Timothy's Law - for Parity-based Mental Health & Chemical Dependency insurance coverage
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The ABCs of Lobbying

Welcome to the Timothy’s Law Campaign (TLC) and to the legislative arena! Your support and involvement with this issue is greatly appreciated and will prove to be an exciting venture into uncharted territory for many of you.

Up until this point, you may have been under the assumption that the only players in the legislative arena are elected officials and paid lobbyists. Not true! Countless bills have been passed at both the federal and state level as a result of public outcry, constituent lobbying and grassroots mobilization. Timothy’s Law is exactly that kind of an issue.

Participation in the TLC can provide you and/or your organization with a broad array of activities. While this document was specifically created to assist you with legislative meetings, you may also wish to:

  • Provide testimony at legislative hearings.
  • Participate in media campaign efforts (speaking at a press conferences and/or editorial board meetings
  • Write a letter to your Legislator
  • Participate in a postcard or phone-in campaign
  • Participate in a Rally
  • Provide legislative offices and/or legislative committees with educational materials about the need for mental health parity legislation in New York State.

Should you wish to meet with your Legislator, it is important to keep the following practical tips in mind when venturing into the legislative arena…

Identify your Legislator - Zip code searches are available on both the NY State Senate and Assembly web pages. Simply log onto www.senate.state.ny.us or www.assembly.state.ny.us.

Know your audience – Do your homework before meeting with your Legislator to determine who your audience will be. This will allow you to tailor your presentation accordingly. In this we mean, determine if your Legislators are:

  • Allies - Advocates and/or co-sponsors of Timothy’s Law. Proposed bill language will be posted on the TLC website. Here you can find out which members of the State Senate and Assembly have signed on as co-sponsors of the bills in their respective houses.
  • Fence Sitters – When maneuvering through the lobbying process you will find that some legislators will be non-committal, especially if they are not well versed in a particular issue and are not aware of where their colleagues fall on the issue. While this may not be the case with Timothy’s Law due to the enormous public attention the issue has received, there may still be legislators who refrain from co-sponsoring the legislation or coming out on record as a supporter. These representatives are extremely important to us. Think of them as the “swing” vote.
  • Opponents – This category can range from legislators who have not signed on as co-sponsors of the bill to those who have or will intensely oppose the bill both publicly and on the floor of the Senate or Assembly should it come up for a vote.

Meetings – Bear in mind that it is your right to request a meeting with your representative and more often than not, they do want to hear from their constituents. You may access both their Albany and district office numbers on their respective websites. The Senate website can be located at www.senate.state.ny.us, while the Assembly website can be accessed at www.assembly.state.ny.us.

To begin this process, we have created the following guidelines designed to make your meeting a positive and fruitful experience.

  • Make a formal appointment - Upon calling your representative’s office, ask to speak to their scheduler. Explain that you are a constituent and would like 15-20 minutes of the legislators time to discuss the need for mental health parity legislation in New York State. In the event that you are going to be accompanied to this meeting by colleagues, family members, and/or friends, communicate this to the scheduler. Should the scheduler convey to you that your representative is unavailable, suggest that you are willing to meet with a staff member. Staff members are a direct link to your legislator and will communicate your message to him/her.
  • Establish your goals before the meeting – Determine what your “ask” is. Are you requesting that your legislator sign on as a co-sponsor of Timothy’s Law? Are you requesting that they vote in favor of Timothy’s Law should it come up for a vote, or are you requesting that they advocate for Timothy’s Law with their colleagues in the Senate or Assembly? Perhaps your representative is a new member of the Senate or Assembly in this case, you may wish to simply introduce them to the issue and ask for a follow-up meeting.
  • Do your homework - You do not have to be an expert in the field of mental health, however, you should be able to clearly articulate why you are asking for their support. In an effort to assist you with this, we have drafted Timothy’s Law Talking Points (pdf). When appropriate, and if you are comfortable in doing so, relate your own personal experiences to the issue.
  • Be prepared for the response - You may encounter opposition. Be prepared for this but do not engage in argumentative behaviors. The standard argument against parity legislation is the feared costs associated with it. Again, you may refer to the Timothy’s Law Talking Points (pdf) for information on how to respond to this. Simply share the data with your Representative in a calm manner; you do not want to sever your new relationship with the Legislator and his/her office.
  • Be Honest – In the event that you are asked a question that you do not know the answer to, simply state that you are not sure and offer to follow up with the correct information. There are many members of the Campaign who are willing to assist you with any questions that you may have. Please feel free to contact us through our website.
  • Follow up with the Legislator – In the event that you promised additional follow up materials, forward them as soon as possible. Also, send a thank you letter to the legislator and their staff.
  • Follow-up with the Campaign – Due to the fact that the TLC is such a broad reaching effort, it is important that we track our activities. Once you have concluded your meeting, please take a moment to complete the Meeting Minutes form (pdf) and forward to the TLC