Advocacy Basics

With a mission of increasing awareness of and access to quality music therapy services, AMTA consistently advocates with a variety of stakeholders in health and education on both the federal and state level. In all advocacy activities, no matter the topic, it is important to remember the power of the collective voice.  Acknowledging the current events our nation is experiencing, AMTA encourages members to exercise their rights and responsibilities as American citizens to contact their legislators and voice their opinions to effect change. For assistance with finding your congressional representatives, please visit:‚Äč


What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is...

for anyone

Regardless of experience or professional training, a successful advocate is someone with passion and commitment for a cause or an idea, who tells a convincing story expressing their beliefs and passion.

a process that requires perseverance

Few advocacy campaigns are immediately successful.  The process of making the target of the campaign aware of the subject, problem, solution, and their role in the solution takes place over a period of time with a series of contacts including letter writing, phone calls, emails, and personal visitations.  (For more information on the proper way to make these contacts, please see Communicating with Congress). Hopefully the target begins to believe in the cause and is ready to take action, as well as convincing others to join the cause in a domino effect.

a language

The wording used during advocacy can and will have an impact on the target's perception of the subject and eventually their involvement in the solution, so it is important to always speak to the needs of the client and not the advocate.

How are Laws Made?


  Introduction of Legislation

  1. Anyone can come up with an idea for legislation and then present a proposed draft to a legislator, but only a member of Congress may present the proposal for consideration in Congress. This proposal can be introduced in one of four forms. These forms are a bill, joint resolution, concurrent resolution, and simple resolution. In both Houses of Congress the most common form of proposal is a bill. This bill can be introduced or originate in either the House of Representatives or Senate. If it originates in the House then it is identified as H.R. #, and if it originates in the Senate it is identified by S. #. If the bill involves raising revenue or appropriations then it must originate in the House of Representatives.
  2. A bill can either be public or private. If it is public, then it is a bill that will affect the general public. If it is a private bill, then it will affect a private entity or an individual.
  3. While the House of Representatives is in session any Member may introduce a bill by placing it in a box on the House floor known as the "hopper". The Member who introduces the bill and is the first to sign the bill is then identified as the primary sponsor. Any additional Members may then also sign the proposed bill and become cosponsors. The Speaker then refers the bill to the appropriate committee.
  4. If the bill originates in the Senate then it can have an unlimited number of sponsorships. The bill is usually introduced by placing it on the Presiding Officer’s desk, on the Senate floor. If there are no objections to the introduction of the bill, or resolution from any Senators, then the bill is referred to the proper committee. If there is even one objection to the bill then the bill is postponed to the next day in session.

Committee Action

  1. Once the bill gets to the appropriate committee, it is put on the committee’s calendar to be considered and discussed. Once on the calendar, it is either referred to a subcommittee or it is considered by the committee as a whole. *If the committee does not act on the bill by holding hearings, the bill dies and no further action is taken.
  2. The subcommittee holds hearings to review and consider the bill’s chance for passage. These hearings include the input of departments and agencies that have an interest in the bill. If the bill will affect the public, then the subcommittee will hold a forum, which allows the public to offer comments about the bill.
  3. After the subcommittee has finished all related hearings, they meet to "mark up" the bill. During these sessions the subcommittee will make changes and/or amendments before they vote to determine the subcommittee’s recommendation to the full committee. The subcommittee can choose to present the bill favorably, unfavorably, or without recommendation. They can also vote to recommend that the committee "table" the bill, which suspends any further action and the bill dies.
  4. The full committee then reviews the subcommittee’s recommendation and holds further hearings to continue studying the proposed legislation. The full committee then marks up the bill with further changes and takes a vote on its recommendation to the House or Senate.
  5. If the vote is favorable, then the bill is "reported out" of committee and can proceed to be the full House or Senate for consideration. If the committee does not vote for the bill, the bill dies for the remainder of that term of Congress. The bill may be reintroduced during the following term of Congress.

  Full Chamber

  1. Once the bill is on the full House or Senate’s calendar, then certain rules in each chamber are followed and the bill is debated followed by vote.
  2. If the bill is passed, then it moves to the other Chamber, the same procedure is followed. If the bill is defeated then the bill dies.
  3. If changes are made in the other Chamber to the originally approved document then a conference committee is formed. This committee is composed of members from both original sponsoring committees in the House and the Senate. The conference committee formed discusses the differences between the House and Senate bills and attempts to create a compromise bill.
  4. If no agreement can be made, then the bill dies.
  5. If the conference committee is able to reach a compromise, then a report is filed and the new versions of the bill are presented to both the House and the Senate, where they hold a final vote.
  6. If both chambers approve the bill, it is finally sent to the President for a signature

Executive Actions

  1. If the President approves the bill, then it is signed and becomes a law.
  2. The bill can also become a law if the President takes no action after ten days.
  3. If the President does not like the bill then the bill can be "vetoed".
  4. When a bill is "vetoed" the chamber where the bill originated can override this "veto" by a two-thirds majority.
  5. If the Camber does override the "veto" then the bill moves to the other chamber where it also must receive a two-thirds majority vote.
  6. If the two-thirds majority is not achieved in both chambers, then the veto stands and the bill dies.
  7. If the two-thirds majority is achieved in both chambers, then the bill become a law.

Other References