities.
Bills that fulfill these requirements are then examined in great detail by the advocate. The bill is read carefully a number of times. The advocate calls the office of the legislator presenting the bill and talks to the legislator or the staffer working the bill. Questions, concerns, and clarifications are discussed. The bill’s fact sheet, which gives a description of the bill and the reasons the bill is important, is emailed to the advocate.
When the advocate decides which bills to present to the LAC, he or she writes a description of the bill, why it is important, who supports or opposes the bill, and where the bill is in the process. (Has it had a committee hearing? Has it been through appropriations? Has the Assembly or Senate taken a vote?) The advocate has discussed the bill with his or her Commission Vice President and together they suggest a position for the LAC to take on the bill.
Once the LAC votes on a position, the advocate writes a letter to the author of the bill presenting our position and explaining why we have taken that position. Then the advocate follows the bill through the legislative process. When it comes before the appropriate committee, a letter is written by the advocate to that committee asking their support or opposition (depending on the position.) The advocate follows the bill through appropriations to the first house, and on to the second house. Letters are written to the committee of the second house, to the house members and then finally, if the bill survives, to the Governor.
If a bill is considered of high importance, the advocate may request a legislative alert. If approved by the Director of Legislation, the alert is sent out electronically to PTA members asking for their assistance in supporting or opposing the bill.
Advocates keep in touch with legislators and staffers who carry bills of interest to PTA. This process continues through the year. Being an advocate with California State PTA is an exciting, challenging and rewarding job. We are lucky to have volunteer advocates who have the time, energy and intelligence to do this job!