How to Move Your Ideas into
VERMONT FAMILY NETWORK
MAY 29, 2012
REP. JASON LORBER & CLAUDIA PRINGLES
Legislative Advocacy: How do you move
your ideas into legislative action?
This webinar provides an introduction to legislative
advocacy from the perspective of a parent advocate
and a Vermont State legislator. Learn how to work in
a coalition with others and get tips on how to move
your ideas into legislative action!
Presenters: Jason Lorber, Vermont State
Representative for Chittenden District 3-3 and
Claudia Pringles, Parent Advocate, Developmental
Disabilities Specialist, Vermont Family Network
A Parent Advocate’s Perspective
About the presenter
Claudia Inés Pringles is a Developmental Disabilities
Specialist at VFN and assists families with questions
regarding developmental disabilities and navigating state
systems. Claudia is a parent of two children, including a
daughter on the autism spectrum. Claudia is also an
attorney in private practice with a focus area of special
needs planning. She enjoys systems advocacy in her spare
What is advocacy?
Advocacy is action that aims to change laws,
policies, practices and attitudes.
Advocacy actions are usually directed at decision
makers who hold the power to implement the
What Advocacy isn’t
A spectator sport…
What Gets in our Way-Attitude
“Everyone in the world is against us. No one cares.”
“ ‘They’ are aware of the issue”.
“Surely it is someone else’s job to create change,
“Can’t you do it? I’ll just tell you what needs to be
“I don’t know what to do”
“I don’t have the time. I am the parent of a
son/daughter with special needs.”
National Association for Down Syndrome
Started by parents in 1960
Autism Society of America
Started by parents in 1965
United Cerebral Palsy Association
Started by parents in 1949
History of Special Education – The Grassroots
The history of special education in the U.S. began after
World War II, when a number of parent-organized
advocacy groups surfaced. One of the first
organizations was the American Association on Mental
Deficiency, which held its first convention in 1947. By the
early 1950s, fueled by the Civil Rights Movement, a number
of other parent organizations were formed, including the
United Cerebral Palsy Association, the Muscular Dystrophy
Association, and John F. Kennedy’s Panel on Mental
Retardation. During the 1960’s, an increasing level of
school access was established for children with disabilities
at the state and local levels.
Are you game?
What Motivates You?
Do you have a fixable issue?
“I need more home support options for my adult son
with Down syndrome. Some examples are A,B,C & D”.
“Parenting a child with special needs is tough”
What are you advocating for?
Too broad will not get you anywhere
Consider what system change can be attainable (with
Partners in Crime
Call VFN for help with ideas on how to connect with
Never go it alone!
Others have a stake in the issue
Important to seek input from others
Others will bring talents and connections that you don’t have
Statewide issue: need statewide representation
Recognize that you probably don’t have all the
Partners in Crime (continued)
Take inventory of interests, talents and
connections of team members.
Networkers, writers, public speakers, good with technical
issues, good organizer, etc.
Most valued player=good attitude, team player and
willing to do the work not just offer opinions
Establish communication with advocates
List serve, email, etc.
3 levels: inner core, core and broader group
Partners in crime (continued)
Work with your inner core group to develop
Individuals most committed to the process and good team
players. The harder you work, the more your opinions count.
Outer core group to implement strategies.
People with ‘some involvement’
Give straightforward tasks with specific instructions
Keep broader group updated on progress, but don’t
bombard with requests.
Educate people on what you are trying to accomplish and
Who are key decision makers that
can address the issue?
Agency of Human Services (AHS) issue?
Department of Education (DOE) issue?
Local or school issue?
Know possible allies
Good and bad
Extra help, more energy, possible organization with financial
Message can get diluted
Can take on a different life than what intended
Different agendas, leadership
Room for a clear landing from other interested parties. Support for
what you do or neutral without direct involvement.
The fewer dogs in the fight, the better
Know arguments against
Know who will be working against you
Not always obvious
Anticipate what resistance to change exists and what
the resistance is based on
Is Administration opposed?
Especially important if there will be on-going
relationship- don’t burn bridges
Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t agree
Don’t get annoyed with others because they don’t
understand the world we live in.
Be polite, but persistent about your message
Tips for Legislative Advocacy
Pick a strong Lead Sponsor
Face to face meetings
Establish calendar for State House visits
Sorted by County/legislator
Establish communication with other advocates
Involve other stakeholders to help as needed
Find other ways or other people to help get
Earn the decision makers’ respect by being
knowledgeable about the issue.
Understand that change takes time.
Know that there may be compromises.
Be open-minded as there may be different ways
to achieve your goal.
Believe that others who are not part of your
world can still care and will fight for you
Gov. Douglas signing of Act 135 Autism Plan- May 2007
5 years later…
You can do it!
Gov. Shumlin Signing of Expanded Act 127 for Autism Treatment: May 2012
Claudia Inés Pringles
Family Consultant -Developmental Disabilities Specialist
Vermont Family Network
600 Blair Park Road, Suite #240
Williston, VT 05495-7549
(802) 764-5290 (Williston office)
(802) 917-2475 (cell)
A Legislator’s Perspective
About the presenter
Jason P. Lorber is a consultant, stand up-
comedian and politician from Burlington
Vermont. He is a member of the Vermont
House of Representatives, representing the
Chittenden-3-3 district in Burlington.
Can you give me a basic understanding of how the
legislative system works in Vermont?
I have an idea about how to fix an issue I am
concerned about. How and when do I approach my
legislator? Should I wait until the beginning of the
session in January?
How important is bill sponsorship and how does it
work? Does it make a difference who the lead
My idea has now become a bill that has been
introduced at the State House! Should I check back
with the lead sponsor in May to see how it went?
We have a great bill that has been introduced year
after year, yet nothing ever happens. This issue is
really important to my family! Don’t the legislators
We don’t have a paid lobbyist and can’t get to the
State House that often. Does our bill have any chance
in getting passed?
Any suggestions on what not to do when trying to
advocate for passage of a particular bill?
I have limited time and energy but I am concerned
about budget cuts for programs my child depends
on. Where will my voice have the greatest impact?
What's the most effective way to talk with legislators
We are grateful for your strong support in getting
legislation passed that helps people with disabilities.
What other legislative efforts are you most proud of
or have touched you the most?
Jason Lorber (802) 863-9429
Claudia Pringles (802) 917-2475