Legislative Advocacy - So That We Can "Get There"


It is still a busy time in Sacramento. by the time this article gets to you, we will be involved with many legislative and governmental issues. The Governor's May Revise of the state budget has been released and there will be hearings and discussions (and yes, deals) in regards to it. Legislation has finished being proposed for this session, but it is now time for us to interact with legislators and their staff about these bills and their effects on our constituencies. And we have primary and general elections coming up. The Legislative & Governmental Relations Committee presented two breakouts at our recent Plenary session. The first one provided updates on state and federal legislation affecting faculty. As I have mentioned before, things are constantly changing at the Capitol, so please check the legislative page of the Senate's website (http://www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us/Legislative/Legislative.htm) for the latest information and updates on bills, including handouts that were provided at the breakout. We will also be emailing legislative updates and alerts to local senate presidents to keep you apprised of the issues.

The other breakout was a discussion about how faculty leaders can be more effective legislative advocates. One of the goals of the Legislative Committee is to inform local faculty leadership about legislative issues of concern to community colleges, especially in the areas of academic and professional matters. The next step is to take this information and use it to educate our legislators and their staff about the faculty perspective on these issues. I wanted this breakout to present "two sides of the coin"-how to best deliver the faculty message and how that message is received by the legislators. I was privileged to have two Capitol insiders joining me on the panel to provide their insights-Nancy Hatamiya, chief of staff for Assemblymember Pedro Nava, and Jonathan Lightman, executive director of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges. Both of them talked about the value of developing both relationships and coalitions with legislators. Communication is vitally important -we need to do this all the time, not just in times of crisis. We heard about the effectiveness of mail (snail or email) over phone calls (but any form of action is preferable over nothing at all). Writing op/ed pieces and letters to the editor was encouraged-the "power of the press." We need to invite legislators to our classrooms, libraries, counseling centers and other areas so that they can see how we work with students on a daily basis to facilitate student success. What a wealth of information we learned from these two!

This will be the year of statewide elections in both June and November, voting on a variety of candidates and issues. And we will be seeing, hearing and reading a lot of ads about these issues and candidates. We had our own little taste of elections at session with the election of officers and executive committee members. It was also my turn for re-election to the executive committee. While we candidates do not participate in debates like many of the statewide candidates do, we academic senate candidates do give a speech about our hopes and aspirations. I want to end this article with an excerpt from my speech. I can tie it in (very tangentially) with the statewide elections, for this excerpt of my speech refers to "The Sound of Music," a musical and movie that is set in governor Schwarzenegger's homeland of Austria.

I want to share with you some of "My Favorite Things." These halls are alive with the "Sound of the Senate." The Academic Senate always seems to be doing "Something Good" and we learn to "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" to fulfill our dreams about academic and professional matters. I am not always clean and bright like "Edelweiss," and I do get exhausted sometimes because I am not "Sixteen Going On Seventeen." It is not always as simple as "Do Re Mi" and sometimes I feel like the "Lonely Goatherd" in trying to explain our position to people. Other groups might shake their heads and wonder how to solve "A Problem Like the Senate," but "I Have Confidence" that our views will prevail. So with that, I say "Goodbye, Farewell" auf wiedersehen, adieu. And I ask for a vote from you. (Hey, I told you it was an election speech!).