ASA represents more than 50,000 members. Those members come from states as small as Wyoming, with 46 active members, and states as large as California, with more than 2,600 active members. Whether your state is large or small, adequately staffed or not, applying a simple monthly checklist can advance your advocacy efforts.
1. Check your opposition’s Web presence. The Internet offers unparalleled access to information. Browsing through opposition’s websites, social media and associated Web presence (such as blogs or forums) has provided countless examples of informational alerts or related stories that have enabled physician anesthesiologists to prepare for upcoming advocacy efforts and opposition tactics. Be thorough – review the main page as well as the advocacy, education and media sections of the website. Take note of the language opposition is using to promote legislation; it is often slightly different than our own terminology/buzzwords, and knowing the lingo will help you to identify red flag words in legislation. Additionally, make sure to sign up for electronic newsletters available to the general public on the website or like/follow/subscribe to its social media.
2. Check the state legislature’s website. Every state legislature has a free website. This is an opportunity to review pending legislation. These websites contain ”search by keyword” options. In addition to viewing the bill text, the user can learn more about the bill’s sponsor(s), co-sponsor(s), committee of jurisdiction and often download a bill summary. Moreover, state legislature websites often offer the option to email the user updates for specified bills. These websites are important because they offer states without a lobbyist the opportunity to keep current on legislation and the related legislative process – newly introduced bills, bill hearings, votes and more.
3. Check the regulatory boards’ websites. Every state has a board of medicine, a board of nursing, an insurance board and a board of health. All are subject to their state’s administrative procedures acts, which require these boards to post notice of regulatory proposals, hearings, comment due dates, opportunities for testimony and so forth. The text of proposed actions are often available through these websites. Importantly, the board meeting agendas are usually available through these websites. Sometimes the agendas are not posted until shortly before the hearing. This is not an accident and it is even more reason for vigilance in monitoring your state regulatory boards’ websites.
4. Check the governor’s website. All politicians like to post press releases and pictures of what they have done for their constituents and groups they have addressed. Keeping tabs on your governor may provide valuable insight into who or what topic(s) draws her/his attention.
5. Use an RSS reader to easily follow news about legislation. Google Reader recently bid farewell to this world, but there are still other great RSS readers that offer a daily (or even up-to-the-minute) search for any keywords the user enters. Feedly, RSS Bot, AOL Reader or Digg are just a few readers worthy of consideration. Setting up searches for “anesthesia” or the title of an important piece of legislation, for example, sends news articles and websites mentioning those keywords to the user.
6. Check with the president or executive director of your state society for important legislative and regulatory updates. ASA State Affairs staff emails the president and executive director of each state component society when legislation or regulations of importance come to the forefront. It is important for members in each state to follow these legislative and regulatory actions,and take part in grassroots efforts with their state component society when possible.
While the above information is especially helpful for states without component society staff, every state – large or small – is at an advantage when its members take a proactive approach to advocacy. Members who use this checklist or similar tactics in conjunction with their personal knowledge of their state can become incredibly effective advocates on behalf of or against proposed measures. Proactive members are the difference in promoting and protecting the medical specialty of anesthesia and, most importantly, the safety of all patients.
If you are interested in learning more about this checklist and other advocacy opportunities in your state, please contact Jason Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Hansen, M.S., J.D. is ASA Director of State Affairs.