Becca O’Connor, Director of Government Relations
Congress is back in session and the President is delivering his State of the Union address this week, kicking off another high-gear political year in Washington, D.C.
Here at PAN, we are meeting with congressional staff and other federal decision makers on the 2012 policy agenda, representing you. It appears that 2012 will be another unusual year in Washington, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that the current politics do not impede the Parkinson’s community’s efforts to fight for better therapies and a better quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s.
The way of doing business here in Washington continues to evolve: fewer bills are being introduced and passed in Congress, which means our advocacy efforts must continue to expand beyond just making phones ring on Capitol Hill. To illustrate, in 1991, the year of PAN’s founding, 592 bills passed in the House of Representatives, 626 passed in the Senate, and 243 were signed into law. By contrast, in 2011, the House passed 373 bills, the Senate 394, and only 87 were signed into law.
For PAN and many of our allies and partners here in Washington, this means we must be creative in our advocacy efforts to be sure we are maximizing opportunities for our voices and concerns to be heard by key decision makers. While reaching out to the 535 elected officials on Capitol Hill in the traditional ways – emails and phone calls – remains vitally important, we must also continue to expand and strengthen our outreach and relationship-building efforts across the federal government, and into the executive and judicial branches. This is where a great deal of critical work is being done, important policies being developed, and rules and guidelines evolving to meet current and future needs.
So, while you will continue to receive Action Alerts this year urging you to call or email your Members of Congress to help push important legislation in one direction or another, we cannot rely solely on that traditional form of advocacy. We will also be asking you to weigh in on comments to federal guidelines, and educate and advocate for more supportive Medicare policy and other administrative issues. We will encourage you to submit letters to the editor of your local newspaper, or pitch a Parkinson’s story idea to your local television station. This year, there will be many varied opportunities to educate and raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease, and why strong federal policy support is crucial to developing better treatments and, ultimately, a cure.
Our policy priorities for this year focus not only on research funding, but also on implementation of key health care reform initiatives, and the connection between environmental exposures and Parkinson’s disease. We will be in touch soon and throughout the year to share details about these priorities, and look forward to working together toward our collective goal of building support for the needs of the Parkinson’s community.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.