The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2014 - page 62

62
JULY-AUGUST 2014
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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
AFSA NEWS
AFSA ON THE HILL
Who Said It’s All About Congress?
BY JAVIER CUEBAS, DIRECTOR OF ADVOCACY
People sometimes make the
assumption that congression-
al leaders and their staff will
disregard state legislatures
and city councils when
strategizing about public
policy. The truth is quite the
opposite. Because members
of Congress are elected
officials, many of them pay
very close attention to local
elected officials and commu-
nity activists when making
decisions.
As former Speaker of the
House Tip O’Neill used to say,
“All politics is local.”What
does that mean for Foreign
Service employees and their
families?
Many of the issues that
affect FS employees and
their families are directly
related to local laws and
their interpretation. When
it comes to local taxes,
residency, driver’s licenses
or plate registration, for
example, our members often
find themselves in a predica-
ment.
How many of you know
or have heard of colleagues
who received a bill for taxes
they did not owe from a
jurisdiction where they are
not domiciled? And what
about choosing a domicile?
I’m sure you’ve all got some
stories to tell on that subject.
The most common com-
plaint is about equity: Why is
it that FS employees do not
enjoy the same guarantees
and rights as their brothers
and sisters in uniform? How
can this be fixed?
More often than not, these
challenges are based on a
lack of information about the
reality of the Foreign Service
profession by federal, state
and local officials. Aware
of that reality and commit-
ted to effecting positive
change through a proactive
approach to public policy,
the AFSA Advocacy Depart-
ment is working with several
AFSA members to help them
advocate for themselves,
and in some cases we can
help them get regulations
changed.
Two quick examples come
fromWisconsin and Virginia.
In Wisconsin we are working
with one of our members to
promote changes to the state
law that deals with driver’s
licenses, to ensure that FS
employees on orders receive
the same treatment as
military personnel. And in Vir-
ginia, the General Assembly
recently passed House Joint
Resolution 406 commending
AFSA on its 90th anniversary.
Both of these initiatives
are aimed at educating
elected officials about your
reality, the Foreign Service
career and life. No matter
how worthy the cause, people
are unlikely to support it if
they do not know you or your
circumstances.
So the first step to
address the challenges that
affect FS employees is to
tell your stories to elected
officials at every level, to
remind them that your job
has a positive impact on their
communities and that you
and your family are part of
those same communities.
These state and local
initiatives are part of AFSA’s
efforts to tell your story while
promoting partnerships with
locally elected and appointed
officials. At the end of the
day, it is not always about
Congress.
Feel free to share your
story and any challenges you
or your family may be facing.
Send an email to advocacy@
afsa.org. We are here to help.
Remember that you are our
greatest asset, and elected
officials know it!
—Javier S. Cuebas,
Director of Advocacy
Foreign Service Park Cleanup
The Congressional Black Associates, the American
Foreign Service Association and a local Washington, D.C.,
flag football group, Routelife, teamed up on Saturday, May
31, to clean up the Foreign Service Park opposite AFSA
headquarters in downtown Washington. The group of vol-
unteers spent the morning picking up trash and restoring
the park before congregating at AFSA for networking and
refreshments.
—David Murimi, AFSA Senior Legislative Assistant and
Andrew Keyes, Legislative Correspondent, Office of
Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.)
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