Family-Run Organization Movement
Too often family-run organizations are the weakest link in the system of services. If family organizations get better at what they do, they become strong partners, and their ability to network and support people within their communities leads to better outcomes for Florida’s families and youth.
Family-run organizations are often the last line of defense for families. Many are strong and effective partners in Florida’s system of care, and with a little help, many more can be. With a thriving Family-Run Organization Movement, we can grow the capacity of family-run organizations that meet the needs of families and youth of individuals with disabilities and, in return, relieve stress on the system of care that exists in Florida today.
- The Mission of FROM is to engage, support, empower and advocate for family, youth and peer-run organizations.
- The Purpose of FROM is to assist family, youth and peer-run organizations to fulfill their missions, achieve sustainability, and contribute to the solidarity of our statewide family-run voice.
The Family-Run Organization Movement, or FROM is organized as a program within The Family Café, with a Board Committee to provide oversight as it continues to take shape. It is through this programmatic approach that we hope to accomplish the mission of FROM. Accomplishing this mission will help all system of care partners collaborate at new levels of effectiveness on behalf of families and youth. The leaders that have come together through this process conceive of a model to help them fulfill their potential and rise to the highest possible level of participation in shaping Florida’s system of care for individuals with disabilities and their families.
FROM aims to provide a wide range of supports and services, including leadership training, governance enhancement, program support, monthly collaborative forums, a program newsletter, and other resources to help organizations attain new levels of participation in the system of care.
To learn more about the Family-Run Organization Movement or to participate in it’s events, contact Joe McCann at email@example.com.
The 2021 Legislative Session
With the 2020 legislative session recently completed, we begin the process of preparing for the 2021 session. Before we can do that however, it’s important we all roll up our sleeves and participate in this critical upcoming election cycle.
As is the case every two years, every seat in the Florida House of Representatives will be up for either an election or re-election, and about half of the Florida Senate will be as well. Although we will not have any statewide elections this cycle (Governor, CFO, Attorney General or Agriculture Commissioner) the national elections are as important as they have ever been.
Please remember to vote!!! Considering the coronavirus there are many options available including the ability to vote by mail. Please take all necessary precautions to keep your family safe while also exercising you constitutional right to be heard! Please vote!
To get registered, or check on the status of your registration, visit https://registertovoteflorida.gov/home. You can find your polling place, learn about early voting options, and explore your vote-by-mail options by visiting the Supervisor of Elections for your county. Find yours at https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/supervisors/.
2021 Session Dates
Due to the coronavirus we do not have any dates for “interim” committee meetings yet. These however will likely take place in some format for several days each month beginning in October.
March 2, 2021 Regular Session convenes 12:00 noon, deadline for filing bills for introduction.
April 20, 2021 50th day – last day for regularly scheduled committee meetings.
April 30, 2021 60th day – last day of Regular Session.
How to Advocate
The legislative process in plain English
Advocating in the legislature can feel like going to court without a lawyer. The 60 day legislative session can be fast and furious, interspersed with so many deadlines and rules that it can be intimidating. These rules can often be used as “excuses” as to why a good thing can’t happen, or why certain requests can’t be entertained. Thousands of bills are filed and only a relatively few will pass. Here are some important things to remember:
Bills are drafted and then filed by Representatives or Senators. They will be assigned to Committees by the Speaker’s Office (in the case of the House of Representatives) or the Senate President (in the case of the Florida Senate).
Once bills are “referred” to Committee they must have a hearing in those committees. Both bodies will generally refer a bill to at least three or four committees.
Most bills will die because they do not get through all their committee references. Bills will often pass all of their committee stops in one body but not both. This bill is dead.
Once bills complete all committee stops they are placed on the House or Senate Calendar.
There are two stops for floor hearings in the House and Senate. First is the “Special Order” Calendar where bills are brought up, amended if necessary, and questions are asked. After the sponsor has explained the bill and all questions are asked and answered a bill is “rolled over” to “third reading.”
The following day a “third reading” calendar will be posted. This is where bills are debated and ultimately voted on. Once a bill is voted out of the Senate it is sent to the House and is placed in “messages.”
An identical bill will have to pass both the House and Senate for final passage to the Governor. This means that even if they are identical (which they must eventually be) the Senate will take up the House Bill in lieu of the Senate bill or vice versa.
