Public Policy Advocacy Webinar
September 28, 2015 - Author: Jean Doss, Megan Masson-Minock
The Michigan Local Food Council Network held a webinar on public policy advocacy on August 6, 2015. Jean Doss, a government affairs consultant, provided an overview of public advocacy on the state level, and Megan Masson-Minock, MLFCN coordinator with ENP & Associates, shared information on effectively advocating at the municipal level.
Megan Masson-Minock: Okay. So, good morning. I'm Megan Masson-Minock. I'm one of the facilitators for the Michigan Local Group Council Network. Welcome, everybody. This is our first webinar. We're going to discuss public policy advocacy. Jean Doss is with us who's a consultant and lobbyist, who's going to give us her words of wisdom about lobbying advocacy at the state legislature. I'm going to chime in on also the [inaudible] level. And at the end we are hopefully going to be able to get [inaudible] from Detroit Group Policy Council, the report back to us on the webinar on urban agriculture. We'll stop occasionally for questions. We're using Zoom for the first times so bear with us. But in principle, everybody should be unmuted so you should be able to, when we get to questions and ask for them, we should be able to -- you should be able to speak. I think we're a small enough group that that will work. Also if you feel free to use the question and answer box. Also I think we have a -- do we have one poll?
Megan Masson-Minock: No, no polls, so maybe next time. And then at the very end we'll have some time to talk about next meetings and network activities. So, with that, I am going to hand it over to Jean Doss who is going to talk about public policy advocacy. And thank you, everybody, for taking the time this morning. Okay.
Jean Doss: And switch sides here?
Megan Masson-Minock: We're going to switch sides.
Jean Doss: Okay. We're going to switch sides.
Megan Masson-Minock: On your presentation, you mean?
Jean Doss: Yeah. Thanks. Well, good morning. How are you all doing? I have to tell you, one of the things about webinars with this particular group is I know I'm speaking to at least, oh, two or three people who could be sitting in this chair right now giving this training. So I hope you'll jump in and let me know, you know, what you'd like to add that's really worthwhile for you in terms of public policy advocacy. So I've been doing this about 24 years. I was an advocate in domestic violence. I worked representing customers of public utility law. And then I kind of fell into a multi-client lobbying firm. I know that sounds strange. I've been on my own for about 10 years, and I represent associations, nonprofits, social justice groups. I've got a few corporations. And as Megan said, I work primarily at the state level. But in all my years of doing advocacy training I really strongly believe that everything that works well, or for that matter doesn't work well at the state level, applies very easily in other settings. I want to -- I'm just so grateful Megan has been here because her expertise is so deep and in many ways the work that the local food policy councils are doing are going to be much more in the area of local municipal government. And so I'm just really grateful that she agreed to work with me on this presentation. So we're looking at sort of strengthening those of you that already have good skills in this. Some of you are newbies. But the question is, how can we become more effective in public policy advocacy? We're going to spend a little bit of time today talking about barriers. I'll be honest with you, to me the biggest barrier of advocacy, at least at state legislative level, is the process itself seems completely mystified. So we're going to spend a few minutes talking about that. Also, and I hope this is where we are able to share with each other, share being the operative term here, is tips and tools for being really effective, so. And then one of the things you received in advance is a worksheet that we're going to talk about in terms of developing or refining what you may already have in your own strategic public house advocacy plan, and that's the worksheet, "Developing a Roadmap for Action." So what's public policy? You know, it really ranges from like it is my policy to always take a nap after lunch. It's something unwritten as a social norm to highly formal laws, case law, judicial decisions, and obviously about state laws. I have to tell this group. It was in a local food council network that I first heard, now don't laugh, this idea of Bit "P" and Little "p," and it baffled me. And I spend a lot of time online. Still trying to figure out where did this come from and what does it mean? And from what I can tell it has to do more with the who, not the what. But Little "p" being organizational guidelines, internal agency decisions. Big "P" being formal laws, rules, and judicial decisions. And I think that it kind of -- it also could come, the Big "P" versus Little "p" can come from groups that feel they can do Little "p", but they can't do Big "P." And I'm not entirely sure again. This is something that because it was part of your vocabulary I feel like I needed to understand it and incorporate it in today's training. And I'm going to sort of go with the idea that it's possible that the idea of Big "P"/Little "p" comes from some folks feeling that they can do the Little "p" but they can't do the Big "P." So let's talk a little bit about Little "p." I think Little 'p" could be another term for advocacy. That's an umbrella term. It includes lobbying. But many, many other activities that have to do with promoting a cause, promoting change both to political and nonpolitical venues. And then there's lobbying. Now lobbying is very, very well-defined in law. It's asking an elected official or an appointed official to vote to act in a very particular way on a specific piece of legislation, rule, ordinance. So, advocacy more of a general term that includes many things including lobbying. Lobbying, very, very specific. Now, some of you by virtue of your employment, by virtue of your funding, have been told, have been threatened, that you cannot lobby. So let's talk about that a little bit. What is not lobbying? Many people confuse any activity in the area of public policy as lobbying, and so they avoid it like a plague. But monitoring public policy making, both within your local municipality or the state legislature, just knowing what's going on is not lobbying. Relationship-building, inviting elected officials, folks that, yes, are lobbyable officials, but inviting them to open house, inviting them to your garden, inviting them to your food hub, that kind of relationship building, not lobbying. Raising awareness and educating officials, none of this is lobbying. So if you look at your funding stream that has lobbying prohibitions, if you look at your employer, if you look at other restrictions you have, it's really important to understand what you can do to raise awareness and educate. Now, I -- and just repeat myself, organizations can involve themselves in issues of public policy without actively being considered as lobbying. Now we're going to spend a few seconds here on State Legislative Process 101. And, again, I've