Reflective Writing 2 : My Representative Investigation Required Materials and Access Select a new tab in your current

Reflective Writing 2 : My Representative Investigation

Required Materials and Access

  1. Select a new tab in your current browser to copy and paste the following link into: http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep (Links to an external site.)
  2. At the top right hand corner of the same page, locate the words "Find Your Representative" and enter your zip code in the box provided beneath.

Data Collection

Search the House of Representatives official government website, using the link provided above to search for your district in order to identify who currently serves as your districts elected representative.  

Search your zip code to find your district information and representative. The information will be displayed on the left hand side of the page. Click on your member’s profile picture. This is a direct link to the individual’s personal congressional website. Explore the resources, links, and menu and locate the information for each of the bulleted items listed below.

 Additional information you find important, interesting and valuable, outside of the bulleted items I require may be included, at your discretion. 

Useful Resources

  • Legislative Term Glossary
  • 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Legislative Branch (Links to an external site.)

Information Diagnostics and Data Retrieval

You are required to collect the necessary information for each of the bulleted items listed below. Information and data needs must be included somewhere in your submitted paper. Information provided for each of the below items does not need to be written out in  complete sentences. It also does not count toward your minimum page length requirement. Organize and include in whichever way it best serves your learning style, for reference when answer the paper’s prompt.  It is there for me to have as evidence when evaluating and grading your papers.  

  • Name
  • Partisanship (political party affiliation)
  • Tenure(total number of years in office)
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital Status
  • District Number
  • Leadership position (if applicable)
  • Notable and current press releases
  • Contact Information
  • Services
  • If a newsletter subscription offer to sign up was available and whether or not you decided to fill it out or ignore it.
  • Social Media Accounts and username to follow: Did you follow any of the accounts that they had listed as active social media accounts?

Laying the Groundwork: Overview and Background Info on Legislative Branch

To the average person, the process of getting a bill through Congress may seem highly complex and technical. Actually, the process itself is fairly simple.  What can be confusing to the layperson is (1) the volume of legislation pending before Congress and (2) the system Congress has for distributing its work. It is true that Congress handles a great deal of legislation each year.  

The key to deciphering the legislative process is in understanding that legislation is grouped into three main categories:

  • Authorizing legislation:  A bill that creates a new federal program, extends the life of an existing program, or repeals existing law. Authorizing bills usually set a limit on the amount of funds that can be spent annually by a program over a period of three to five years. But it’s important to remember that an authorizing bill only establishes the framework for a federal program – it does not provide funds to operate the program.  
  • Appropriations bill:  A bill that allocates funding for specific federal programs.  Unlike authorizing legislation, which remains in effect for three or more years, an appropriations bill must be enacted into law every year. Each year, in fact, Congress must pass a series of 13 appropriations bills to keep federal departments and agencies operating. 
  • Entitlement legislation:  A measure that guarantees a certain level of benefits to persons who meet eligibility requirements set by law, such as Medicare, Medicaid and college student loan programs. Entitlement programs typically do not need to be reauthorized, nor do they require annual appropriations.       

Generally speaking, the earlier an individual congressman can get involved, the better his/her chances of having an impact on decision making.  The further along a bill advances in the legislative process, the more difficult it becomes to change or modify.  This is especially true now that Congress often groups several issues into one bill. Of course, having legislation introduced and getting it enacted into law are two different things. 

Preventing a bill from languishing in someone’s files requires broad support for the issue.  Constituents must contact their own senators and representatives and convince them to co-sponsor the bill. The way that is done is by having the lawmaker’s staff contact the original sponsor and ask to have his or her name listed as supporting the bill.

The first formal step in the legislative process occurs when one or more members of Congress introduce a bill.  But from an advocate’s perspective, the work begins much earlier than that.

 

TEACHER NOTES- these next answers, you are going to have to do a little Sherlock Holmes detective work.  The formatting and presentation of information, associated with each House Rep is different.  Just make sure that you locate the pertinent information requested, but note that the directions will not be directly guiding you through accessing or finding said information. 

Start here with these suggested resources and links, if you need more direction than a simple google search can provide you in the information you will need in order to critically evaluate your representative in response to the prompt.

  • GovTrack (Links to an external site.): GovTrack.us began in 2004 as a project to use technology to make the U.S. Congress more open and accessible. Today we’re the leading non-governmental source of legislative information and statistics. GovTrack.us tracks the United States Congress and helps Americans participate in their national legislature. We love Congress and are passionate about teaching America how their government works, preparing them for a lifetime of civic engagement.
  • Legislative Report Cards (Links to an external site.) :These special year-end statistics dissect the legislative records of Members of Congress during the 2019 legislative year (Jan 3, 2019-Dec 31, 2019), looking at Members who served at the end of that period. This page was last updated on Jan 18, 2020.
  • ProPublica Congress API (Links to an external site.)– Focus on section outlining and defining the "Scope of Data" they collect and publish
  • ProPublica Congress Press Statements- (Links to an external site.)use the search engine to find your representative’s announcements
  • ProPublica Missed Vote Explanations (Links to an external site.)- Members of the House of Representatives don’t miss a lot of votes, but when they do, it’s the custom of the House that they explain their absences in the Congressional Record. Lawmakers sometimes use these “Personal Explanations” to say how they would have voted and why. Use this database to find out how often Representatives miss votes and how they explain themselves.
  • Lugar Center (Links to an external site.): Non Partisan Ranking of How Often Each Member of Congress Works Across Party Lines 

Prompts:

Now you need the Data and Information you collected and wrote down for each of the required bulleted items at the start of this activity. Use the information in your response and critical evaluation of your representative and their job performance in your discussion. Incorporate the data and information into your writing, with application to show evidence and support for evaluating your rep’s job performance.

Select one prompt from those listed below to write your reflection about.

1. .Social Media is a central tool in any current political campaign. Social networking sites have also emerged as a source of news and information, and as a public platform for political debate, discussion, and of political discord. How do students view regulating political advertising on social media?
It may be helpful to reference Facebook’s recent statement that posting political ads that include false information is a 1st Amendment right, compared to Twitter’s decision to ban political ads altogether.

 

2. Demographic data and information you gathered is beneficial to this prompt. Identify demographic similarities and differences between you and the house representative currently serving as your house rep. Select at least 5 demographic item’s information to compare and contrast examples between yourself and your representative. Discuss your choice in the data provided for the 5 specific bulleted items you selected. What compelled you to choose this data as the examples used to comparing and contrasting personal connection to your representative. Discuss the similarities and differences between yourself and your representatives with specific application of the data. Provide a demographic diagnostic of your representatives data to explain what you learned about alignment between you and your legislative house rep. How has this shaped what you know, knew, didn’t know, or thought you knew about your understanding influences that shape your legislators ability to represent, lead and make decision on your behalf.


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