It’s that time of year, and no, I am not thinking about Christmas or even Halloween or Thanksgiving. A cartoon that makes me chuckle is Santa, a witch, and a turkey driving cars side by side. The witch is telling the others to stay in their lane.
(That witch likely would be casting spells if she’d seen the Christmas décor in the stores in August!)
Here’s what I mean by that time of year. Our disability advocacy groups are preparing for the 2024 legislative session. And speaking of holidays, the start date for 2024 is February 12, two days before … well, you know.
And while we may not be sending valentines and flowers to our state lawmakers two days early, 2023 was a big session for disabled Minnesotans. We saw gains in many areas. Long-awaited legislation passed.
So what’s next? 2024 is a shorter session. It’s not a year with the major focus on the state budget that we saw in 2023. Even-numbered years are when we see bonding requests and a big bonding bill. We did see $2.6 billion in bonding requests approved this past spring, so look for more to come in 2024.
For people with disabilities, our attention in bonding requests is focused on improvements to our state institutions and on facilities such as state parks and state buildings. Bonding requests for 2024 are already in the hopper, and we’ll be watching to see what passes and what does not. State parks are an area where we’ve seen many welcomed strides in funding. Much as I have long enjoyed walking along park trails, my options have become much more limited over the years. I need paved trails and benches for sitting.
So why am I talking about legislative issues now if the session is weeks away? Disability advocacy groups are hard at work on their legislative agendas for 2024. Work starts well in advance to discuss issues, write legislation, and line up bill sponsors. Many bills are already in process as I write this.
If you have not become an advocate, this is the time to get involved. If you have an issue that affects your life or the life of someone you care about, this is the time to get involved.
Join the group or groups of your choice. Ask if and when training is offered if you have never advocated for an issue at the state level. There are many great training opportunities available. Take advantage of those.
Plan ahead for days at the capitol and rally days. Those are well-run and offer a great way to network, meet others with similar interests, and meet state lawmakers.
Get to know the people who work for your specific disability advocacy groups. Be available if you feel comfortable speaking before a legislative committee about your disability. Over the years at Access Press, we’ve seen many advocates grow in confidence and become community leaders. Could you become one of those leaders?