A 5 Item Health and Human Service Budget Advocacy to Do List

The Ohio General Assembly has reconvened, sworn in its members, and elected leadership (State Senator Matt Huffman is Ohio Senate President and State Representative Jason Stephens is Ohio House Speaker). The Senate leadership has already released its committee and chair assignments. The House may take a bit longer due to the unexpected election of Rep. Jason Stephens to the Speaker position. In the meantime, Community Solutions has drafted a budget advocacy to do list for health and human service budget advocates.

      1. Re-familiarize yourself with the state budget process and timeline. It is important to know the rules of the road. With that in mind, my colleague Tara Britton has written a brief updated primer. Community Solutions also has all the health and human service state agency budget requests to Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. While it is not the final word of what will be in the as introduced budget (that belongs to the Governor) it can give you great insight into what the agency is thinking.

For extra credit, take time to read Community Solutions’ seminal volume on state budgeting, Follow the Money.

      1. Get to know the players. Once committee assignments are public, you will know who to focus on in terms of state budget advocacy; anyone appointed to the House and Senate finance committees should be your priority, emphasizing those appointed to relevant subcommittees. It is not too soon to reach out to make appointments (starting on the House side). There are also a lot of new members in the Ohio General Assembly, so make sure you are not overlooking them, a state budget process can allow you to establish yourself as a resource for new legislators.

It is not too soon to reach out to make appointments.

For extra credit, put together a list of all the staff for legislators on the budget-writing committees. Introduce yourself via email or phone. Often it’s staff who decide who gets that valuable 15 minutes one-on-one with a legislator.

      1. Be clear about what you want policy makers to do. Make sure your budget/policy ask can fit on a single page. If you cannot explain your ask quickly and simply you are going to have a tough time connecting with policy makers. Remember to keep text at a minimum; consider using infographics instead. If it makes sense, personalize them for use with individual legislators (e.g., put their name on it).

For extra credit, make use of district level data the Community Solutions provides via its legislative district fact sheets (updated ones will be released in February).

      1. Develop a media strategy. A good advocacy strategy should also include a media strategy. You can use the media to highlight a problem and a solution, celebrate victories, and to sound the alarm. Policy makers are big media consumers; so, reaching them via media can be a good strategy. As traditional media outlets have shrunk new media outlets have developed. Signal Cleveland is one of the newest in Northeast Ohio, and Morgan Trau at WEWS is a rare northeast Ohio television reporter covering the statehouse. While it can be pricey, you might also consider subscribing to a statehouse news service like Hannah and/or Gongwer; they both do an excellent job of covering state government every day.

For extra credit, pull together a list of key reporter emails so you can update them quickly on developments on your issue.

      1. Don’t work alone. Accurate information is power in the policy making process, and even more so during a budget process. The more people you relate to during a budget process the more likely you will be up to date and informed. Advocates for Ohio’s Future is a well-regarded state budget advocacy coalition. Consider joining the coalition; it will give you access to weekly alerts and first notice of events and or webinars. If you belong to state association, make sure they know what you are working towards. Get to know their legislative staff; they can be a reliable source of information because they are likely spending hours in the statehouse.

For extra credit, identify partner organizations who share your policy goals and who are in key legislative districts. Organize a day at the statehouse where you meet with key legislators together.

Identify partner organizations who share your policy goals and who are in key legislative districts.

Finally make sure you are signed up to receive Community Solutions 5 Things You Need to Know, and do not hesitate to reach out to me or others on the policy team with questions. We are here to help. And be sure to check out Tara Britton’s piece on our State Budget policy priorities.