Lessons Learned and a New Project for 2021

The beginning of the legislative session came with a rush of excitement. One year after attending the Pilot Parent Program of Southern Arizona’s Partners in Leadership program I was ready. I gathered data, contacted my local Senator, found allies within the community (13 organization) who supported the legislation and then- curtains.

This year is a different year. This year two years-worth of bill are being pushed through at the same time. This year we are in the middle of a pandemic. This year I saw many bills in the committee my bill was placed in that delt with regulating marijuana- which was just made recreationally legal in Arizona. So, with all of that it is easy to understand why this bill didn’t make the cut this year.

Other issues came to my attention while I was working on two bills for a while- the autism screening bill and the Down syndrome bill (which the Down Syndrome Network took over). One was that as I was coalition building for both bills, I noticed that I would only pitch the autism bills to autism organization and the Down syndrome bill to Down syndrome organizations. Why? I think I was nervous that unless the bill had a direct relationship to that organization and its members that they wouldn’t be supportive of it. Was I wrong about this? I don’t know but it is something I would like to explore going forward. The strange thing about the disability community is that we are often fractured. We silo our services to a certain group within the community to the exclusion of others. This fact is why D.A.M.E.S. (Differently Abled Mothers Empowerment Society) is actually open to families regardless of disabilities, because we all need help and support.

Imagine bringing together all of the disability organizations in Arizona with the sole focus of helping to pass bills that impact the disability community- full stop. A group that is focus not just on the bill of today, or tomorrow but focused on building relationships with legislators, registering more families in the Right to Speak system, and then working on 2-3 bill each session as a large coalition. What kind of impact would that have? How many lives could we change by working together? What could we achieve by leaving our egos at the door and really working and focus on the outcome- not the credit?

Maybe I’m being a little Pollyanna about this, but I think it’s worth a shot?

Another project for 2021.

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