Public policy update

This time of year, a common question I hear about public policy is: what goes on at the Statehouse when the General Assembly isn’t in session? The answer is: a lot! While the General Assembly meets every year to consider and pass laws – usually during January – March or April depending on the year – each summer and fall interim study committees of the General Assembly meet to “study” various issues identified by the legislature. Some groups are only established for a specific period of time, while other are standing committees that meet every year and/or are established in statute. Certain committees are made up of only state legislators while others are comprised of legislators and other community members and leaders. These committees not only allow members to better understand certain issues or discuss issues that the legislature may have run out of time to address during session, but often legislation is drafted by these committees that ends up being introduced during the following legislative session.

United Way of Central Indiana follows these committees closely, especially the Committee on Child Care and the Interim Study Committee on Education Issues. In 2011 United Way provided testimony to both of these committees about our work in early childhood education – more specifically our work to improve child care quality as an essential component of early childhood education.

The Indiana Association of United Ways (IaUW) has drafted an initial list of study topics for 2012 which is available here. In addition to the committees mentioned above, United Way will be following a number of these issues this summer and fall, including: the Select Commission on Education, which will be studying several issues related to the new formula for grading public schools on a A-F scale, and; the Commission on State Tax and Financing Policy which will be looking at various state tax credits – including Indiana’s Earned Income tax Credit and Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits – over the next two years (2012 and 2013).

Go here to find a comprehensive list of these interim study committees – this information is generally updated for the current year by May or June. From here you can access each committee’s website where you’ll find a list of members, meeting agendas and meeting minutes.

In addition to attending these committee meetings (meeting dates are posted online and open to the public) the summer and fall are a great time to meet with your state legislators to educate them about your organization and public policy priorities and even to invite them to take a tour of your facility or organization. You can find your legislators here.

As a reminder about lobbying dos and don’ts, IaUW has put together the following document: lobbying rules for nonprofits. Keep in mind during this election year that while lobbying activity is permitted for nonprofits, political activity is not. Nonprofits cannot use organizational resources to support or oppose political candidates or parties. IaUW has also developed a document outlining election year do’s and don’ts for nonprofits.

— Laura Smoots, director, public policy, United Way of Central Indiana