Policy Matters Blog

Getting Acquainted With the State Legislative Process

As the 117th federal legislative session begins with many eyes watching, state legislative sessions are gearing up as well. State school psychology associations and individuals may have varying degrees of familiarity with the legislative processes in their states. From personal experience, learning a new state’s process after moving or learning it from the perspective of a professional in school psychology has its challenges. As a new member of the NASP Government and Professional Relations Committee and new Chair of the Arkansas School Psychology Association’s Government and Professional Relations Committee, the learning curve has been high for me in the past few months.

Here are some tips I’ve learned while getting better acquainted with the NASP resources in advocacy that have increased my awareness and involvement at the state legislative level:

  • Encourage your state association to have high levels of awareness as well as strategic responses to legislative proposals.
  • Consider the NASP Policy Platform for both personal and state organizational level prioritization of actions. 

Increasing awareness of proposed legislative actions is highly state specific. However, most states legislature websites have a way to view proposed bills with the sponsor of the bill and cosponsors, amendments to the proposed bill, and its pathway through the committee process.

Lists of the committee members as well as their bios are quite helpful for learning things like who might have a background in education. Some states may even have services to track bills that you are personally interested in and send any actions about the bill to your email. NASP provides bill tracking, grassroots advocacy assistance, and other helpful services to state associations, which you can learn more about in the NASP Policy Playbook.

Initially, it may be tempting to look at bills assigned only to the state house or senate committees concerning education. Wouldn’t that be easy! However, many bills proposed that concern school psychologists may be assigned to a child welfare committee or may be discussed in something like a finance or retirement committee. Along with sending emails and making phone calls to the committee members and legislators, you may also provide written or oral testimony. The NASP Policy Playbook has tips and suggestions to help here.

Preparing strategic responses to proposed legislation can be straightforward or require a more comprehensive response. In preparing responses, NASP has resources to help, including the NASP Policy Playbook and NASP Policy Platform. However, I’ve found it quite helpful to also use the NASP 2020 Standards for Professional Practice, which includes the NASP Practice Model, Standards for the Credentialling of School Psychologists, and Principles for Professional Ethics.

The NASP Policy Platform can be helpful in considering personal and/or state association priorities when it comes to legislative actions. It outlines seven priorities with goals of each. These goals are helpful in understanding the breadth and depth that the area may cover. I’ve found this useful in organizing my own ideas about the legislation proposed in my home state.

I hope this is a helpful intro to getting your feet wet in advocacy. There are lots of people volunteering in state associations and NASP that actually enjoy these things! Feel free to ask for guidance and look into the resources your state and NASP provide.