CALIFORNIA COUNCIL of the BLIND
Guidelines for Organization
SECTION I INTRODUCTION
This handbook contains general guidelines for establishing and organizing California Council of the Blind (CCB) chapters and SPECIAL INTEREST affiliates. It also contains other vital information which will assist in strengthening the chapters and building membership. We hope the information contained within this handbook will answer most of your questions. For further information or if there is a specific area you would like to discuss, please contact the main office of the California Council of the Blind at 800-221-6359. Someone in the office can put you in contact with the individual you need to speak with. We also want to thank each member of the Membership Committee who put forth his/her time and effort in the revision of this handbook.
SECTION II BRIEF HISTORY and PHILOSOPHY of CCB
The California Council of the Blind was founded on October 6, 1934, by a group of twenty-nine persons, sixteen of whom were blind or visually impaired. These pioneers felt it necessary to create an organization composed of agencies and organizations, which would represent blind and visually impaired people.
The first meeting took place in Fresno, California. The first President of the CCB was Dr. Newell Perry, an outstanding blind mathematician. Members of the first CCB board of directors included Jacobus Tenbroek, who was a protégé of Dr. Perry and who became one of the nation's most highly-respected experts on the United States Constitution, and friend Perry Sundquist, who was a leader in the blind community for more than half a century. As the organization's membership of blind and visually impaired increased, it became quite obvious that it would be an organization that could and would speak for itself.
The California Council of the Blind is made up of approximately forty chapters throughout the state and is comprised of those who will speak for themselves in a positive voice. Each day we face a variety of issues that concern the blind and visually impaired, and the various members from our community-based chapters take the necessary steps to resolve these issues. The CCB clearly creates an atmosphere of supportiveness to let the members know that they are an important, integral part of this organization and that they are not alone. From the beginning, we learned that when a blind or visually impaired person was discriminated against, it was a problem for all the blind. Also, when a blind or visually impaired person achieved a major success, it was considered a victory for us all.
The CCB, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, is a large organization which works for the promotion of the social, economic, and educational opportunities for blind and visually impaired people within California. The individual members of CCB are of different ages, races and ethnicities. Like other social groups, our members maintain a wide variety of occupations, differing political persuasions, as well as different religious affiliations.
In numbers, we join together to solve the often seemingly overwhelming problems which all of us face, and to disprove the misguided and harmful stereotypes that society has imposed upon us. All too often, we face a well-meaning public that chooses to adopt misconceptions about those of us who are blind or visually impaired. For example, many people believe that if one is blind, one is both helpless and hopeless, and therefore, unemployable and destined to depend entirely on the social welfare system. Since 1934, CCB has made great strides to educate the public regarding abilities, rather than focusing on disabilities. It is together that the great challenge of blindness can and will be overcome.
All members must be given the space to deal with their blindness in their own way, and the membership of CCB will never ridicule any individual for his or her beliefs about blindness. Although the CCB may question or challenge the thinking of a member at times, every member of the Council will always be treated with dignity and integrity. The membership will abide by the views of the majority while respecting the views of the minority to dissent.
The CCB has to its credit, several great achievements. The California Council of the Blind was instrumental in eliminating the visual acuity requirement from the State Education Code, thereby allowing competent blind and visually impaired people to enter the teaching profession. The CCB through the efforts of one of its members, Assemblyman Ernest Crowley, sponsored legislation to create the California Orientation Center for the Blind. Founded in 1951, this facility continues to help newly blind adults to overcome the many challenges of blindness. The California White Cane Law, which served as a model for similar laws now enacted in every state,and which protects the rights of blind pedestrians in every state, was also CCB-sponsored legislation. CCB also sponsored the legislation which makes it possible for blind and visually impaired individuals to serve on juries, a precious American right. CCB was also a major force in the efforts establishing the California State Supplementary Program (SSP) under which blind persons are entitled to cash assistance in conjunction with the Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program. Most recently, through the efforts of the CCB, three major banks became the first banks in the country to install talking ATM machines.
All of the great accomplishments of CCB have been brought about by the actions of rank and file members who wanted to share the dream of a better life for blind and visually impaired people. When one considers the accomplishments as well as the great achievements brought about by the California Council of the Blind, one is filled not only with pride and tremendous respect for the organization, but is also filled with pride and respect for oneself. Finally, when a person becomes a member of CCB, he or she becomes a part of a wonderful family of good friends and caring people. Those who wish to inquire about other achievements of CCB ARE ENCOURAGED TO CONTACT THE MAIN OFFICE.
Section iiI Forming New Chapters and Special Interest Affiliates
The first question you may ask yourselves is, "Why do we want to form a new chapter or special interest affiliate of the California Council of the Blind?" and the second question would be, "How do we get started?" The answer to the first question should be quite easy to answer. The reason you wish to form a new chapter or affiliate is because there are many issues that concern the blind and visually impaired and it would be much easier for us to face these issues as a group of people with similar concerns and who possess the desire to help resolve this overwhelming number of problems. Unemployment, Transportation, pedestrian hazards, accessibility- these are just a few of the important issues in which we are all concerned. You will find, if you do not know it already, that there are many blind and visually impaired people in your community that want to help work on these problems. Now we come to the question of how to get started. What follows is an 8-step process in how to do this.
