Networking for Advocacy...Getting to Know Your Legislators
The mission of the Virginia Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons is to advocate the best quality eye care through education, legislative efforts and community service.
Advocacy is as much a part of practicing medicine as patient care.
Virginia's Legislature is unique
Kevin Scott, MD, Virginia Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons Fellow and Virginia's Councilor to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, discusses the importance of getting to know your state legislators. As he points out, planning and action prior to the General Assembly session is key.
State Legislative Sessions: In the Commonwealth of Virginia our yearly legislative session is compressed into two months starting the first week of January and finished by the first week of March. During this narrow two-month window the expected number of bills (per year) is approximately 3300. As such, you can see why the legislators are overwhelmed when they try to decide the merits of over 1500 bills per month. The details that are important relative to medicine and/or ophthalmology are easily missed by our legislators secondary to the speed and noise of the session. The time to educate the legislators is not during the narrow 2-month window each year, but to have regular and active involvement with your legislator even if it is just to write a thank you note to them for either their vote on a particular legislation or their previous support.
Virginia is in the minority relative to the rest of the Country in that our legislative session is heavily compressed with less than a handful of states having shorter legislative windows. The time to get involved is now and it is best to find out who your legislators are, so you can establish a working relationship well in advance of January 2009 legislative session. If you need help in determining who your legislators are, please feel free to contact our executive director, Chrissy Cannaday at 804-261-9890 or email@example.com. You can also contact our lobbyist, Cal Whitehead at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-644-4424.
Whether our issues are on our neighborhood block or in Congress, the individual advocate is the most critical factor in the eventual success of our issues. Without advocates taking action, our issues will never meet with success, regardless of what arena they are in.
As an Eye MD Advocate:
1. Develop a relationship with your legislator -- TRUST, PARTNERSHIP are key!
2. Remember, it is not what is the "important" or "the right thing" to do -- it is
WHO tells him/her the information!
3. Understand that change is incremental.
4. Legislators are human beings.
5. Legislators avoid activities that are unpleasant.
6. Having a relationship with a legislator that precedes the "ASK" makes it much easier.
7. Remember KISS -- keep is short and sweet.
8. Know your opposition -- give the legislator both sides of the issue.
For other tips on working with your legislator, click here.