One of the most common ways bills die is that the House and Senate cannot agree on language in a bill. Bills often contain various provisions and any different language in any part of the bill will render it “out of order.”
Overriding truths and principles for successful advocacy
- There is no more effective advocate than a well-informed constituent. None. Personalize your communication.
- Tell your story. Putting a face or personal anecdote on an issue will make all the difference in the world.
- A personal visit is the most effective means of communicating with a legislator. Don’t assume that this must take place in Tallahassee. Legislators have office hours in their district offices too.
- Legislative Aides are a critical cog in the wheel. They decide what a legislator sees and when. Get to know them and always be nice, even if you know your legislator.
- It’s often a question of timing. On any given day a legislator will face dozens of important issues. With limited time before committee hearings, a good aide will make sure the boss sees the most important items.
- People with the identical amount of integrity can come to opposite positions on an issue. Never forget that.
- Don’t ever take a “no” personally. The experience of interacting with a legislator or aide will prove helpful in future contacts, even if your legislator can’t help on a particular occasion.
- Make an appointment in advance. Usually ask for 30 minutes, but don’t be offended if you only get 15.
- Timing is everything. Visits prior to a vote by the committee in which your bill will be heard are particularly effective. Visits prior to a vote by either the full Senate or House are also helpful.
- Session is a moving target. Issues come fast and furious and if you are looking at an “alert” or a newspaper story from a week ago, it is highly likely that the issue has changed or evolved completely.
- Tell the truth even if it weakens your argument.
- Legislators are like Emergency Room doctors. They have heard it all.
- Organize your visit if you are seeing a legislator with multiple issues. Time will be limited. Decide in advance of the visit who will say what, and don’t repeat the same points.
- Whatever you do, do not burn bridges. Today’s supporter may be next week’s opponent, and vice versa.
- Develop a relationship. The information you know about these issues is legitimately helpful to legislators. Go back and visit and say thank you. Make it a point to schedule a visit to say thank you if appropriate.
Make yourself familiar with the following websites:
These are the respective websites for the Florida Senate and the Florida House and can help you monitor bills and look up committee agenda’s during session.
Sayfiereview.com http://www.sayfiereview.com/ is an excellent source of news and blogs that monitors the legislative session. It is what most legislators and lobbyists will review first thing in the morning!
The Family Café has created this Advocacy Toolkit as a guide and informational tool for individuals with disabilities and their families who would like to take control of their futures by getting involved in the legislative process through advocacy. This guide will help walk you through the advocacy process and answer some of the questions you might have about it. So that we can make this toolkit as helpful and effective as possible, please provide us with your feedback!
First, let us tell you a little bit about advocacy and why it’s so important.
What is Advocacy? The definition of advocacy is any act supporting a cause, including recommending, speaking in favor of, arguing for, or pleading on behalf of others. Advocacy helps to make sure that your voice is heard and your opinion is considered when decisions are being made that affect you. Advocates are a big part of the decision-making process.
Why Advocate? There are many reasons why advocacy is necessary. As mentioned, it allows your voice to be heard on issues that are important to you. Advocacy enables you to be a part of the decision-making process by educating lawmakers on these issues through the sharing of your personal perspectives and experiences. You can be a part of the creation of change, and your next opportunity is during the upcoming Legislative Session!
See a short video on advocacy here: https://youtu.be/0F_PxzLIIzQ
When is the appropriate time for me to advocate?
You can visit your local legislator throughout the year, but Legislative Session is the time period when new laws are created or existing laws are changed. It is best to visit your legislator before Session begins, and then follow up with a call, email, letter, or visit again during Session in Tallahassee.
Interim Committees are committees authorized to study particular subjects before Regular Legislative Session begins. These weeks are basically a jump-start on the Regular Legislative Session and most legislation is filed during these weeks. In an election year, Committee Weeks don’t start until after the election in December. In a non-election year, these weeks can start as early as September.
What is Legislative Session?
Legislative Session is a period of time in which a Legislature is convened for the purpose of lawmaking. The Legislature is made of people who can create, amend, or repeal laws. These people are either part of the House of Representatives or the Senate, and they represent different parts of the state, also known as districts.