1. To Begin: Talk with other people who are blind or visually impaired and sighted family members and friends, and discuss these issues and how they feel about them. Find out if they would like to work on these issues as an organized group. Then contact the main office OF ccb and ask if they could appoint an individual who will help guide you and your group through the various steps of organization. Brainstorm with the others about the various projects your chapter could organize, keeping in mind that they should be both practical and feasible. Don't plan anything on too large a scale in the beginning.
2. Re-affirm the Organization's Purposes and Goals. Plan a flyer or brochure that clearly states the purposes and goals of the parent organization, trying to avoid legal jargon. The flyers might include the mission statement of The California Council of the Blind.
3. Recruitment: To attract other prospective members you can plan and distribute flyers stating when and where the first meeting will be held. Target places that may have a population of blind or visually impaired people, such as: organizations for visually impaired persons, independent living centers, ophthalmologists and optometrists, retirement homes, senior centers, high schools, colleges and universities. Determine the most appropriate methods for reaching these areas, such as using public Service Announcements through radio, television, including cable stations, and newspapers, and contacting libraries (both public and those offering services to the visually impaired), state services for the blind, and computer bulletin boards.
4. The First Meeting: This first meeting will probably be fairly small, but that's fine. Allow time for the people present to introduce themselves, discuss their vision problem, and other concerns they may have about their community. Share the information you have gathered about the California Council of the Blind, including our mission statement and goals, and distribute the CCB brochures. Discuss some projects the new chapter could conduct. Toward the end of this first meeting, those persons assembled should choose a temporary chairperson and secretary. Finally, choose a convenient place and time for the next meeting. However, the members can agree to meet more frequently until the chapter is on firmer ground.
5. Selecting the Leadership: At the second meeting, the members should consider whom they want to choose to be the leaders of the group. The first order of business toward making the chapter official is choosing the Board of Directors. If possible, try to choose members of different ages and living in different areas of the community. Members who wish to serve on the Board should be enthusiastic, outgoing, amiable, and have the time to devote to the organization.
6. Getting the Chapter Going: The members should choose the day, time and place in which they will begin holding meetings. Make sure the chosen meeting place is convenient to bus routes and paratransit systems to assure better membership attendance. Suggested meeting places may be: senior centers, retirement homes, club houses, libraries, churches, hospitals or clinics, restaurants, etc.
7. Meetings: To assure better attendance, make sure the meetings are interesting and encourage member participation. Keep the meetings moving with a variety of interesting topics and projects that make a difference in the lives of the members. Invite guest speakers to address the membership on subjects that concern the blind and visually impaired. Avoid getting into a rut and don't place all the concentration on business. Plan various social events periodically, such as: pot luck luncheons or dinners, picnics, trips, etc. Let members know that the chapter is interested in them as individuals by staying in contact through phone calls, chapter newsletters, or E-Mail. Contact the members who were unable to attend the chapter meeting and inform them of special events or projects the chapter is involved in. It is equally important to alert them to legislative issues that may need their immediate attention.
8. Establishing Committees: There are a number of committees a chapter can form which are vital to a chapter's existence. One of the President's duties is to appoint chairpersons for committees and then it is each chairperson's responsibility to ask other members to sit on that committee. However, the President may appoint certain individuals to form the entire committee.
The Constitution and Bylaws Committee is probably the most important committee, especially when starting a chapter. The first order of business in establishing a chapter is drafting a Constitution and Bylaws, which govern a chapter's actions. Then, they must be approved by The California Council of the Blind. Refer to Section IV regarding these documents.
The Fund Raising Committee is also important, as it is in charge of raising the necessary resources for the chapter's treasury. Refer to Section V of this handbook which relates to fundraising.
Another important committee is the Membership Committee. This committee is responsible for building membership and maintaining good morale with those who are already members. The members of this committee should be knowledgeable of the various aspects of CCB and able to inform others of what they know.
A chapter should also have a Governmental Affairs Committee to stay abreast of the many legislative and other advocacy issues being conducted on behalf of blind and visually impaired people in the community and at the state level. Refer to Sections VIII and IX of this handbook on Advocacy and the Legislative Process.
Another important committee is the Nominating Committee. This committee is formed prior to chapter elections and is in charge of choosing a slate of members to serve on the Board of Directors.
Other committees a chapter may form could be; Public Relations, Technology, Access and Transportation, a social committee, etc. It is at the discretion of the chapter to form the committees necessary for their group. This depends on the size of the chapter and the willingness of the members to become involved and take an active part of a committee.
SECTION IV CONSTITUTION and BYLAWS
Once a group of individuals has decided to start a chapter and elects officers, a Constitution and Bylaws must be developed. These documents are used to frame policies and rules for the governance of your organization. At future meetings, changes can be made within these documents to reflect your growth and change. After your chapter has accepted your Constitution and Bylaws, a copy must be sent to the CCB office. First of all, the document must comply with the CCB Constitution and Bylaws. None of your articles or amendments should contradict the state document. All the policies and rules listed in the document should be clearly stated so no confusion arises later.
