Leadership Academy, Tier 1, Module 2

Tier I - Independent Study

Lobbying is an important professional activity for nurses. Although you might think that lobbying is a secret activity carried on by highly paid special interest representatives, lobbying is any effort to influence the decision makers who influence our lives.

Any member of a democratic society has the right to lobby – to inform, educate, and persuade elected officials. Through effective lobbying, nurses can have a say in how funds are spent, which laws are enacted, and what the nursing practice environment will be.

Lobbying is one route to legislative power. Nurses can increase their power, first by learning about health care policies and proposals, and then by communicating their knowledge and concerns to lawmakers. 

Module Two: Lobbying — Building Legislative Power for Nurses

This module will help you learn how to:

  • Acquire information about healthcare proposals;
  • Evaluate their impact on the profession of nursing; and
  • Use this information to become involved in the policy-making process.

Who’s who in Albany

The Executive Branch

The Governor of New York is the state’s chief executive and charged with a number of responsibilities, such as the submission of the state’s executive budget, execution and enforcement of state laws, and serving as Commander-in-Chief of New York’s military and naval forces. The executive branch of New York State government consists of 20 departments, the maximum number allowed under a constitutional ceiling.

Some of these departments include the State Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Department of Taxation and Finance. Department heads are appointed by the Governor.

The State Education Department, which oversees nursing and other professions, is governed by a Board of Regents appointed by the State Legislature.

Other Statewide Elected Officials

New York voters elect a State Attorney General to enforce the laws of the state. A State Comptroller is elected to oversee the financial operations at state and local levels. Both offices are independent of both the Executive Branch and the State Legislature.

The Legislative Branch

The legislative branch consists of the two houses of the legislature – a Senate of 63 members and an Assembly of 150 members. State legislators serve two-year terms of office and are elected in even-numbered years.

The primary function of the legislature is to make laws. Another major function of the legislature is to either pass or revise the Governor’s annual budget. The legislature also reviews administrative actions by state agencies to ensure that they conform to legislative intent and authorization.

Legislators provide a variety of services to their constituents. They intervene on behalf of their constituents with a state agency or local government to ensure that their needs are being addressed. Through standing and select committees, task forces, public hearings, and joint legislative commissions, the legislature gathers information from individuals and constituent groups to make more informed decisions concerning appropriate legislation.

Legislative leadership is centered in the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Majority Leader, who control the resources, organization, and most of the important functions of their respective houses. They also appoint the chairpersons of Assembly and Senate standing committees.

The State Senate has additional authority to confirm or reject nominations made by the Governor for certain state and judicial offices. The Lieutenant Governor, while not a member of the Senate, is the Senate’s President and presiding officer. The Majority Leader presides in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor and is next in line after the Lieutenant Governor to succeed to the governorship.

The Judiciary Branch

The state’s unified court system is presided over by judges who are both elected and appointed. The Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

How a bill becomes law

Structure

To become law in New York state, a bill must pass both houses of the State Legislature – the Assembly and the Senate – and then be enacted by the Governor.

The legislative session begins with the Governor’s State of the State Address in January each year. The legislative session recess usually begins in mid to late June. Both the Assembly and Senate use a committee system to review legislative proposals. Standing committees each have a specific area of interest (e.g., education, health, or labor.) The majority party in each house holds the committee chair positions and the majority of each committee’s seats.

Process

Ideas for laws come from many sources – officials, citizens, newspaper articles, and interest groups. To be considered by the Legislature, an idea must be sponsored by an Assemblyperson or a Senator. It is then drafted into legal language and is assigned a bill number.

Bills before the State Assembly have “A” before their numbers and bills before the State Senate have “S” before their numbers. The bill is identified by this number throughout the legislative process.

A bill is assigned to a standing committee for study. When it addresses more than one area of interest or has the potential to affect state expenditures, it may be reviewed by more than one committee. After review, the committee votes on whether to “report” the bill for consideration by the entire house.

After a bill is passed by one house of the Legislature, it must move through the committee process and be approved in the second house. This sometimes happens simultaneously. If different versions of the bill are passed by the two houses, a conference committee may be convened to work out differences.

After a bill has passed both houses of the legislature, it is forwarded to the Governor, who will either sign the bill into law or veto it. If the bill is vetoed, the Governor must supply an explanation to the Legislature. The Legislature may override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote of each house.

Glossary of Legislative Terms

Bill

A piece of legislation introduced by a sponsor and assigned a number

Bill Draft

A proposal that has been drafted but not yet introduced

Caucuses

Select members of both houses joining to discuss views

Conference

Meeting of the members of one political party in either house

Chapter

When the Governor signs (enacts) legislation into law

Deliverable

When a particular group is successful in getting the legislation or funding they are seeking

Departmental Bill

Legislation introduced at the request of a state agency

Home Rule Bills

Legislation requiring authorization by local governments prior to enactment

One-House Bill

Legislation introduced in one house without a sponsor in the other

Lobby Day

A specific day when a group travels to meet with elected officials to discuss issues/concerns

Lobbying

Educating policy makers about problems, situations or service gaps and offering legislative solutions to address the issue

Lobbyist

A person who monitors the legislature and advocates for the interests of a specific cause or group

LULU

A lump sum bonus paid to legislators for extra work such as committee chairs or leadership posts