Who do I see to advocate and where do I find them?
Advocacy needs to start with the legislator that represents the district you live in. Each district has a Representative and Senator with a local office. The links below will allow you to enter your address to find out which legislators represent your area. Each legislator will have a local office and a Tallahassee office address listed. You’ll want to start with the local address before advocating in Tallahassee during the Legislative Session.
To find your local senator, click the following link: www.flsenate.gov
To find your local representative, click the following link: www.myfloridahouse.gov
How does the advocacy process work?
Basic advocacy can be broken down into a few steps. These steps are as follows:
- Identification of key issues and goal-setting
- Understanding of, and familiarization with, the identified issues
- Development of a persuasive argument
- Outreach to and engagement of the appropriate audience: in most cases, elected officials
- Follow-up and monitoring of the movement of your issue after your initial argument is made
How do I develop my argument?
Development of a persuasive argument is key in the advocacy process. In order to develop your argument, you first need to identify the issue(s) you want to discuss. This usually occurs through your own personal experience and/or the experiences of your peers. Make sure that your issue is thoroughly researched so that you can explain cause and effect, how it affects you personally, and the approximate number of people affected by your issue. The higher number of affected people, the more likely your issue will gain some traction. Any additional historical information on the issue is helpful, like how people have been affected over the years, the progression of your issue over time, and what the current law is. And finally, possible solutions that you would like to be considered need to be included and explained.
A lot of the information you obtained during the research process should be compiled and used in the preparation of your argument as mentioned above. Put your argument in writing and bullet-point the key points you want to make. Be sure and keep your supporting documentation on-hand. Ideally, your argument should be accepted and in line with the opinions of your peers, because their encouragement and support will be essential to your advocacy success. Use your stories and testimony, as well as those of the people you are speaking on behalf of, to make your argument personal. Should your argument put another group at a disadvantage, be prepared for push-back.
Important legislation to remember
Advocacy has resulted in the passage of landmark legislation affecting the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families over the years. Basic human and civil rights, abuse protection, and physical and social barriers have been addressed through life-altering legislation that has greatly improved lives of over 5 million people. Some of that legislation is described below.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was signed into law on December 19, 2014 by President Obama. This legislation provides supplemental benefits to those provided by private insurance, Medicaid, the SSI program, employment, and other sources. This bill amends Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code of 1986 and creates tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities to cover qualified disability-related expenses. Some examples of those expenses are housing, transportation, and education. Florida became the largest state to enact the ABLE Act when Governor Scott signed Senate Bill 642 into law in 2015.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990 and is the most inclusive piece of legislation protecting individuals with disabilities. It is broken down into the following sections:
Title I – Employment
- Helps people with disabilities access the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities.
- Applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
- Requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees. A “reasonable accommodation” is a change that accommodates employees with disabilities so they can do the job without causing the employer “undue hardship” (too much difficulty or expense).
- Defines disability, establishes guidelines for the reasonable accommodation process, and addresses medical examinations and inquiries.
Title II – Public Services: State and Local Government
- Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by “public entities” such as state and local government agencies.
- Requires public entities to make their programs, services, and activities accessible to individuals with disabilities.
- Outlines requirements for self-evaluation and planning; making reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination; identifying architectural barriers; and communicating effectively with people with hearing, vision, and speech disabilities.
Title III – Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities
- Prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Public accommodations include privately owned, leased or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, day care centers, health clubs, sports stadiums, movie theaters, and so on.
- Sets the minimum standards for accessibility for alterations and new construction of commercial facilities and privately owned public accommodations. It also requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense.
- Directs businesses to make “reasonable modifications” to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities.
- Requires that businesses take steps necessary to communicate effectively with customers with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities.
Title IV – Telecommunications
- Requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a nationwide system of interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services that allows individuals with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone.
- Requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.
Let your voice be heard
In conclusion, it’s important to make very few assumptions about what legislators know, how they will vote, and the motivation for bills being filed and discussed. Remember, yesterday’s opponent is very often tomorrow’s champion. It is both critical and HELPFUL for those of us who are living through the day-to-day realities of disability that we speak up. Please do not hesitate to contact us directly with any questions or concerns.