Generally, the constitution has the major governing policies and rules. The bylaws are primarily clarification of rules contained in the constitution's articles.
The articles of your constitution should include the name of your chapter, your affiliation with the CCB, and your main purposes. You may choose to use the purposes from the CCB's constitution or you may have your own. However, your purposes must not conflict with the state constitution. Other articles should cover such areas as how often meetings will occur and what constitutes a quorum to conduct business, as well as rules regarding membership status, what positions your chapter desires for its Board of Directors, and how and when they will need to be elected. Duties of the officers and the way committees are structured should also be covered in the articles. Usually, standing committees are listed in the bylaws. Other articles should include particulars on voting and dues structure, but not the dues amount since those are usually covered in the bylaws. An article should address how the Articles of the Constitution can be changed, and another Article should address how to amend the Bylaws. Traditionally, any constitutional change requires a two-thirds vote by the chapter membership,and a bylaws change requires a majority vote. Constitutional changes also require a reading at a previous meeting before being passed at another meeting.
Most constitutions have a statement in an article that refers to Robert's Rules of Order, revised as the authority in any matter that is not covered in the constitution or its bylaws.
There should always be a dissolution clause in the constitution as well, in order to determine what will happen when a chapter will be eliminated. Usually, dissolution clauses in chapter constitutions merely state that any remaining funds in the treasury at the time of dissolution would go to the parent organization. The procedures of dissolution should be similar to the CCB constitution.
Bylaws have more details about the governance of your chapter. They may cover the standing committees of your chapter, voting requirements, and the amount of membership dues.
A sample Constitution and Bylaws can be found in the back of this handbook in Appendix A. If you need any assistance in writing your constitution and bylaws, the CCB will be happy to help you with this task.
SECTION V FUND RAISING
In the world today, all agencies and organizations that provide services on a non-profit basis face a common problem: that of acquiring the necessary resources to sustain the organization. Your chapter will assess dues to its members of a nominal sum that can be afforded by the membership. However, you must have a fund raising base that will bring adequate funds in during the year that will allow your chapter to provide activities for your members, provide the annual dues to the California Council of the Blind, and provide your chapter with enough funds to offer donations to other groups, if so inclined.
In order to accomplish a chapter's goals you must have a Treasury. Although you must collect dues from your members, this is not enough. You must find alternative means of raising money. Following are some of the ways this can be done:
A. A 50-50 raffle at each meeting, in which you split the proceeds with the winner.
B. The Chapter Auction in which each member brings an item to the meeting. These items are then auctioned off to the highest bidder. It is advisable to invite outsiders to this type of meeting.
C. Candy and/or bake sales, in which you purchase or take on consignment bars of candy or baked goods from various companies that specialize in fundraising merchandise and then sell to friends and neighbors. There are also other items that can be sold on this basis.
D. Social events, such as picnics, pizza parties, dinners of any type, seminars or dances. Charge enough to make a profit. In order to cut your costs, try to get as many of your supplies donated if possible. You might have a nice door prize which may help sell more tickets and attract those who may not want to attend otherwise.
E. The Council offers inexpensive tables in the Exhibit Hall at its twice-yearly conventions where your chapter can sell merchandise. Try to avoid overstocking items.
F. Sales of Entertainment books that are made available in a local area.
G. Community drives of many kinds.
H. Combining efforts with local supermarkets in the sale of coupons to be redeemed for groceries, with a certain percentage to be retained by the chapter.
I. Parties and dances with outside entertainment.
Any ideas your members have should be considered because although there aren't many new ideas in fundraising, What you do may be novel to your area and will be the very thing that will become your standard or on which you will be able to base your future planning.
You cannot budget or plan ahead if you don't have adequate fundraising. One of the first committees you should appoint is a FundRaising Committee, one that is willing to work, not one that is there in name only. It does not have to consist entirely of chapter members, but can also include outsiders. This committee must recommend new projects and recruit volunteers to help carry out the plans. The fundraising committee should designate a certain person of the year when planning a major drive to raise the bulk of the money at that point. They should not have projects that require the members to sell to each other year-round. You will never have enough members in your chapter to raise a lot of funds because the chapters in this organization are not that big. You need to incorporate other groups into your fund raising efforts. Many times other groups are willing to help you on a limited basis.
The CCB has a FundRaising Committee whose purpose is to aid you in your activities. It is also important that you check with the CCB office to make sure your event does not conflict with its policies and do not misrepresent the purpose for which money will be used. Also, if your chapter does not have its own non-profit tax ID number, you are under the umbrella of the parent organization. It is necessary that the money your chapter receives as a result of fund raising events be reported to the CCB office.
Section VI HOW TO CONDUCT A MEETING
The President is in charge of conducting the chapter meetings and Chairpersons of the various committees are in charge of conducting committee meetings. The President or Chairperson creates an agenda, a list of items to be discussed at the meeting. The agenda will also include any scheduled speakers.
There are two ways that the members present can include additional items to the agenda: either at the beginning of the meeting when the President presents the agenda, or prior to the conclusion of the meeting. Samples of agendas can be found in Appendix B at the back of this handbook.
