How to Use the Advocacy Toolkit to Influence Policy at the State Level

With Congress out on April recess this week, I think it’s the perfect time to delve into AALL’s new Advocacy Toolkit for the 111th Congress and share some ideas for how individuals and chapters can get more involved in influencing policy making at the state level.

If you’ve explored the Advocacy Toolkit already, you know that chapter 4 is dedicated to helping chapters form effective legislative committees. Section 4.3 explains how chapters can influence policy at both the federal and state levels by creating partnerships with the AALL Government Relations Committee (GRC) and Government Relations Office, monitoring legislation, and getting to know the local politics and players so that you can take action when it’s required. In this Blawg post, I’ll offer some easy tips to help chapters and individuals join our Advocacy Team by becoming effective advocates on the state level.

First, find out the dates of your legislative session. Make sure you know when it begins, how long it lasts, and any other unique information about your state legislature.

Second, make sure you know your representatives, and know them well! Find out their educational background, whether or not they have a J.D. (if so, they may already have an understanding of some of our key issues), and what they do when they’re not acting as your legislators (i.e., what is their other profession?). After you answer those basic questions, dive a little deeper. What issues are important to them? What committee assignments do they have?

Third, find out what issues are at the top of the legislature’s agenda. For many, given the current economic crisis, important programs may be cut. Read local newspapers for some ideas and find out if there are local blogs that track issues in your state’s legislature.

Fourth, explore your state legislature’s Web site (if you don’t already know the URL, you can find the link on the Web site of the National Conference of State Legislatures). If the Web site provides RSS feeds or email alerts, sign up for them so that you can stay in the loop.

While you’re there, try searching for the following keywords to find relevant legislation you may want to track:

  • County Law Libraries
  • State depository library program
  • Digital authentication
  • Preservation
  • Public access
  • Freedom of information
  • Privacy

Finally, if there is a bill you’re tracking, please send a summary of the issue to the AALL Advocacy Listserv so that listserv members can exchange information and share stories about what’s happening in their states. The Advocacy Listserv is open to AALL members and chapters.

In addition, please send the links to your state legislature and any free bill tracking service, as well as any tips on how you keep track of bills in your state, to the Listserv. GRC Chair Steve Mirsky is compiling a list of free online bill tracking services, and he’d love to hear from you.

I hope this gives you an idea of some of the ways that you can influence policy in your state.  I encourage you to explore the Advocacy Toolkit for more information about AALL’s advocacy work, ideas for action, bills we’re tracking at the federal level, and more. If you follow these easy steps, you’ll be an expert advocate in no time!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

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