Majority

A member of the majority political party in a house

Marginal

A legislator who won election or re-election by a small number of votes or whose district enrollment favors the opposite party and is therefore considered vulnerable to electoral defeat

Member Item

A budget appropriation sponsored by a legislator for the benefit of their constituents

Message of Necessity

A notice issued by the governor for vital legislation, negating the rule that a bill wait three days before it may be voted on

Minority

A member of the minority political party in a house

PACs

Political Action Committees that donate money to support candidates

Program Bill

Legislation proposed by the governor’s office

Ranking Member

The legislator representing the minority party on each committee

Second Floor

The governor’s office (Executive Chamber)

Session day

A day (usually Monday through Wednesday from January to June) when representatives are in Albany conducting the people’s business

Sponsor

A legislator who has introduced a specific piece of legislation

Starring a Bill

Action by the Senate Majority Leader to prevent action on a bill

Third reading

Calendar status of a bill that has been “aged” (three days) and can be voted on; a number is assigned to maintain the bill’s place on the legislative calendar

Veto

Action by the governor rejecting legislation that has passed both houses

Veto Override

Action in the legislature to reconsider a bill vetoed by the governor; overriding the veto requires support by at least two thirds of the members of each house.

   

How to get information on legislation

NYSNA's web site has detailed information on the nursing legislative agenda and the status of priority bills. Look under “Legislative Advocacy” (see right.) NYSNA members are encouraged to register (free of charge) at the Association's Legislative Action Center, where they can communicate with their legislators about specific pieces of legislation. When you provide your email address as a member of the association, you will automatically receive legislative alerts.

Getting your message across

Elected officials want and need to know what their constituents think about public policy matters. No legislator is an expert on all issues. Nurses must use their expertise about nursing and health care to educate elected officials so they will be able to make informed decisions about which bills to sponsor and which bills to support. There are several ways to communicate with your elected officials:

Write a letter

Writing a letter is still an effective means of communication. Legislators regularly review their correspondence. Following these guidelines will increase the chance of your letter being read and understood:

  • Address only one subject per letter.
  • Identify yourself as a Registered Nurse and a voter.
  • Identify the bill by number and list the reasons you support or oppose the bill.
  • Provide examples of the impact of the legislation, using language that a non-nurse will understand.
  • State your request for action clearly, i.e., “Vote yes (or no) on bill #_______.”
  • Request a written response to your communication.

Send a copy of your letter to the chairperson of the committee where the bill is being reviewed and to the majority and minority leaders of the house in which it is being considered.

Write again if you have not received an answer to your correspondence.

Electronic Mail

E-mail is becoming an increasingly common means of communication. All state legislators have e-mail addresses that are listed on the State Assembly and State Senate web sites. When sending e-mail, follow these guidelines:

  • Use the bill number in the “subject” heading of your message.
  • State your position briefly with a clear request for action.
  • Identify yourself as a registered nurse.
  • Remember to include your name, mailing address, and phone number in the message.

Office Visit

A visit visibly demonstrates your interest in what your legislator is doing. You will have an opportunity to more thoroughly explain your concerns and provide information about nursing. When planning a visit to your legislator’s office:

  • Call to schedule an appointment a few weeks in advance. Office numbers are in your local phone book and on your legislator’s web site.
  • Research the issue and the status of the legislation you want to discuss.
  • Recruit colleagues to go with you. Be on time for your meeting.
  • Identify yourself as a Registered Nurse.
  • Listen carefully to the legislator’s views and note any concerns he or she has raised.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers — you can always follow up.
  • Meet the legislator’s staff and ask who the contact is for healthcare issues.
  • Sign the guest book in the reception area (remember to sign RN after your name).

Thank the legislator, and leave your name and address, plus any printed materials you may have on your topic.

NYSNA Legislative District Coordinators

Legislative District Coordinators (LDCs) are NYSNA members who are registered voters and want to influence their workplaces, communities, and their state by engaging lawmakers on key nursing and health care issues.

LDCs are nursing's eyes and ears in their legislative districts. LDC activities include:

  • Establishing contact and building relationships with legislators through phone calls, letter writing, and office visits.
  • Becoming familiar with legislators’ positions on key issues.
  • Serving as resources for legislators on healthcare issues.
  • Putting a personal face on issues that are important to nurses and their patients.
  • Assisting the NYSNA Political Action Committee in making recommendations for endorsement of candidates for public office.

While previous experience in the political arena is helpful for new LDCs, it is not required. LDCs use the skills that they have developed in their practice, such as interpersonal communication and dedication to serving others. They receive support and training from NYSNA staff.

Module Two Examination

When you have finished studying this module, you may complete the online examination. You are required to achieve a minimum score of 80% on the exam in order to continue onto the next module. After successful completion of each module and examination, you will be notified by a member of the EPR Program staff that you may continue.

When you have completed all five modules and examinations, you are eligible to apply for consideration as a candidate to become a Fellow in the Leadership Academy.

Applications to the Leadership Academy will be mailed to those members who have completed all five modules in Tier One. The final decision regarding applicants selected to become a Leadership Fellow is made by the NYSNA Board of Directors. We wish you success in your pursuit to become a leader in the New York State Nurses Association.

Please note: Download, print and return the individual module examinations by fax or first-class mail.

Leadership Academy Module Examination: Module 2

The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) has long supported the right of nurses to organize, bargain collectively, and engage in union actions and collective activities. These activities grow out of the professional and ethical standards of the nursing profession.

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