A meeting generally unfolds in the following manner: The President calls the meeting to order, noting the time. The Secretary takes roll call or those present announce themselves, stating whether they are a member or a guest. Next, the minutes of the previous meeting are read by the secretary and approved by the members, noting any additions or corrections. Then the treasurer's report is read and approved, also noting any additions or corrections. Reports from the chapter's various committees follow, and then discussion will commence regarding Old Business. New Business is discussed next.
Usually, if there is a scheduled guest speaker, that person will be slated to address the membership early in the meeting. Most often it is after the taking of roll call. Also, if there was any correspondence received during the month, the President may offer to share it with the membership. And just prior to the adjournment of the meeting, members and guests are given the opportunity to make announcements. Frequently, chapters hold any drawings or raffles immediately before the meeting is adjourned. Finally, the meeting is adjourned.
Meetings of a chapter's board of directors follow much the same format, except that it is not necessary to include the treasurer's report, unless that report is on the agenda. Committee reports are usually not included either. Cchapter committee meetings include discussion on topics specific to that committee.
It is important to balance the meetings to keep members from becoming bored. Time limits should also be placed on agenda items in order to cover as much business as possible and still adjourn at the specified time. Encourage members to arrive early enough to allow time for visiting with others prior to the meeting, as people usually tend to depart directly afterwards. Some chapters have a Welcoming committee to greet arriving members and guests. Others serve refreshments before, during a short break in, or at the end of, each meeting so members can socialize with old friends or meet new ones.
SECTION VII GUEST SPEAKERS
Guest speakers add much interest to an organization. They provide vital information, bring new ideas, and help members to make important decisions. The chapter President usually decides who will be chosen as the guest speaker, but some chapters have a Program Committee which chooses the guest speakers.
Getting ideas and suggestions for speakers from the members may help increase membership interest and participation.
Below are just a few examples of possible guest speakers.
You can invite a representative from the League of Women Voters to present important information on the candidates and the issues prior to an election. Invite someone to speak about accessibility to the different means of transportation such as paratransit, fixed-routes, and local railway systems. Local government officials or representatives of the city may speak on issues regarding public building accessibility and/or issues relating to pedestrian travel. Service Providers like the independent living centers and the Department of Rehabilitation can provide a wealth of information that can be helpful to the blind. And periodically, invite legislators or representatives to stay abreast of current legislation and to share your ideas and concerns, which may help solve problems faced by the blind and visually impaired community. One of the major projects within a chapter will be legislative advocacy. Therefore, it is important that you become acquainted with your local, state, and federal representatives. Finally, since mentors can be very important, invite blind and visually impaired individuals engaged in various occupations to speak to your chapter. They can provide excellent role models for your members.
Some chapters have a Speaker's Bureau, where members speak to other groups such as: Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, PTA, schools, etc. This is a valuable method for networking and gives us an excellent opportunity to explain our organization's objectives and accomplishments.
SECTION ViiI ADVOCACY
What is advocacy? An advocate is a spokesperson who works on behalf of the needs of a particular group or to assist individuals. An advocate thoroughly studies a group's needs and helps them identify specific solutions to meet those needs. An advocate contacts and works with decisionmakers, (persons or governmental bodies who can bring about the solutions that the group wants). An advocate gathers factual background to present to the decisionmaker. These facts are used to demonstrate the benefits to be derived through the proposed solution not only by the group in need, but also by society at large. An advocate must also inform a decisionmaker about the costs of the solution and ways to minimize those costs.
It is also important for an advocate to find ways to demonstrate to decisionmakers the seriousness of the problem which the group is trying to solve. This can be done through the use of petitions or by mobilizing groups to attend public hearings.
Once a decision is made, an advocate must be persistent in monitoring decisionmakers, in order to ensure that the solutions are implemented satisfactorily. Advocacy is most rewarding when successful.
A person may advocate for a cause worldwide, nationwide, statewide, or in the local community. A person may even hit the streets to advocate for a personal cause. Refer to Appendix C for an excellent example on how to advocate for public awareness and educating society about persons withvisual impairments.
The following section of this handbook concerns our state legislative efforts. However, as we have mentioned, local chapters play crucial roles not only in these efforts, but also through advocacy at the local level. Chapters can not only get policies enacted by cities, counties, and other local entities, but they can also help blind and visually impaired individuals, whether or not they are CCB members, with specific situations. CCB members are more than willing to provide assistance to those in new chapters with their advocacy efforts.
SECTION IX Advocacy and the Legislative Process
Advocacy Begins With You! Legislative advocacy doesn't just happen because someone wants it. Membership action determines whether we will succeed in our support of, or opposition to, legislation.
This section will include personal and chapter empowerment, how a bill becomes law, how to write to your legislator, and, for those of you with computers, how to subscribe to a bill and listen to a hearing on your computer. We will suggest ways your chapter can become more involved with the legislative advocacy process. Finally, we will also provide you with a helpful reference section containing phone numbers of various news and information hotlines, as well as list servs to which you can subscribe and keep up on all the latest advocacy information.
(1) Personal and chapter empowerment.
