During the first three weeks of November, the policy team at The Center for Community Solutions presented our virtual Budget Training Academy. The webinar series provided information about the upcoming Ohio state budget and how the public can get involved. The series kicked off on November 6, with a webinar titled Setting the Stage for the 2022-2023 State Budget. Loren Anthes and Hope Lane from Community Solutions explained the operating budget timeline and online sources that can help the public understand the budget process in more detail such as the green, red and blue books found on the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s website. The green book details fiscal appropriations whereas the blue book presents information about Medicaid’s budget forecasts. The red book displays departmental summaries. They also explained how individuals can access testimony and committee resources during the budget process online through the websites for the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House.
The green book details fiscal appropriations whereas the blue book presents information about Medicaid’s budget forecasts. The red book displays departmental summaries.
Later during the webinar, guest speakers from various state departments gave updates on how COVID-19 has impacted their agencies and where they are in the budget process. Dan Baker from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) discussed OBM’s role in the budget process: 1) to receive budget requests from agencies, 2) review and make recommendations on the requests, and 3) send information to the governor’s office. Allison Conklin from the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) provided updates from her agency. Due to the pandemic, Conklin said there is pressure on ODM’s budget because more people are using telemedicine services and they are experiencing an uptick in provider costs. Lastly, Jamie Carmichael from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) briefly explained what actions OhioMHAS has completed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included filing emergency rules, working on telehealth appointments and engaging in wellness campaigns. One of the wellness campaigns is called Strive for 5, in which Ohio residents are challenged to contact five loved ones for 30 days to promote mental and emotional health at a time when everyone is isolated due to the pandemic. Another program OhioMHAS launched is the Ohio Careline, a 24/7 emotional support care service for anyone in the state who needs emotional support during this stressful time.
When advocating over email, it is important to consider how using all capital letter message may come across as yelling or disrespectful to a political figure.
The second webinar on November 13 was called Communicating Your Message. Will Tarter and I handled the first half of the webinar with advocacy capacity training. Tarter provided the basics by describing the differences between education, advocacy and lobbying, and referred to Ohio’s legal definitions of the activities. Likewise, he provided essential advocacy etiquette tips on how to communicate with legislators across different channels of communication (e.g. social media, emails, letters and virtual visits). For example, when advocating over email, it is important to consider how using all capital letter message may come across as yelling or disrespectful to a political figure, thus diminishing the content of the message itself. I later presented on data integrity, the importance of using data for advocacy and how people can search for and show research. It is significant to present research during advocacy because data can address counterarguments and present solutions. Data is accessible through a plethora of sources such as colleges/universities, governmental agencies and health departments, but advocates should always be mindful the sources they reference are legitimate and evidence-based.
Strategic communication is the difference between walking and walking with a destination.
Scarlett Bouder from Advocacy and Communication Solutions (ACS) then taught the audience how to better communicate with legislators. She succinctly explained the difference between connecting with legislators before and during the pandemic. As opposed to traditional methods centered around in-person meetings, the pandemic has led to more people conversing with legislators on Zoom, social media and over the phone. While this presents its own set of challenges, one of the significant points Bouder highlighted, that still holds true regardless of format, was the “80/20 rule.” This communication strategy means that legislators should talk for 80 percent of the conversation whereas the advocate should contribute only 20 percent. By following this rule, citizens can understand what social issues legislators are passionate and learn more about their interests on a given topic. Another tip Bouder provided to the audience is that “strategic communication is the difference between walking and walking with a destination.” In other words, walking with a destination means understanding which topics specific legislators should hear about from advocates in order for that issue to gain traction.
Community Solutions wrapped up the Budget Training Academy Series on November 20 with a webinar called Successful Engagement of Policymakers that included two panel discussions. The first discussion comprised of legislative staff. The following individuals participated in the legislative staff panel discussion:
- Carla Carvalho (Policy Advisor, Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus)
- Moriah Lieberman (Policy Advisor, Ohio House of Representatives Democratic Caucus)
- Travis Butchello (Ohio House of Representatives, Majority Caucus Staff)
- Melissa Sandt (Ohio Senate, Majority Caucus Staff)
Each panelist answered various questions from the audience about the upcoming budget and how to engage with legislators and their staff. One of the questions that the panelists answered was what engagement will look like during the upcoming budget given the difficulties presented by the pandemic. Carvalho stated it was important to make requests early and Sandt built upon this advice explaining that there could be back-to-back phone calls with legislators. Another interesting question arose from an audience member who wanted to know whether or not one source of data suffices for a one-pager or if there should there be multiple sources. Butchello answered that type of data does not matter as long as it is good research, a point reinforcing the importance of legitimate, well-sourced information in advocacy efforts.
The second panel discussion included legislators. The speakers were:
- Senator Jay Hottinger, Majority Whip of the Ohio State Senate (R-Newark)
- Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati)
- Representative Scott Lipps (R-Franklin)
- Representative Erica Crawley (D-Columbus)
All of the legislative panelists answered various questions about the state budget, the rainy-day fund, their budget priorities, and how the public can contact them. In a general consensus, all of the legislators explained that the budget should focus on the needs of the public, especially during the pandemic. After a good discussion, the final question came from John Corlett, President and Executive Director of Community Solutions, who asked each panelist his or her priorities for the next budget. Senator Hottinger stated his focus is on at-risk youth. Representative Lipps will concentrate on human services and non-medical switching legislation (when health plans switch their patients from high-cost medications to low-cost medications). Representative Crawley will prioritize children and maternal health. Last but not least, Senator Thomas stated he would will delve into criminal justice reform as a longstanding advocate for law enforcement and former police officer himself.
For any advocates who want to learn more about Ohio’s budget process or who may be interested in learning more as we enter the 134th General Assembly, check out our free e-book Follow the Money.
For any advocates who want to learn more about Ohio’s budget process or who may be interested in learning more as we enter the 134th General Assembly, check out our free e-book Follow the Money and continue to check out www.communitysolutions.com and follow us at @CommunitySols on Twitter!