Influencing Legislation, Regulations, and Electoral Politics 165 3. Influencing Legislation Influencing legislation requires social workers to engage in seven tasks: infor- mation gathering, building an agenda, engaging legislators, influencing key players, networking, coalition building, and testifying. Social workers begin by ascertaining the viewpoints of key officials, including the chief executive and legislators who have influence through their formal position or role, as well as through their informal relationships, connections, and reputation. In influ- encing the passage, amendment, or defeat of a specific bill, the social worker needs to undertake both substantive research on the content of the bill and procedural research on its history. The worker then crafts a position statement that can be presented to key legislators. After gathering relevant information, the social worker develops strategies to persuade important decision-makers to place the issue on the agenda of other decision-makers in the legislative setting. The effectiveness of political advocacy requires social workers to cultivate personal relationships. They must live in the world of is and understand that legislators are particularly responsive to their political donors. The worker must be prepared to speak to what is likely to be legislators’ primary concerns: “Who is for it?” “Who is against it?” “What’s it going to cost?” “What’s in it for me?” and “Does this help or hurt my chances of reelection?” At the state level, the support of the governor is essential in light of their veto power. To influence the state executive’s view of the proposed bill, it is wise to engage people close to that person in arranging an interview so that the worker can briefly present the proposed bill and provide information on groups that have endorsed the proposal and relevant agencies that support it. If an interview is not possible, a brief letter can be left with the governor’s executive assistant, along with copies of the proposed bill and the social worker’s position on the bill. This information also can be conveyed via e-mail. Networking with other social workers is an important strategy when we engage in political advocacy, consistent with the group work principle of power in numbers. Networking also includes establishing working relationships with legislative staff who serve as the links between their legislator and lobbyists. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter also have become platforms for individuals to mobilize others to contact and engage in political action. Coalitions in the political arena are formed for a limited purpose and are usually temporary they include organizations and groups that share a common perspective on a legislative issue. Coalitions of organizations and social work- ers, other professionals, and interested community members and citizens are more successful at influencing legislation and policy-making when they work together rather than separately. Agencies and other groups that decide to band together can benefit from pooling their resources and working cooperatively to
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