During the phenomenal history of the great organized blind movement, CCB's efforts have concentrated mostly on legislative advocacy, both at the state and the federal level. In order to affect change in education, social and civil rights, it has been necessary for the Council to use legislative advocacy programs at all levels of government to make necessary changes. Starting with the reader services of the Department of Rehabilitation, back in the 30's, to the recent passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, in the early 1990's, the efforts of blind and visually impaired people have made a major difference in the larger community.
At each CCB convention, the membership votes on resolutions. Many of these concern legislation which we want introduced or which we want to support or oppose. We encourage all of our members to bring up ideas that might someday become bills introduced in the state Legislature. The CCB Governmental Affairs Committee also makes decisions on the support of, or opposition to, legislation.
In order to effect an adequate program, the Council maintains an advocate in Sacramento and has representation in Washington D.C. with the Governmental Affairs representative of the American Council of the Blind. Local chapters and their representatives monitor City and county governments. To be a successful chapter of this great organization, you must have a membership that is interested in pursuing change to improve the welfare of blind and visually impaired individuals. It will mean educating the public and, most of all, politicians, to the needs of the blind and visually impaired. It is essential that you:
A. Follow all of the local issues in the newspapers concerning blind and visually impaired individuals, follow releases from our advocate in Sacramento, and read publications from the state and national organizations.
b. Promote educational and rehabilitation opportunities.
C. Increase public awareness about people who are blind or visually impaired, including their accomplishments as well as the problems facing them.
D. Support legislative and other advocacy programs that will enhance first-class citizenship for the blind and visually impaired.
Reports from our Governmental Affairs Director are made available in cassette, Braille and large print, computer diskette, and via E-Mail during the period that the legislature is in session. Regular updates are given in CCB's quarterly magazine, The Blind Californian. Reports are given on the progress of legislation at the fall and spring Conventions of CCB. Seminars may be called on important legislative issues between conventions. If your chapter desires a special report from the Governmental Affairs Director, you may contact him or her through the Executive Office of CCB and set up a visit to one of your regular meetings.
Your chapter's representative on the CCB Governmental Affairs Committee or the chair of its own Governmental Affairs Committee should give a monthly report to your membership and work to educate the members to support the programs of the CCB. You may also receive weekly legislative updates from The California Connection by dialing 1-800-221-6359 after 5:00 P.n. weekdays, and all day on weekends and holidays.
The most appropriate and effective way to become involved in the legislative process is to do all of the following:
a. Register to vote. In order to register, call your local Registrar's Office to inquire where you may register. You may call this number at the Secretary of State's office for registration information: (800) 345-BOTE or (800) 345-8683. From the above 800 number, you may also request a sample ballot.
b. Know Your Legislators. You should know the names of the two United States Senators from California and the name and district number of your representative in he United States House of Representative. You should also know your California State Assemblymember and California State Senator, and their district numbers.
C. Know your legislator's party affiliation. This will make it easier to understand his or her philosophy and the best way to approach him or her.
(2) Becoming Involved.
Before making any determinations about state legislation affecting the blind or visually impaired, and especially before supporting or opposing any legislation on behalf of the California Council of the Blind, be sure to communicate with the executive office or the CCB Governmental Affairs Director.
b. Know Your Subject
If you are promoting CCB legislation, study your resolution regarding the matter. Be sure that you understand exactly what you are trying to do and why. If you are working with a legislator and/or a member of his or her staff, you must be able to explain all factors related to your legislation. With legislation that you are opposing, be sure that you know precisely why you are opposing it and be able to explain in detail if required.
c. Chapter Governmental Affairs Committee
A. As noted elsewhere in this handbook, every chapter should have a governmental affairs chairperson and committee. The chapter governmental affairs committee should consist of a telephone subcommittee which will contact members about state legislation and the work we need to do, and A local legislative visiting subcommittee to visit local legislators. All members of the chapter governmental affairs committees should understand legislation well, and be able to communicate well with chapter members and legislators. The committee members should work closely not only with legislators, but also with the CCB Governmental Affairs Committee and the CCB Govermental Affairs Director. A chapter should file a report on all legislative contacts to the CCB executive office or the CCB Govermental Affairs Director as soon as possible.
(3) How a Bill Becomes Law
Although this section deals primarily with state legislation. in large part it is applicable to federal legislation as well.
Advocacy really begins with you. One of the most powerful things you can do is pick up your telephone and simply phone your legislator's office and state your opinion on a particular situation, whether it is an existing piece of legislation or a problem you are having with a service or governmental agency. The call is logged and is almost as meaningful as a letter. But often times, bills get started because of that one phone call from you, the concerned citizen. Bills may also originate from state agencies or groups or organizations that find a legislator to author it for them. Finally, a bill can originate from the legislators themselves.