kind of had to think about where these folks are going to be spending most of time. Are they going to be looking at stuff that's happening in the Lansing State Capital? Or are they focusing on their local city council? Are they looking at the township? Are they looking at their county? The fact of the matter is, you know, probably most of them are going to be looking, not at Lansing, but at your local community. However, we do know from the Urban Livestock Report, we do know legislation is going to be coming probably soon. It's going to be looking at the issue or urban farming. And that's going to impact every single council in the state of Michigan. So bear with me as you think this may not be relevant. We want to just be prepared. So consider that, what we're doing right here. Now I'm going to cover the State Capital, the place, the players, the process. Interestingly enough, there's been three capitals. We first had a territorial courthouse in Detroit. There's a rock with a brass plaque there now. Michigan became a state in 1837 and about -- so we had this courthouse/state capital. And then in 1847 the capital moved to Lansing. This is our first Capital Building in Lansing. It was basically a swamp, but it got us away from the north/south/east/west debates, so they chose a swamp that basically nobody really cared about as our State Capital. I love that. And then the cornerstone was laid for the capital as we know it in 1872. I love these old pictures. Bear with me. This is one of my fun activities here. You can see the dome going up. And then you can see the finished capital in 1879. Now, I'm not going to get off track much, but I will tell you some of the early, early women -- oh, we've got somebody -- Oh, okay. Oh, somebody's -- okay. One of the first women activists at the capital, and I'm sorry, I should have come more prepared for that story. But it's interestingly enough. What motivated her to lobby, to come to the capital, was a law that prohibited local communities from accessing fresh fruits and vegetables from anybody other than grocers. And they knew that these grocers in these urban areas were providing not fresh, not high-quality good. And so she was arguing that farmers should be able to come into cities and people should be able to go to farmers. And I just think that's so interesting. When you think about advocacy that food has been at the heart of many groups and what they brought to leaders in Lansing. What's this? Checking for updates. I don't know what you guys are seeing.
Jean Doss: They won't be seeing this? Okay. So, basically, next what we have is -- let me just -- the players. Now it's something you're going to hear to the point where you're sick of it, is effective public policy always comes down to relationships, relationships with the individuals that have the title -- mayor, city council member, state representative, state senator, and their staff. So let's look at who's at the State House. Now, first of all, one of the things that people do a lot is they say, oh, Congresswoman, you know, Congresswoman or Senator Stabenow. Those individuals are in D.C. We have State Representatives and State Senators in Lansing. We have 148 Legislators. In the south end of the Capital Building, in our State Senate, there are 38 members. In the north end there's 110 members. And you can see here just how many Standing Committees and Appropriation Committees we have in both chambers. There are Joint Committees. We have nonpartisan House Fiscal Agencies and Senate Fiscal Agencies. And, of course, then there's the Administration and the Administration's Department. Now right now, we're in the 98th Session. I often will tell people, let's say you turn on a basketball game and you know the two teams that are playing. You can see the score. What's the next thing you want to know? You want to know how much time's left on the clock. And the same thing applies to the Legislature. The Michigan Legislature is full-time. You've heard of other states that have part-time legislatures. We are full-time. We work in two-year blocks. Bills are introduced starting the first day. And I actually had a bill introduced on the last day of a session. My sponsor said, "I don't understand why you want me to do this." But I wanted to do this because you kind of stand near the head of the line the next session to get your bill introduced. But anyways. So bills are introduced throughout those two sessions. And if you're trying to pass a bill, that clock, that shot clock that's running for two years, as it runs out, the clocks are not your friend. As you're trying to kill a bill, as you watch the clock run down on two-year session, the clock is your friend. And in our House, right now it's always really important to understand the political landscape. I was so naive when I got to Lansing. I can't even tell you. I really thought you had to declare Republican/Democrat just to run for office, you know? Just to be on the ballot. And I thought once you were on it, once you were sworn in and came to Lansing, those little D or R, or red or blue, meant nothing. Uh-uh. It is the anatomy of the organization. It's the anatomy of leadership. It's the anatomy of way decisions are made. And right now it is solidly red in Lansing. We have 63 Republicans in the House. We have 27 Republicans, and a microscopic Democratic caucus in the Senate. And, of course, our Governor's Republican. Now I'm showing you pictures of our gorgeous Capital. And I want you to imagine at one time all the state government was in the State Capital. And, in fact, we have the State Supreme Court chambers in the State Capital, which now is used for Senate appropriations. There's actually a Treasurer's Office in the State Capital with a massive bank vault. But, obviously, state government has grown. And in Year 2000, at the corner of Capital and Ottawa, this gorgeous House Office Building was built. And it's named after the first woman to ever serve in the House, Cora Belle Anderson. She was a woman, part Native American. Served one term before her own party challenged her and got her out of office. Just to think about that. Here's our Senate. Now this building, this is the Farnum Building. It's on the corner of Allegan and Capital. And both of these buildings -- if you stand at the front steps of the Capital Building, you kind of look to the left, you see the House; you look to the right, you see this Farnum Building. Supposedly it has asbestos and all sorts of problems, and they're trying to sell it and get rid of it. We don't know if it will still be on slideshow in 10 years or not, but there it is, so. And you can see Senate seats are much, much larger. I want you just to consider if you were the State Senator representing the 38th District, that's Senator Tom Casperson. He's got a logging business. I want you to think about the fact that for Tom Casperson he is closer to seven other state capitals than he is to the Michigan State Capital. And that's true for many of our [inaudible] legislators. So let's talk about the process. I want you to know I spent time on this this morning just so that you could hear this. Oh, please play, please play.
Read the full Public Policy Advocacy Webinar Transcript