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Archaeopolitics

Judy Bense

The SAA Government Affairs Committee continues to be active in the political arena by mobilizing specific issue teams drawn from the membership to address legislative and regulatory issues and by increasing information exchange among Capitol Hill representatives, SAA staff, and the archaeological community's grassroots constituency.

At the state and local levels, the grassroots support network for government affairs (once known as COPA) is almost completed. The organization is now called the Government Affairs Network State Representatives (GANSRs). The primary responsibilities for the GANSRs are to serve as key links to the archaeological community for the SAA government affairs manager and to disseminate SAA government affairs information to state archaeological societies through submissions to newsletters and email networks. As of September, there were 40 active GANSRs. The goal is to have a member for each of the remaining 10 states by the 1997 annual meeting.

Communication is essential to politics, and it is much faster and less expensive within the government affairs program now because it is almost exclusively electronic. In light of some of the fast-moving initiatives we experienced last year, the committee has initiated periodic government affairs updates, based on SAA Government Affairs Manager Donald Craib's reports to the committee chairman. The updates, edited and distributed by the chairman, keep the GANSRs informed about issues before Congress and what SAA is doing. GANSRs then send the updates to archaeological society newsletters in their states and post them on email networks. The updates are relatively short -- one to three pages -- and cover current issues pending in Washington. They are also sent to the SAA leadership. Two updates were sent in the summer and one in September, and they will continue throughout the year. The well-received updates seem to be an effective way to inform the profession about current issues in our nation's capital.

The Government Affairs Committee has initiated an open forum at the SAA annual meeting to keep the general SAA membership informed about government affairs and SAA's position on the issues, and to attract more members to our efforts. The first forum was at the 1996 New Orleans annual meeting and was entitled "Washington Politics: What the Heck Is Going on and What Can We Do about It?" The forum panel consisted of current leaders in SAA government affairs who presented short summaries of recent political events in Washington and forecasted the future. The audience asked questions and shared information and suggestions on topics of concern. The forum was very well attended, and members were active participants in a lively discussion following the panelists' summaries.

A second forum is planned for the 1997 meeting in Nashville, with the focus on what we can expect from the 105th Congress. Panelists will include SAA President Bill Lipe, President-elect Vin Steponaitis, Executive Board member Donna Seifert, Preservation Action President Nellie Longsworth, and a senior congressional aide from the Tennessee delegation.

The government affairs program also seeks to improve communications across the board by opening committee meetings at the SAA annual meeting to all GANSRs and committee advisors. We tried this in New Orleans and found it much more productive with input and discourse from a group of 40-45 members interested in government affairs. Many people met each other for the first time, and the group became much more cohesive. This meeting format will be continued in Nashville.

The simultaneous beginning of a new SAA government affairs program and the 104th Congress demanded a quick pace for organizing the government affairs program and grassroots network. On the completion of the 104th Congress, the Government Affairs Committee will conduct the first ArchaeoPolitics Summit in Washington in early 1997 to review the lessons learned from the 104th Congress and develop our strategies for the 105th.

Judy Bense is chair of the Government Affairs Committee.


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