The legislator then sends the concept of the Bill to the Legislative Counsel who drafts the Bill and returns it to the legislator. Let s say this is a Senate Bill, meaning one where the Legislator sponsoring the bill is a Senator. It would then go to the Senate Desk where it is introduced and numbered, as for example Senate Bill 33. The Bill then moves to the Senate Rules Committee That committee determines which of the many Senate policy committees will hear the bill. For example, a bill about teaching braille to blind students will be assigned to the Senate Education Committee. The bill then goes to that policy Committee where testimony by the public, including the CCB will be taken, and the Senators debate on the pros and cons of the bill. The Bill could pass, either with or without changes known as amendments, or be defeated. If defeated in committee, the bill has little chance of proceeding further. If the Bill is passed, it usually goes to the fiscal committee, known as the Appropriations Committee, which only discusses the bill's costs or savings to the state. If the bill passes this committee it then goes to the Senate floor where all Senators vote on it. If the bill passes it moves to the opposite house. Our Senate Bill then goes to the Assembly, Or if we had an Assembly Bill it would go to the Senate.
The identical process would then take place on this side of the legislature, the Bill moves through policy then fiscal committees then to the floor of the Assembly. If it passes there, but changes have been made while in the Assembly, it returns to the Senate for concurrence. If the Senate refuses to concur in the Assembly amendments, it goes to a combined Senate/Assembly Conference Committee. If it passes concurrence, or if it passes the Assembly without any amendments, it then is moved on to the Governor where he or she generally has thirty days to sign the bill or it becomes law. The Governor could veto the bill, and then two-thirds of the legislature is needed to override the veto. That is how a bill is passed into law.
It is important to note that many bills are complex and difficult to understand, so we recommend that you read the Legislative Counsel's Digest portion of the bill, because this section is an overview of the entire bill.
(4) Communicating with Your Legislator.
The most effective method for making your case is to write a letter to your legislator. Today, with the advent of e-mail, it is becoming acceptable to communicate in this manner to your legislator. First, you should contact that office to find out if that particular person uses this mode of communication.
The conventions for sending E-Mail are as follows:
Sending E-Mail in the Assembly: First name: last name: at assembly.ca.gov
Sending E-Mail in the Senate: last name at Sen.ca.gov
You cannot go wrong however, by sending a traditional letter to your legislator. The following is a sample letter we hope will be informative.
To the Honorable: (legislator s first and last name)
Re: Support or Opposition to Bill No.
Dear Assemblyman or Assemblywoman, or Senator (last name):
I am writing in support or opposition of Senate or Assembly) bill no. I am a resident of (city or district no.) and support (or oppose) this bill because of the following reasons. (Name reasons) Note: Make statements brief and to the point as to your support or opposition to the particular measure. If you can write a paragraph describing how this bill might affect you personally, this would be most effective. Then sign the letter; Sincerely, (your name.)
(5) Information Means Power: Tracking Legislation.
This section is devoted to a tutorial on accessing the California Assembly and Senate s myriad databases as well as their several real audio broadcasts. Although this section is primarily for those with access to a computer, those of you without such access can be just as important in CCB's advocacy efforts.
We will deal with four topics: key word search, finding and retrieving a particular piece of legislation, and Subscribing to and listening to a Bill.
a. Key Word Search.
In order to know which bills fall into your interest area, you must either pay for a subscription service or with access to the Internet, you can search the databases of the legislature for the bill numbers. We have over forty-five key words that we use in searching the large legislative information (known as Leg info) database. Some of these words are: disabled, handicapped, blind, SSI/SSP, visually impaired, etc.
Step 1: Point your browser to <
In ordinary English this means that in whatever program you are using to access the web, type the address of the web site you wish to view. Generally, after each step, you must press the Enter key.
Step 2: Tab or arrow down to Key Word Search.
Step 3: Type your key words- Example: blind, disabled, SSI/SSP, guide dogs, etc.
Step 4: Tab or Arrow down to Search. You will then get a list of legislation pertaining to the above key words.
b. Finding and Retrieving a Piece of Legislation
Step 1: Point your browser to <
Step 2: Tab or arrow down to Bill Information. step 3: Tab or arrow down to Bill No. Type the bill number in. You will most likely get a list of two bills, an Assembly bill and a Senate bill with the same number, but one has an AB before the number and the other with an SB.
c.Subscribing via E-Mail to a piece of legislation
Subscribing to a bill has many advantages because you will find out everything that happens to it along its course from house to house. You will also get any amendments (changes to the bill) automatically.
Step 1: Send e-mail to: Senate-news at sen.ca.gov. The subject field is ignored. In the body of the message type: subscribe sb_858 or whatever bill you want in either house of the legislature. (Notice that the character after the sb is the underline or underscore.)
d. Listening to a Hearing On Your Computer.
Not all hearing rooms are wired live to the Internet, but many are. You can listen via the internet to hearings that occur in these hearing rooms. You can also listen to the Assembly and Senate floor sessions. You must have the Real Audio Player already installed on your computer for this to work.
Point your browser to <
Tab or arrow down to TV-Audio and simply pick the room you want to hear.
We suggest that in order to really stay up on current happenings relative to advocacy and legislative matters, that your chapter appoints a legislative representative to help coordinate local action with your local representatives of the legislature. We have various tools that your chapter's legislative representative may utilize for this purpose. (Refer to Appendix D.)
Model: Constitution and Bylaws.
