Even though summer has a more relaxed feel than other seasons, for lobbying it’s a very important time. Right now at both the state and federal levels, legislators are getting ready to take a summer break. But before they go, they usually have both state and federal budgets to complete.
See, most governments work on fiscal years that run July 1 to June 30. Their money calendars don’t go January 1 to December 31. I know, at one time it made sense to do it this way, and it’s how they still do it. So, before they recess for summer, they have to finalize budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. Once these budgets are submitted and passed (which takes time too) then there’s really no asking for additional funding in a certain area until next fiscal year. Now is the time to get in that last plea or voice your request.
So, I’m asking all of you to do a last couple of emails, last few phone calls and even a last few walk-ins to offices if you can. Here is a review of some issues you can talk about:
Federal issues: disabilities and special education
We want them to support the ABLE act.
We want the full 40% funding of IDEA 1975.
We do NOT want Congress to cut any money from special education.
This is just for starters–if you do a search on “to-do” on this site, you’ll see all the previous posts.
We want kids in special education to be held to the same criteria as their non-disabled peers.
Pennsylvania issues in special education
We are happy that HB2 (now known as Act 3) passed. However, we do not want any more cutting of state funding of special education. It has already gone down from 48% to about 33% under this Governor.
We want the “burden of proof” issue in regards to Due Process hearings changed.
We want more done about the “black hole of 21” that happens to our kids.
What to do
Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never done this before. Take a deep breath and say “I’m going to do this” and it will be over in minutes. Really.
1. Know if your issue is state or federal.
2. Know your legislators–make sure you are contacting the correct person (State Senator vs a US Senator) because State Senators can’t do anything about Federal issues and vice-versa. Additionally, they only want to hear from their constituents–so don’t call people that you can’t vote for.
3. Find your legislator and drop an email, write a letter or make a phone call. If you’re feeling really brave, look up where their local office is and drop in or call to schedule a visit. In most cases, you will only meet with their staff anyway, not the actual person. Same goes for phone calls–they’ll just take your information and pass it along.
4. Find a few issues that you are passionate about, and learn them.
5. Make a note card (if you’re calling or dropping by) with your main talking points.
6. If you go in person, try to take your kids with you. Of course, be polite. State your name, where you live and why you stopped by today. “I just want Congressman/Senator so-and-so to know that there are a few issues that are really important to me…….” Then state them. Give personal stories about how your family is affected.
7. That’s it! Pat yourself on the back for speaking up for our kids.