In the second of its eight Zoom-based advocacy workshops on July 7, the Armenian National Committee of America – Eastern Region (ANCA-ER) instructed activists how to interact with legislators during “Hill 101” led by ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan.
This series of workshops, taking place between June and October 2021, will cover subjects such as youth advocacy, event organization and combating Azeri propaganda. Experienced ANCA organizers and activists, like Yerimyan, will be leading and facilitating the sessions.
At its core, the purpose of the most recent workshop was to explore the methods of advancing Hai Tahd/the Armenian Cause in the American political arena. To that end, it covered four principal topics: meetings with legislators, ANCA software called “MyState,” the legislative calendar and types of legislation.
“Our meetings are an advocacy tool… they’re one of many in our arsenal,” began Yerimyan, before explaining the purpose of legislative meetings. Constituents (both ANC members and non-ANC members) request legislative meetings with their Congressmen and women to encourage them to pay attention to and advance Armenian issues. While ANCA activists who are not in the legislator’s district can and often do attend the meeting, it must be requested and principally attended by those who live in that constituency.
The four core parts of a legislative meeting are:
- The “thank you”—Yerimyan encouraged thanking the member twice, once at the beginning and then again at the end of the meeting.
- Introductions—“What I advise for individuals is what’s relevant… if constituency is relevant, [give] your name and where you are from,” she explained.
- Topics—Outline what will be discussed and brought up.
- The ask—“Do not walk out of the meeting without an ask,” Yerimyan stated in a video of the “do’s and don’ts” of legislative meetings. The ‘ask’ is what the ANCA wants the member to do, sponsor or endorse.
Yerimyan then reviewed two key features of the ANCA website known as “MyState” and “ANCA Report Cards.” “My State” displays the position of every congressperson on relevant legislation relating to the Armenian Cause, while the ANCA Report Cards issue grades to the congresspeople based on how well they respond to and interact with Armenian issues. For instance, Representative Aderholt of Alabama received an F-, while Senator Markey of Massachusetts earned an A+ this year.
Penultimately, Yerimyan covered the legislative calendar and committees of interest. Those committees which deal with foreign and military issues, such as the House/Senate Foreign Affairs Committees and House/Senate Armed Services Committees, are of particular import to the ANCA. The most significant periods of the legislative year are as follows:
- February: Statements from elected officials on Sumgait Massacre (and other Azerbaijani massacres of Armenians, such as the Baku, Margushevan/Maragha and Gandzak/Kirovabad massacres).
- March/April: April 24th and Genocide commemorative events.
- May-August: Meeting with legislators to make requests while they work in committees between May and July. In August, legislators return to their constituencies for recess, allowing local ANC members to meet with them, ensure accountability and provide feedback.
Lastly, Yerimyan explained the differences between types of legislation, namely letters, bills and resolutions. Letters are not legislation; they do not pass through the same congressional processes and do not bear the same weight as bills and resolutions, however “they show the intent of Congress” directed towards a person or institution/agency (e.g., “Letter to Biden” or “Letter to the Department of State”). Bills are what become enforceable law after passing through a lengthy process of committee evaluation and congressional approval. Resolutions pass through a similar process as bills, however, they do not become enforceable law, but are declarations of the spirit and intent of Congress.
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian will lead the next workshop on July 19, 2021. Hamparian will focus on the future priorities and plans of the ANCA. Interested participants are encouraged to register online.