MS Activists Play Crucial, Year-Round Roles in Legislative Process
- What is an MS Activist
- News from the National MS Society Federal Public Policy Conference
- State Level Awards
- Texas GRC Members visit Sen. Deuell
- Award to Rep. Smithee
- Senator Duncan receives Legislative Championship Award
- Congressman Lloyd Doggett attends Walk MS
- Preparations for 2013 Texas Public Policy Conference
by Claire Mitchell
You may have heard it said that “all politics is local.” This means that the concerns of citizens and issues that affect their everyday lives can have a strong influence on the legislative process.
An MS activist is someone who is willing to talk with his or her representatives in government, tell a personal story of living with multiple sclerosis and discuss legislative issues that are priorities. Those who are willing to take on this role can play a critical part in supporting legislation that creates positive change for those living with chronic illnesses. Their input can give lawmakers valuable perspectives on how public policy will impact their abilities to cope with MS and live full and independent lives.
Activists have been busy with efforts focused on building those relationships and laying important groundwork for discussions that will occur during the 2013 Texas legislative session. They have also been busy working with their congressional delegates on issues that are a priority at the federal level.
Kim Campbell presenting at the Federal Public Policy Conference
Earlier this year, Texas MS activists traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the National MS Society Federal Public Policy Conference. MS activists from across the United States came together to learn, discuss and exchange ideas while preparing for meetings on Capitol Hill with congressional delegates and their staff. The meetings were opportunities to discuss issues such as renewing funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Program, a program to help friends and family caring for a loved one living with a chronic illness; funding for ongoing research initiatives, including multiple sclerosis research, through the National Institutes of Health; and MS research through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), high risk/high reward research focused on veterans with MS. Activists also spoke about the MS Caucus, a group of dedicated members of the U.S. Congress who seek creative solutions to the challenges facing people with MS and their caregivers. Those legislators who had not yet joined the MS Caucus were invited to consider doing so.
The Federal Public Policy Conference marked the first time activists from the five South Central states – Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas – were able to connect in person. Activists had another chance to connect with their delegates on home turf when Congress began a month-long recess in August; during that time, they often schedule meetings with constituents in their district offices to hear about concerns and priorities.
At the state level, MS activists continued to look for opportunities to engage with Texas officials. Texas Government Relations Committee (GRC) members have had the pleasant task of presenting three Texas legislators with awards in honor of their work during the last session. The GRC is a group of committed MS activists who are leaders in the advocacy movement. Recipients included Rep. John Smithee (District 86, R-Amarillo), Sen. Robert Duncan (District 28, R-Lubbock) and Sen. Robert Deuell (District 2, R-Greenville).
GRC Members visit with Robert Deuell to present him his award
Texas GRC members Teresa Wynne and Donna Gosbee visited Sen. Deuell in Greenville to present him with his award. He was honored for his sponsorship of a bill that prohibits discretionary clauses in insurance contracts, clauses that enable an insurance company to deny benefits at its discretion, regardless of the other terms of the contract. This bill was passed in 2011 and is now law in Texas. Donna said they discussed subjects related to the challenges of people with MS, including employment issues and Medicaid. Donna and Teresa also shared their personal stories of living with MS, and learned that Sen. Deuell’s wife has MS. Sen. Deuell, who is a family physician in Greenville, also discussed the challenges of reimbursement from the physician’s perspective. Donna said, “It was a great meeting and he truly is a champion for people with MS. He cares a great deal and that comes across as you talk to him.”
The award presented to Rep. Smithee, Chairman of the House Insurance Committee, was based on his work on the discretionary clause bill, as well as legislative work to prohibit mid-year increases to prescription co-pays and require advance notice of formulary changes. Audra Laminack, Co-Chair of the Texas GRC, was on hand to present the award to Rep. Smithee.
GRC member Natalie Steadman presented Sen. Duncan with his Legislative Champion award in his hometown of Lubbock. He also worked on the discretionary clause bill that became law. Natalie said, “As a Texan living with MS, I am grateful for Sen. Duncan’s hard work and ability to get things done in Austin. We are fortunate to have him in the Texas Senate and appreciate his willingness to take the lead on policies that can help improve the lives of families affected by a chronic illness like MS. It is our privilege to honor him as our legislative champion.”
Congressman Lloyd Doggett at Walk MS Finish Line
Congressman Lloyd Doggett (District 25, D-Austin) has stepped up to show his support for National MS Society efforts. This spring, he attended the Walk MS: San Antonio and visited with many of the leadership volunteers and staff. He was also present at the Austin finish line of the 180-mile BP MS 150 fundraising bicycle ride, speaking to reporters about his daughter with MS and the importance of continuing to fund research.
MS activists and National MS Society staff will have their radar up for future legislative champions as we turn our eyes toward January when the Texas Legislature once again convenes. Preparations are also already under way to prepare for the February 2013 Texas Public Policy Conference; during this conference, Texas MS activists will travel to Austin to meet other MS activists, learn about the issues, and attend in-person meetings with state representatives and senators.
Activists Teresa Wynne and Toni Vogel
Claire Mitchell is the Regional Activism Coordinator in the Society’s Austin office. She can be reached at email@example.com .
The work to identify legislative priorities for 2013 begins today. As a person affected by MS, what other issues matter to you? Tell us here. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/26GX23F
For more information on the priority issues in this email, please visit our website.
Want to join our movement at the Texas Capitol? Your story can make a difference!
Contact your National MS Society Advocacy Team, Simone Nichols-Segers, at (512) 340-2707. or firstname.lastname@example.org
More MS Advocacy Resources
Lone Star MS Activism Network
Take action now on our issues.
Find out how to become an activist.
2011 Public Policy Issue Briefs
Learn about the important activism initiatives for 2011.
Texas Advocacy Resources Center
Learn about advocacy basics, who represents you, and useful links to government and other resources.
Federal MS Advocacy Action Network
Learn about MS-related issues being debated in Washington, D.C.
Key Laws Affecting Persons with Disabilities
Learn about your rights under state and federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Find out about upcoming advocacy events.
Make Your Mark 365
Get resources to make your MS mark year-round.
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