For the Children:
Advocates Benefit from Understanding Process
By OICA CEO Joe Dorman
June 15, 2017
I have had the great pleasure of working with many youth-related programs through the years, but one of my favorites continues to be Youth Leadership Oklahoma (YLOK). This class, held annually for high school juniors going into their senior year, selects around 50 Oklahomans to experience a week of activities that teach them about their home state. For the past decade, I have had the opportunity to lead a two-hour seminar discussing the legislative process. I also lead a mock session for the YLOK, where participants sit at the desks of legislators, use their microphones and voting machines, and get a sense of how the process works by doing it themselves. I have fond memories of my own similar experiences as a student with the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Legislature, the OSU Student Government Association and even my first term as a state House member. Each of these times was a learning experience, as should be the case with every aspect of our lives.
The legislative process is oftentimes difficult to understand, especially for those who do not experience it frequently. While many will remember the old School House Rock cartoon describing how Bill becomes a law on Capitol Hill, writing and passing legislation is slightly different at the state level. It takes time and patience to learn the rules and parliamentary procedures. It also takes experience to learn how best to effectively pass laws.
OICA became much more engaged in the lawmaking process this year, something we believe helps us to better pursue our mission statement: “Creating awareness, taking action and changing policy to improve the health, safety and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.“ I consider the work we accomplished this past session highly successful; I am proud to say that 13 of the 21 bills on our priority list were passed and signed into law. In fact, that list actually underestimates OICA’s success, as it does not reflect some late, mid-session legislative additions or bad bills which we helped to defeat.
The statistic I am most proud of is this: when it comes to bills that directly impact child well-being — such as improvements to the foster care system or child safety measures — all 9 of OICA’s priority bills gained final passage. In fact, the only bills we worked to support which did not make it through the process dealt with criminal justice reform modifications to keep families unified. Those bills will be brought back next year with a renewed effort for support. You can see our list of bills which we supported at oica.org, where you can also download our updated legislative process guide to help better understand the process.
As we begin the summer months, I hope our advocates have a time to recover from their hard work at the Capitol and feel a sense of accomplishment. We look forward to kicking off our legislative advocacy work at our annual KIDS COUNT Fall Forum, which will be held on November 2 at the Oklahoma State Capitol. It will be here that we begin to pinpoint our legislative goals for 2018. I hope you will consider joining us at this event and become a part of the solution, as well as learn more of the process so you can be an effective voice for children.