ARTICLE I. Name
The name of this organization shall be Visually Impaired and Blind Californians. (This is a fictitious name.)
ARTICLE II. Purpose
The purpose of this organization shall be to promote the general welfare for the blind or visually impaired, especially in (name city or area) by:
A. Expanding economic opportunities.
B. Stimulating gainful employment.
C. Keeping the membership informed of the activities by and for the blind or visually impaired throughout the state and nation.
ARTICLE III. Supreme Authority
Section 1. The Visually Impaired and Blind Californians chapter of the CCB shall be the supreme authority of this organization.
Section 2. No provision of this Constitution shall be construed so as to diminish the authority of the membership to act as the supreme authority of the Visually Impaired and Blind Californians chapter of the CCB.
ARTICLE IV. Membership
Section 1. Any resident of the state of California who has attained the age of sixteen years is eligible to become a voting member of this organization upon compliance with the provisions set forth in this Constitution and the chapter Bylaws.
Section 2. The Visually Impaired and Blind Californians chapter of the CCB shall have three classes of members:
A. Active Members: These members shall have all rights and privileges including making motions, speaking from the floor, serving on committees, voting, and holding any office in this organization. Sighted Active Members however, shall not have the privilege of holding the offices of President or Vice-President. The majority of all Active Members shall be legally blind or visually impaired.
B. Associate Members: Any person having a particular interest in forwarding the purposes of this organization and the welfare of the blind or visually impaired but who is unable to attend meetings may become an Associate Member. Associate Members shall have all rights and privileges of Active Members except those of voting and holding any office.
C. Honorary Members: Any person who shall be deemed by a two-thirds vote of the members present and voting to merit such recognition may become an Honorary Member. Honorary Members have all rights and privileges of Active Members except those of voting and holding any office.
Section 3. Membership Procedure: The name of any person desiring membership in this organization shall be presented to the chapter for its approval at a regularly scheduled meeting with a quorum present, and when the candidate has attended at least two of three consecutive meetings. A majority vote of the members present shall determine the outcome.
Section 4. Membership Obligations: Members shall be in good standing upon regular payment of dues and upon continuous conduct befitting the dignity of this organization.
ARTICLE V. Meetings
There shall be a regular meeting each month. The President may call a special meeting if he or she deems it necessary, provided that at least fifteen days notice is given to the membership. A special meeting can also be called by two-thirds of the membership. At any meeting, a simple majority of active members must be present, including three officers, to constitute a quorum and to transact business. .
ARTICLE VI. Officers and Their Duties
The officers of this organization shall be: President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The President and Vice Presidents must be legally blind. The terms of office for all officers shall be two years and no officer can serve more than two two-year terms. Officers shall be elected at the regular November meeting of each even numbered year, and shall assume office on the first day of January of the following year. Any officer who has held the same position for two consecutive terms shall be barred from continuing in that position for a period of two years from the date the last term ended.
The duties of each officer shall be those usually ascribed to the office.
ARTICLE VII. Committees
The Executive Board of this organization shall consist of the five Constitutional officers, of which two-thirds must be legally blind. The President shall be the chairperson and call to order all meetings of the Board. All Board members should be present to conduct a meeting, however, the President may poll the Board by mail or by phone. The President shall appoint all other committees as necessary or by a vote of the membership.
ARTICLE VIII. Affiliation
This organization shall be affiliated with the California Council of the Blind. One delegate and one alternate delegate to the conventions of the CC shall be elected at the regular November meeting of each year. No member holding an elected office shall be disqualified from holding the position of delegate or alternate to the CCB conventions.
ARTICLE IX. Amendments
Section 1. Constitution: The Constitution may be amended by a majority vote of the Active Members of this organization. A proposed amendment must be read at one meeting and voted on at the next regular meeting at which a quorum is present.
Section 2. By-Laws: The By-Laws may be amended by a majority of the members present and voting at any regular meeting in which a quorum is present.
A vote by proxy shall at no time be permitted.
ARTICLE X. Dissolution
An affirmative vote of three-fourths of the total Active Members of this organization shall be required for dissolution. In the event of dissolution, the treasury of this organization shall revert to the parent organization, CCB.
ARTICLE XI. Parliamentary Authority
Any situation not provided for in this Instrument shall be resolved in accordance with the latest edition of Robert's Rules of Order.
ARTICLE I. Dues
Section 1. The fiscal year is from January 1 to December 31.
Section 2. All Active and Associate Members shall pay annual dues of $10. Dues shall be payable at the regular November meeting and shall be considered delinquent at the close of the following February meeting. Any member who allows his or her dues to become delinquent shall be removed from the roll and no longer considered a member in good standing. If that member desires to regain membership, the procedures set forth in Article IV, Section 3 of this organization s Constitution, must be followed.
Section 3. Honorary Members shall be free of the obligation of dues payments.
ARTICLE II. Officers
Section 1. If a vacancy occurs in the office of President, the 1st and 2nd Vice Presidents shall immediately assume the positions of President and Vice President, respectively.
Section 2. If a vacancy occurs in any other office or CCB delegate or alternate delegate, a special election to fill the vacancy shall be held at the next regular meeting or at a special meeting if the President or the Chapter deems it necessary.
