(written by Lindsay Brekke)
The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits held an Advanced Advocacy training on February 8, 2012, which outlined a number of resources right here at our state Capitol for advocacy work by nonprofits. This post is a recap of this training and is meant to help others in their advocacy work.
First is the Legislative Reference Library. This resource is open to the public and is located on the 6th floor of the State Office Building. The library has a number of resources in print and on the web, and can offer information like historical data for issues. The library also has computers which have access to 8 Minnesota newspapers, The NY Times, and Wall Street Journal. The librarians are able to assist the public as time permits, and all requests are confidential.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have online resources for the public. The House of Representatives offers two publications available via list-serv or RSS feed: Session Daily and Session Weekly. The Senate also has a similar publication which can be distributed via list-serv. Additionally, the House and Senate offer live webcasts and recordings of their hearings and floor sessions. The Minnesota public broadcasting stations have a television schedule of hearings; this way you won't miss a hearing that you are interested in. (Note: Not all hearing are televised.)
Do you have an advocacy issue in mind but you are not sure where to begin?
- Get a red book from one of the public information offices. These are located at either the State Office Building or Capitol. This book will have a list of legislators and their areas of interest. It will also tell you how to find them.
- Identify a legislator that might be interested in your issue.
- Set up a meeting with that legislator. Can't get a meeting with them directly? Contact their staff to assist you in putting you on their calendar.
- If the legislator likes your idea, request approval to meet with the House Research, Senate Counsel, or Revisor of Statutes. These resources will help you draft legislation. Remember to have a clear idea of what you are advocating for and the direction that you want it to go; staff will ask for clarification if needed.
**The best time to advocate to your legislator is when they are not in session. This will also give the people drafting the legislation time to research your issue.
***Keep in mind that you are the one advocating. House Research, Senate Counsel and the Revisor of Statutes are non-partisan resources and will not help with advocacy. All requests will be kept confidential.
Other valuable resources not associated with the Minnesota legislature are the Child Welfare Information Gateway's Systems of Care Policy Action Guide and its webpage on How Federal Legislation Impacts Child Welfare Service Delivery.