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“I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill. Well it’s a long long journey to the capitol city. It’s a long long wait while I’m sitting in committee but I know I’ll be a law a someday…” I remember this Schoolhouse Rock video, “How a Bill Becomes a Law” from watching cartoons in the 70’s and it stuck with me for years. I never dreamed I would be personally involved in getting a bill through the approval process albeit locally in Oregon but it’s exactly like the catchy tune.
In 2004 a group of local referral agents formed an association to ensure consumer protection through a code of ethics and standards. In 2007 the association recognized the need to have some governmental oversight and started reaching out to officials to require referral agencies register and meet basic standards. It wasn’t until 2016 that a representative from Portland recognized the value of our request and started working with us to draft HB2661. This bill requires long term care referral provider to be registered with the Department of Human Services, imposes certain requirements on long term care referral providers, makes long term care referral provider mandatory reporter of elder abuse and makes violation of certain provisions unfair trade practice.
The bill originally drafted had several more requirements but as in Schoolhouse Rock tune “Well now I’m stuck in committee and I sit here and wait while a few key congressmen discuss and debate whether they should let me be a law…” Our bill went through eleven edits while DHS, DOJ, National Referral Agencies and Local Referral Agencies contributed their input into what the bill should contain. Many of requirements in the original bill were eliminated to meet the business models of both types of agencies. It wasn’t until revision eight that the two sides came together.
In the process, local referral agencies formed a grass roots effort to lobby our representatives asking for their backing. We divided up the list of Senators and Representatives and met weekly to discuss how best to present our request for their support and what to do next. We emailed, phoned and visited them often both locally and in their offices in Salem. We hired a lobbyist to help us get meetings with key Representatives and guide us through the process to ensure we were present at the right times and had the right messaging. We made videosexplaining the importance of the bill to send as quick reminders to keep it top of mind. We met with other key stakeholders such as the head of the Ombudsman program, AARP, OHCA, DOJ and DHS asking for (and receiving) their backing. We provided testimonials during several public hearings while the bill was voted on in the House of Representatives Human Services Committee and the Human Services Committee of the Joint Ways and Means. We cheered as it passed the Joint Ways and Means committee.
“I’m one of the lucky ones, most bills never even get this far. I hope they report on me favorably or I may die in committee” We truly felt fortunate to see our bill pass in the committees and watched as it passed on the House and Senate floors. As the video says it takes “a lot of patience and courage” plus a lot of time, effort, teamwork and compromise to make it to the Governor’s desk. “It’s not easy to become a law.” We heard from elected officials that the local grass roots effort made a difference. We appreciated that they listened and cared enough to pass the bill. We made a difference!
“(S)he signed you Bill, now you’re a law, Oh Yes!”