Section 3. The President shall appoint three persons to act as a Nominating Committee at the regular September meeting of each election year, and these members shall present a slate of nominees at the following October meeting. Nominations from the floor will be accepted during the regular November meeting where elections will commence. There shall be no restrictions as to the number of offices to which any candidate can be nominated, except as provided for in Article V of this organization's Constitution.
Nominees from the floor must be present or have indicated in writing beforehand, that they wish to run for the office in question.
ARTICLE III. Finances
Section 1. The funds of this organization shall be deposited in a bank chosen by the President and the Treasurer. All financial obligations of $10 or more shall be discharged by check issued on the order of the President or voted upon by the Chapter and signed by the President and Treasurer. Payment of obligations for less than $10 may be made from a fund of petty cash, which shall not exceed $10, or in a manner chosen by the membership.
Section 2. The majority of the members present and voting must approve all disbursements from the treasury when presented at a regular or special meeting.
Section 3. All reasonable expenses of both the delegate and the alternate delegate to conventions of the CCB may be paid by this organization. The amounts may vary and must be determined and voted upon by the membership prior to conventions.
AGENDA FOR GENERAL meeting:
Call meeting to order: (note time.)
Invocation: (this agenda item is optional; some chapters appoint a Chaplain to perform Invocations and/or Benedictions at a variety of meetings or other functions such as a Christmas Dinner.)
Pledge of Allegiance: (optional)
Roll Call: (Make sure you acknowledge visiting guests.)
Guest Speaker(s): (If one is scheduled.)
Minutes of previous meeting
Board Recommendations: (Items that were recommended by the Board of Directors to be presented to the membership for approval.)
Correspondence: (Any items of interest received by the President or Secretary that might be shared with the membership.)
Old Business: (Ongoing business that has not reached its conclusion.)
New Business: (Items to be introduced for consideration or commencement.)
Public Comment or Open Forum
Drawing: (Raffles, door prizes, etc.)
Adjournment: (note time.)
Agenda for Board Meeting
Call meeting to order: (note time.)
Minutes of previous meeting
Adjournment: (note time.)
Avocation and Education
By Jane Kardas
Barrier Awareness Day is an annual event in which I have personally participated since 1997. The event brings a broad range of decision-makers from all levels of government, together with the disabled, in order that civil leaders might experience the barriers that persons with disabilities face on a daily basis. The community leaders are known as the participants of the day, and the disabled persons are known as the guides. There are three disability groups represented: people who are mobility impaired, visually impaired, and hearing impaired. Participants and Guides are randomly matched through a system called the Lottery of Life. The participant assumes the role of the disability that he or she has drawn for that day. Needless to say, my participant's disability was visual impairment. We proceeded to fill our day with normal activities.
Together we took public transportation to his place of employment, had a television interview, and had lunch, which he discovered to be quite a challenge. In the beginning he was extremely resistant and frightened, but by day's end he had relaxed. He told me he is a religious man, and had prayed all night to draw any disability except blindness. I find that blindness is the most feared disability.
We have met on several occasions since our day together and he has told me how his experience with vision loss has changed his life and attitude towards blindness. My partner told me that his experience that day has literally opened his eyes. He often addresses large audiences and shares this experience with them. He has joined our Barrier Awareness Day committee and has become one of our strongest advocates. This is an example of how advocacy can be very rewarding. Of the many causes I advocate for, I find barrier awareness one of the most gratifying, as well as educational.
The California Connection: News and information updates on a weekly basis are available on this toll-free line, 800-221-6359. This bulletin is available evenings after 5:00 p.m. and all day on weekends and holidays. You will hear a variety of things on this bulletin such as: chapter news, legislation, buy and sell, and much more.
The Washington Connection: the American Council of the Blind's toll free number, 800-424-8666, offers a national version of this service. Federal Legislation,
ACB information, and convention updates are available. The bulletin is available from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday, and all day on weekends and holidays.
CCB_L Listserv: The CCB maintains an email listserv where you can find daily announcements of interest to the blind and visually impaired of California, and a weekly legislative report is also issued. To subscribe to this listserv send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave everything else blank and simply send the message. You will get a response to this message and your reply will confirm your subscription.
ACB_L: The American Council of the Blind also maintains a similar listserv. To subscribe, send an email message to: email@example.com
. In the body put the words: subscribe acb_l.
Web Sites: We offer our own website complete with copies of The Blind Californian, legislative information, and CCB updates. The site is located on the affiliate page of acb.org or you can get directly to our page at www.ccbnet.org.
The website for the American Council of the Blind is: www.ac.org.
Legislative Home Pages: The home page for the California Senate is: www.sen.ca.gov and the Assembly's is: www.leginfo.ca.gov.
Important Phone Numbers
California Government Information Line: 916-322-9900.
California Legislative Bill Room: (bills at no cost: 916-445-2323.
For any additional information, contact:
Frank Welte, Director of CCB Governmental Affairs
Telephone: (916) 441-2100
Fax: (916) 441-2188
Email Frank Welte
Jeff Thom, President:
Email Jeff Thom
Back to Top