By Kodey Toney
Make A Change
Several organizations banded together last week to bring a very informative conference into the area. The Joining Forces Institute was held to help families learn better ways to work within your community to help your child achieve a good life. There were several aspects to this event, but one that I want to hit on a little this week was how to partner with your legislators.
I know to many the thought of talking to politicians is just mind-numbing. We wonder, “Why should I even talk to them, how do I approach them, how do I even get in touch with them, and what good does it do?” All of these are valid questions, but I encourage you to talk to them.
Let me try to explain a few of these questions the best I know how.
Many legislators are very busy trying to understand the laws and many bills that are passing through their offices every day. They take the time to vote on the aspects that they feel compassionate about, and vote for or against the things that they feel will most affect their constituents, or at least that’s the theory.
So how do they know what to vote for? You! You are the voice that can let them know what is important to you and your family. They will not know what problems you have, or what your views on a subject are if you don’t let them know. They have several organizations, businesses, and institutions that lobby to them, or feed them their insight, every day. However, they rarely get calls from everyday citizens like you and me. When they do it is most likely to complain about something or to find answers to questions they could find within their communities.
What they really need is your insight on how the laws and regulations, or lack thereof, affect your everyday life. They want to know whether what they are going to pass is good or bad for your family. They really do want to help the largest amount of constituents with the things that will make lives better.
If there are not bills or laws already on the books to help then their job is to create those regulations if they feel it is important to the citizens of this state. They need your input to help guide those laws. We have to let them know that the budgets that they are cutting for healthcare providers are affecting the way we live our lives. It is disturbing the level and amount of care that we are receiving for your loved ones with disabilities. They have a tough job when dealing with these decisions, but will never know what it will do to you if you don’t tell them.
So how do you approach them? This can seem intimidating at times, but you have to remember that they are just humans like you and me. In fact, they are our neighbors. They live in the same communities and share the same services. They shop at the same stores that we do. Just talk to them like you would anyone else, but be quick and to the point. Understand that they have limited time. They need to know about you, your family, and what concerns you have in less than five minutes. We were taught in Partners in Policymaking to do a two-minute punch. Let them know all they need to in two minutes or less.
Getting in touch with your legislators may be easier than you think. All states have a list of their elected officials that include biographies and contact information. In fact, Oklahoma’s site is http://www.oklegislature.gov/. For my Arkansas readers you will visit http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/.
What good does it do? Well, you would be surprised. As I said before, most legislators have no idea that certain things are available, that certain problems are affecting you, and that they can make the changes to help if you don’t talk to them. Don’t think that someone else is going to tell them. They are probably thinking the same thing you are, “Someone else will tell them.”
Be proactive. Be the change.