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Legislative Advocacy. By Brad Meurrens, MPA Public Policy Specialist and registered lobbyist, Nebraska Advocacy Services, Inc. Presented to Leadership Training for Disability Advocates 2006-2007. Strategies for Effective Advocacy. RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

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legislative advocacy
Legislative Advocacy

By Brad Meurrens, MPA

Public Policy Specialist and registered lobbyist,

Nebraska Advocacy Services, Inc.

Presented to

Leadership Training for Disability Advocates


strategies for effective advocacy
Strategies for Effective Advocacy


Build a relationship with your senator(s) and other policymakers (for example, Mayor, City Council, other governmental officials)

“Greases the wheels” of communication (it’s a 2-way street)

Starts to build trust

Lets them know you exist and you have valuable information

Enables you and your senator to understand each other’s position(s) and viewpoint

strategies for effective advocacy3
Strategies for Effective Advocacy


Effective advocacy also requires communicating with your senator(s) and other policymakers

Without communication, policymakers won’t have complete information and won’t know your perspective

Communication should be on-going—follow up

Many different methods (for example testifying at a hearing, meetings with senator(s), writing letters/phone call/fax)

Power in numbers—the more a senator hears about a certain issue, the better your chances of “winning”

strategies for effective advocacy4
Strategies for Effective Advocacy


Advocacy represents the means to add your input into the policymaking process

Data drives policy, but only gives a certain picture of reality

Good policy accounts for reality, how policies impact people “on the ground”

Information and information diversity is essential to creating effective policy

what is advocacy
What is Advocacy

Advocacy is an exercise in relationship building

Advocacy is all about communication

Advocacy is providing your perspective or point-of-view to an issue of interest to you in an effort to influence or advance policy outcomes or attitudes

strategies for effective advocacy6
Strategies for Effective Advocacy

Set goals

What do you want to happen?

What are the essential things that have to happen—what are the essential components of the new policy that will satisfy you?

What do you want the policymaker to do?

Is this something that he/she can do? Who is the appropriate person to address the issue?

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need”

strategies for effective advocacy7
Strategies for Effective Advocacy

Communicate strategically

Have a plan of what you want to say to policymaker

Tell them what you want them to do and why

Make sure your points and solutions make sense, are consistent, and are within his/her authority

You only have 15 minutes or so, so try not to go too far off-topic

Provide good rationale for your demand

Make sure you can back up your statements

Bring in outside information if you can

Be prepared to answer questions or defend your position—think ahead about what opponents might claim

strategies for effective advocacy8
Strategies for Effective Advocacy

Stay informed

Stay current on the issue(s)

Any new information you come across

Where the bill is in the legislative process

Any amendments? By whom?





strategies for effective advocacy9
Strategies for Effective Advocacy

Follow up with policymaker

Keep in contact

Lets them know you’re watching

Holds them accountable

Makes you better able to respond to new developments

Reinforces that relationship

Policymakers see you as a resource

strategies for effective advocacy10
Strategies for Effective Advocacy

Keep in touch with advocacy organizations

You don’t have to do all the heavy lifting

Prevents burnout

Access to information and updates

Benefits them, too

Widens their information and resource base

Allows easier coordination to bring “strength in numbers” to the public dialogue (for example a legislative hearing—LB 1248, LB 1083)

strategies for effective advocacy11
Strategies for Effective Advocacy

Strength in numbers

Legislative pressure (e.g., votes, calls, letters, testimony) LB 1083

Display (e.g., lots of support shown during hearings, rallies, meetings) LB 1248

Unlikely to get success right out of the chute

Process takes time, need to build support—sometimes you have to hit the wall a few times before it comes crashing down

things to keep in mind regarding legislative advocacy
Things to keep in mind regarding Legislative Advocacy

1 person can make a difference

Landis adoption records bill proves

1 letter can make a difference

LB 770 foster care children bill proves

LB 1069

1 coalition can make a difference

LB 1248 amendments prove

1 senator can make a difference

LB 1069

200 voices can make a difference

LB 1083 & LB 1248 prove

LB1100 phone calls

things to keep in mind regarding legislative advocacy13
Things to keep in mind regarding Legislative Advocacy

Develop coping mechanisms

Burnout and frustration BAD

tips to get you started
Tips To Get You Started

Search for advocacy organizations in your area or statewide

Get on listservs and internet groups


Subscribe to the NE Planning Council on DD’s “Newsline” mailing list sharonbartak@hhss.ne.gov (or call Sharon at 402 471-2230.)


Get familiar with the Unicameral Website


Bill Tracker Service from Unicameral


tips to get you started15
Tips To Get You Started

Set up a meeting with your senator

Find out who he/she is on the Unicameral website: http://www.unicam.state.ne.us/senators/index.htm

Casual, get-to-know-each-other meeting, coffee or lunch perhaps

Remember— Senators are people, too!

No intimidation factor—you are the experts

“Senator” is just a title

They don’t know everything, so help them out

They are public servants—the public is their boss

They don’t grill citizens at hearings, only lobbyists and government department heads

who s advocating
Who’s Advocating?

Nebraska Advocacy Services


The Arc of Nebraska


Nebraska Statewide Independent Living Council (NESILC)


The Nebraska Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities

-- www.hhs.state.ne.us/ddplanning/

National Alliance for Mental Illness


Mental Health Association


who s advocating17
Who’s Advocating?

Center for People in Need


Munroe-Meyer Institute


The Kim Foundation


Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law


Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest


Additional Information and Resources


The Arc of Nebraska

The Arc of Lincoln/Lancaster County, Teri Roberts, Ex. Dir. (402) 421-8866

The Arc of Norfolk (Norfolk) Leslie Bishop Hartung, Ex. Dir. (402) 379-1160

The Arc of Omaha Laurie Ackermann, Ex. Dir. (402) 346-5220

The Arc of Platte County Columbus)

Tammy Augustine, Ex. Dir. (402) 564-6673

The Arc of-Sarpy (Bellevue)

Arc - Saunders (Wahoo)

The Arc of Seward County (Seward)

The Arc of Southeast (Auburn)

The Arc of Southwest (McCook) Linda Koch, Ex. Dir. (308) 278-2788

of Nebraska

1672 Van Dorn St.

Lincoln, NE 68502

  • The Arc of Nebraska is committed to helping children and adults with disabilities secure opportunities to choose and realize their goals where they learn, live, work and play.
  • The Arc of Nebraska provides:
  • Information and action on statewide issues for people with developmental disabilities
  • Focus, a quarterly newsletter
  • Web site with resource links
  • Annual Senatorial Appreciation Dinner
  • Annual state convention
  • Legislative lobbying, Action Alerts and Updates
  • Systems Advocacy in regulations, policies and practices including special education, developmental disability support and Medicaid
  • Referrals and a lending library
  • Information about developmental disabilities services and certified providers.

Patty McGill Smith, President

Deborah Weston, Executive Director

Fax: (402) 475-0214



Local Chapters

The Arc of Adams-Clay (Hastings)

The Arc of Buffalo County (Kearney)Cynthia Archwamety, (308) 237-4343

The Arc of Central Nebraska (Grand Island)

ARC-Cheyenne (Sidney)

The Arc of Colfax County ) The Arc of Custer County (Broken Bow) Carol Jones, Ex. Dir. (308) 872-6081

The Arc of Elkhorn Valley (West Point)

The Arc of Hamilton-Merrick (Aurora)

The Arc of the United States

The Arc of the United States works to include all children and adults with cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities in every community.