Becoming A Policy Advocate – How To Make Your Voice Heard On Laws That Affect You
How To Make Your Voice Heard On Laws That Affect You
Each of us at some time in our lives has become outraged when hearing of a new bill being introduced by our legislator(s). Even worse and because of that bill, we hear that a new law has been enacted and will become effective in the near future. How the heck did that happen we might ask? I didn’t even know that kind of law was up for consideration you might think. It seems sometimes that all of a sudden we’re to abide by this new law whether we like it or not. I can assure you, it didn’t happen suddenly and you had the power to do something about it. There are three important things you can do to make sure your voice is heard.
Policy Advocate – Education about the political process is crucial towards an understanding on how policy becomes law. Most of us know that at the National level of the United States, we have a President, a Vice President and staff that are supposed to work towards protecting the public interest. There are three governing branches in our democratic system; Executive (the President and staff), Judicial (Supreme Court) and the Legislative (Congress-the decision-makers on legislation/law). It is the legislative branch that will be the focus of this article. Education on the political processes of government will bring about the second most important thing you can do to make your voice heard on the potential passage of laws that will affect you.
Policy Advocate – How did that law get passed and why didn’t you know about it? It would be negligent not to mention that some proposed bills are worded and designed to confuse or hide the actual intent of the bill. Often, bills are routed through the House of Representatives and the Senate with the intention of sneaking the bill through towards being passed in an effort to keep it from gaining significant attention. Your education and awareness of policy will train you to read bills from a critical perspective. Every bill or proposed piece of legislation is available for reading by the public (both on the National and Local levels). Becoming aware of what a bill really intends to change and what its purposes are is up to you to critically analyze. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and become aware. It is only then that we can take action.
Policy Advocate – Let’s talk about one example of a bill being proposed at the National level. Senate Bill, SA1379 has been introduced to require “certain dietary supplement manufacturers to report certain serious adverse events”. What does this REALLY say? What does this bill actually intend to do? What is its purpose? Education and awareness will take you into the text of this bill with knowledge and a critical eye. Then you can make an informed and responsible decision.
Becoming an advocate on any policy issue requires determination and passion. After education and analysis of any particular piece of legislation we can decide to accept the bill or reject it. If you accept or agree that a proposed bill should be enacted and made law you can sit back and let it run its due course. If, however, you reject a policy and find it unfair, objectionable or unjust, it’s time to take action.
Policy advocates take action in several ways. They can be individuals or groups. They either attempt to improve existing policy, establish new policy or make attempts to defeat existing policy. They act. No matter the effort, if you want to change laws, you will need some tips on how to create the change you wish to see implemented.
To become effective change advocates we must first understand that changing policy can often be extremely challenging and difficult work. You may encounter opposition at every turn. You may find very few others that support your position or values. On the other hand, there may be many people that want to join in your effort to change a policy or law. If you are truly passionate about an issue and believe it needs to be changed, the rewards of your efforts could be many. The most important thing to remember is that it takes only one person to start the process for change but you will need support. Let’s talk about how you can begin.
Policy Advocate – Educating Yourself On The Law
After educating yourself on the actual bill you wish to challenge, having some general knowledge of how a bill becomes law will become just as important. The best place to begin is in understanding your own state/local legislative process.
- Find out who your senator and representatives are in your voting district
- Visit your state capitol.
- Spend a day at the capitol and watch the senate as they vote on proposed bills.
- Make an appointment to meet with your legislators, senator or representative to discuss your opposition or concern around a bill
- Never doubt your power as a voter
- Many states set up specific days for round tables, discussions. Presentations around specific bills or issues. Find your passion, a bill that interests you and join in on the open forums.
Taking a day to familiarize yourself with the legislative process will guide you on how to effectively advocate for the bill or policy you want changed. Simply put, it will show you how things are done. It will arm you with the information you need to challenge what you believe to be right. There are other ways to safeguard your rights when it comes to policy.
- Keep your legislator’s addresses, emails, and phone numbers handy and communicate with them on a regular basis. Just a note: Some are saying that e-mail is becoming less effective. Legislators and public servants receive many e-mails on a daily basis; yours could get lost, ignored or easily overlooked in the avalanche.
- Look up your state’s legislative web page. A wealth of information is available there and most are user friendly. This resource is an educational tool loaded with what bills are currently being introduced in that legislative session, how to contact your representatives, the status on all bills currently being considered as well as some older ones from past sessions to name just a few.
While this is not an exhaustive and complete list of things you can do, it is a beginning. Becoming educated on the ways of law and rule making, staying aware of those bills that could affect you or your loved ones and taking action will insure you that you tried to do something. Sometimes all of the advocacy and action in the universe won’t change policy but wouldn’t it be fulfilling to know that you took some part in trying to effect a change? You took part in something you believe.
You could, without knowing how huge the impact was going to be, have helped millions of your fellow Americans or state citizens. Take the time to know what’s going on in the political process. It is your right to protect yourself from policy that could harm. It’s our obligation to help others not to be harmed as well.