Due to a wide array of disability issues that are unique to poor people and people of color it is important to establish legislation which require state agencies serving underrepresented disability communities to compile data and report to the stakeholders.
In January 2015 a New Jersey bill was signed into public law. For individuals interested in initiating a minority disability bill in their state, below are steps from implementation of the bill to passage of the public law.
Step 1 & 2
Contact a state legislator. (preferably a legislator from your district or a legislator with whom you have a relationship) For example, you might not have a legislator in your district who is sensitive to the needs of poor people and people of color with disabilities. Therefore, it is better to make contact with a legislator from the nearest urban community. Relationship building is an important component. Introduce yourself by letter and explain that you will send a white paper which will outline the issues and need for such legislation.
Step 3 & 4
Contact the legislator’s office to follow up on the letter and remind them you will be sending a white paper. (Remember to get the name of the legislator’s chief of staff and their e-mail)
Develop and send the white paper by signed delivery.
Contact the legislator’s chief of staff to follow up on the receipt of the white paper. Wait a reasonable time for the response to the request. If not heard in 3 weeks send an e-mail reminder that you are awaiting the legislator’s decision to your request.
Your legislator will assign the task of drafting the bill to the legislative aides at your state house. Ask to be part of the team in drafting the bill. Be sure to know what is needed and not needed in the bill. Also, ask allies, activists and/or concerned stakeholders to sit in on the meeting with you.
Step 7 & 8
Once the bill is drafted your legislator will submit the bill for an assigned number. Continue to call the legislator’s chief of staff for a status update. Once the bill has been submitted, the legislator must now find a sponsor(s) for the bill in the other house. Again find the name of the sponsor(s) from the other house from your legislator’s chief of staff. The bill will have a separate number for that house.
Follow the bill in both houses.
Step 9 & 10
Engage organizations to support the bill.
The bill will be assigned to committees in both houses. Follow the legislative calendar for hearings on the bill. Be prepared to testify and ask other organizations to testify, if not could you sign them in at the hearing as supporting the bill but not testifying.
Step 11 & 12
Follow the bill from the committees of both houses to the house floor for voting.
Thank the legislator and others who worked with you on the bill, by way of personal letter and/or public recognition.
Every state should have legislation that addresses underrepresented disability communities.
To get you started contact us and we will provide the sample letter and white paper. It is important to note that the introductory letter and subsequent white paper were critical in persuading the legislator and his staff about the need for the legislation. We were fortunate to have NBDC member, Jane Gravel, PhD. prepare the letter and arguments. Feel free to use the documents as templates.
NBDC is available to assist you throughout your process.