What does the public policy environment look like in 2019? How can advocates make their voices heard during the 133rd General Assembly? Approximately 65 people heard answers to questions like these at 2018’s seventh meeting of the Human Services Advocacy Network (HSAN). The event, was held on December 14, 2018 at the offices of the Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug, Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) board. It featured a discussion with State Senator John Eklund (R-Munson Township) and State Senator-elect Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood). The elected officials provided advocacy and engagement tips during the state budget process, as well as offered their opinion on some of the recent legislative policy priorities from the Ohio General Assembly. The conversation highlighted the importance of continued engagement through the calendar year, and not just during the budget process. “The most important thing advocates can do is make relationships,” said Eklund.
“I think it’s appalling how little we fund public transportation, compared to other states such as Pennsylvania,” said Antonio
As the state looks ahead to the 2020-2021 biennial budget process, attendees asked both Antonio and Eklund to give their thoughts on a number of issues related to health and human services.
The audience asked a number of questions, on topics ranging from home-delivered meals, HIV, seniors, transportation and prescription drugs. Both legislators have served in leadership positions in the previous General Assembly, and they described how varied the approaches can be to legislation. Eklund compared bills that pass through the typical legislative processes, to other pieces of legislation that are added into other bills at the last minute. He described what he considers “lurkers,” individuals who wait for years to get a piece of legislation passed in the lame duck period, which may not get the level of “vetting or deep consideration [that] these things need.” Antonio also described her approach to understanding policy, and stated she tries hard to get out of her “urban bubble” and seek to understand the vantage point of legislators who represent more rural areas.
“The most important thing advocates can do is make relationships,” said Eklund
Additionally, she lamented how public transportation in particular has not received the level of funding that it needs from Columbus. “I think it’s appalling how little we fund public transportation, compared to other states such as Pennsylvania,” said Antonio.
Eklund urged advocates to not just identify problems, but also highlight concrete solutions. He offered an example of a transportation document that he received the week of the event, which detailed specific policy recommendations on how to better fund public transit.
Overall, the HSAN event was a success and The Center for Community Solutions thanks all those who attended, especially Eklund and Antonio. Stay tuned to HSAN events that will be scheduled throughout 2019.