Have you ever wished you understood how the State Capitol works and what you could do to be more of a voice in shaping policy?
I might have the answer for you.
Each year, Oklahoma’s Legislature meets to enact policies, almost all of which could impact any aspect of Oklahoma: people, property, employment…the list could go on. Through the legislation filed by the 101 state representatives and 48 senators, they attempt to solve problems faced by their constituents, the people who live in the voting area in which the lawmakers serve. Sometimes those bills create more problems than generate good.
With every single bill filed, rights are extended to some and taken away from others. Each law created will change policy or create new policies that govern those within our state boundaries, whether they are residents or simply visiting. With almost every bill passed, some see benefits, while others are harmed.
Each lawmaker has his or her background and experience from which to draw guidance, and some learn about other areas from colleagues during debate. Even so, we cannot expect them to be experts on every single issue which comes before them. This is why it is important for Oklahomans to not only cast their ballots on Election Day for the candidates that best represent their views, but to also maintain that contact with the winners the remainder of the time.
That is where you come in and why the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) was created 40 years ago.
This year, we will celebrate four decades of providing information regarding youth policies to lawmakers to help them make better and more informed decisions on children’s issues. Our organization is made up of six staff members and up to twenty-five board members, but we cannot do this all ourselves. We work to connect youth programs and advocates with lawmakers to develop relationships that help improve policies enacted or even stop a bad one from passing.
In addition, we at OICA understand the most effective voices are those advocates who work every day to improve the quality of life for Oklahoma’s children. When those “in the trenches” share their passion and unique experience with lawmakers, they are a strong voice for children’s interests.
After I took over as CEO of OICA in 2016, in a meeting with other collaborative organizations, we realized that a training program was necessary to help advocates better understand the processes used at the State Capitol to consider legislation.
That is the genesis of OICA’s Legislative Learning Lab, an intensive study about aspects of government that advocates need to know but were not learning anywhere else. While it is modeled after the freshmen orientation provided to new lawmakers, the conversations go much deeper on how to understand the legislative process and be effective as an advocate.
If you are interested in attending the 2023 Legislative Learning Lab, the four-day virtual conference will be held on February 1, 2, 3, and 6 via Zoom. On the final day, there is also an opportunity to meet in person in Oklahoma City, and even visit with some of the lawmakers serving in office.
Please go to https://tinyurl.com/2023LLL to register. Costs are $50 to attend all four days virtually or $100 to do the first three days virtually and be with us in Oklahoma City on the final day.
Joe Dorman is the CEO for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. call 405-833-1117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.