This year’s General Assembly session, which officially began January 31st, will be unlike any other we’ve had in our lifetime. With 52 first term members (and 44 second termers), well over half of the members are relatively new to lawmaking. And with Republican control of all three branches of state government, the direction of state policies will surely take a more fiscally and socially conservative tone.
These two factors—new people and new ideology—means the substance abuse community should tailor legislative outreach to these realities. For one, it means personal outreach will be especially important for legislators who may not be familiar with the good work our programs do. To the extent possible, setting up facility tours and personal meetings with those in recovery can be especially impactful. Second, our tone should shift. Members should consider emphasizing the economic consequences of addiction and the positive economic benefits of successful treatment.
During this legislative session, we’ll be providing regular updates on legislation, email alerts about pending bills and education sessions about advocacy efforts that fit our needs and comply with our tax status parameters.
APNC members have a positive nonpartisan message to tell. But in order to do it successfully, we have make sure to start the discussions where they are, not where we are. These are difficult times and decisions around health reform, Medicaid funding and other key issues will be made with our without our input. If we speak regularly and we speak well, our voices will be heard.