Take Action on Legislative Issues Affecting People with Disabilities
Easter Seals assists members of Congress and their staff, White House and federal agency officials, and representatives of other national interests -- as well as citizens like you -- to understand and act in support of policies and programs that help people with disabilities to live with equality, dignity and independence.
Easter Seals' legislative efforts focus on health care, early intervention, child care, education, employment, housing, supports for older Americans, recreation, assistive technology, transportation, and nonprofit organization operations.
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Easter Seals Central California
March 2009 / Volume 1 Issue 1
What is Reaching Out All About?
Reaching Out is part of a new initiative at Easter Seals Central California to help you, our stakeholders, be more involved in our state’s legislative affairs and public policy. These biannual newsletters will cover what has been going on in policy-making on state and federal levels, as well as updating you on resources and opportunities. In order to be better advocates for individuals with disabilities and their families, we have to create more awareness of the issues facing the special needs community and how the legislation being debated in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. may affect it.
Our Reaching Out initiative and increased involvement in legislative affairs has been funded in part through a grant from Pfizer and Easter Seals National. Our initiative goals include expanding public outreach to the special needs community stakeholders, increasing our participation in state legislative action to give voice to our clients and families and improving our advocacy efforts. In order to meet these goals, we plan to make information regarding public policy affecting our stakeholders more accessible through tools like this newsletter and website updates, participating in the Easter Seals California Legislative Action Team, visiting our local legislators in Sacramento and inviting our local and federal legislators to our visit our programs like Camp Harmon and the Child Development Center.
Reaching Out is all about you. It’s about making information more accessible and increasing awareness of existing opportunities, like congressional internships for students with disabilities, and resources on how to impact policy. Reaching Out is about making us all better advocates for people with disabilities and their families.
"We must understand the role of human rights as empowering of individuals and communities. By protecting these rights, we can help prevent the many conflicts based on poverty, discrimination and exclusion (social, economic and political) that continue to plague humanity and destroy decades of development efforts.”
It is not an easy time to be involved in advocacy. With the turbulent economy many of our thoughts revolve around what may happen to us next rather than what we can make happen. Much of our energy this year has been focused on trying to protect the services and funding and minimizing the impact budget cuts will have on individuals with disabilities. Sacramento has been abuzz with non-stop activity and the scenarios are constantly shifting.
Despite the uncertainty of exactly what the next steps will be, it is important for us to priorities for what we hope to accomplish in this coming year. We need your help and feedback to establish these priorities. Please help us learn more about your concerns and the legislative issues affecting you by downloading the survey using the link below, filling it out and returning it to our Aptos office.
(Survey is in Microsoft Word format.)
Please fill out and return to:
Attn: Marta Novoa
Who’s Who? Meeting Your Local Legislators
Easter Seals Central California covers a broad geographic region including the counties of Kern, Kings, Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz and Tulare. The information below only reflects the California State Assembly Members and Senators representing these counties; however, a complete list of all state legislators can be found at http://www.legislature.ca.gov/. You should visit your local legislators’ websites to learn more about them and their positions on various issues and bills.
Your local legislators are directly connected to your community. They care about serving their constituents and protecting their hometowns. Reach out to them at let them know what issues are important to you.
California State Assembly Members
California State Senate Members
Easter Seals in Policy Making: A History of Advocacy
Since its beginnings in the early 20th century, Easter Seals has worked to create services and programs to address the needs of people with disabilities and their families. What began as one man’s fund-raising campaign in Ohio has grown over the years to become a national non-profit with affiliates serving families and individuals across the United States. Since our inception, influencing public policy has been an important avenue to creating and providing better services. Beginning with our founder, Edgar Allen, who lobbied the Ohio Legislature in the 1920s to fund services for children with disabilities, the Easter Seals National office and affiliates have influenced policies on the state and federal levels which have greatly improved the lives of people with special needs.
Easter Seals National established the Office of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. which has earned its place as an important partner in developing disability legislation and policy. Easter Seals and other service providers, together with disability rights advocates, families and people with disabilities themselves have collaborated over the years to lobby Congress and the Senate. For example, Easter Seals played an important role in passing the original Americans with Disabilities Act in 1992, which was meant to break down barriers to the workplace and other major aspects of life for people with disabilities. As courts interpreted the Act over the years, advocacy groups and organizations like Easter Seals recognized that amendments would be necessary in order to uphold the original Congressional intent. Easter Seals National and affiliates again lobbied our federal legislators to write these amendments and protect the rights defined in the Act. On September 25, 2008, President Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act into law, after it had been unanimously passed by the Senate.
Easter Seals National and its Office of Public Affairs continue to actively promote policies which protect and enhance the rights of people with disabilities. To learn more about the Office of Public Affairs and how to get involved with some of the current federal issues, please visit: http://www.easterseals.com/site/PageServer?pagename=OPA_public_affairs
"In 1992, I issued a challenge to our nation. I said we must not rest until America has a national disability policy based on three simple creeds; inclusion, not exclusion; independence, not dependence; and empowerment, not paternalism…More than ever before in our history, America's greatness in the next century will depend upon the ability of our citizens to make the most of their own lives."
Visiting Our Legislators: May 2008
On May 12th and 13th, 2008, we visited our local legislators in their Sacramento offices. Our group included Bruce Hinman (President, CEO), Joe Giallo (Board Member), Mike Griggs (who attends Camp Harmon every summer) and Marta Novoa (program manager). We bustled around the Capitol and visited the offices of Assemblymen Tom Berryhill, Juan Arambula, Mike Villines, John Laird, Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, and Senators Abel Maldonado and Jeff Denham. We met with either the legislators or their representatives and let them know why it is so important to protect funding to services for people with disabilities. With intense debates about the budget and a huge crisis looming, it was a pivotal time to make sure our representatives understood how each cut would affect their constituents and the reality that health and human services which promote independence and opportunity are the most cost-effective programs in the long-run. Although, many representatives were had entrenched themselves in their positions and had already made up their minds about the pending budget decisions, our visits were still an excellent learning opportunity. Mike Griggs said, “It was an amazing experience. I got the chance to tell them how Camp Harmon saved my life and I got to be in the Capitol and advocate for people with disabilities. I loved it!”
Our legislative visits for May 2009 are just around the corner and we will be trying to schedule local legislators to visit our various programs throughout the coming months. If you are interested in getting involved, please call Marta Novoa at 831.684.2166 ext. 124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting Involved: Helpful Resources
There is so much going on in legislative affairs on both the state and local levels that getting involved can be intimidating and overwhelming. Below are some “user-friendly” links and resources to learn more about current issues. You can always start by researching one topic that is particularly important to you and expanding from there. Remember that every voice counts and every effort makes a difference.
Advocacy Groups/Professional Associations:
Tracking Bills through the Legislature:
*Many advocacy groups will create lists of important bills with text, updates and the group’s position on the bill. These synopses are very useful, but may not always include bills you would find relevant.
Understanding Your Rights, ADA Questions and Other Research:
Feedback? Questions or Comments? Let us know what you think of our new initiatives and our legislative efforts! Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.