Denny Civic Solutions’ client, the #IWantToWork campaign, scored a major win this week when the PA House approved HB 400, a proposal to help young people with disabilities prepare for real jobs after high school, by a unanimous 198-0 vote.
We know what you’re thinking – if it’s unanimous, then it must have been easy, right?
Think again. DCS Partners John Denny and Steve Drachler have been working with the #IWantToWork campaign for more than a year to set the stage for action in this legislative session.
We’ve learned from experience that nothing – even something like a seeming “slam-dunk” to help young people with disabilities – comes easy in the legislative arena.
#IWantToWork is a social media campaign staffed by young people with disabilities. They are the managers, the communicators, the lobbyists, and social media managers. John and Steve have linked them with professionals in advocacy, policy, social media, and communications, who have served as their mentors and advisers.
They’ve learned civic campaigning by immersion – doing it in an impressive fashion.
Oh yeah, and they’ve taken selfies – lots of them, holding their #IWantToWork placards – with more than 100 legislators. They have conducted scores of meetings in Harrisburg and around the state. They have done an excellent job of showing why young people with disabilities need more help, more quickly to prepare for work after they finish high school.
Too many young people with disabilities finish high school and graduate to their parents’ couch when they could be working at jobs paying competitive wages. This campaign focuses on getting them job counseling and part-time jobs while still in high school, and obtaining the funding to make sure it happens. Once properly prepared to go to work, they will find good jobs that will help them live as independently as possible when they are adults.
Building a foundation for this week’s success required finding the right champions. In the House, #IWantToWork identified and worked with Rep. Mauree Gingerich, chair of the House Labor and Industry Committee, to sponsor the bill and lead the effort. Rep. Mark Gergely, the ranking Democrat on the committee, joined her.
Throughout the past year, the team – staffers and their advisers – kept the pressure on by meeting numerous times with House leadership, including Speaker Mike Turzai, and Majority Leader David Reed and their staffs.
When last-minute questions arose from the House Appropriations Committee staff, our team of pros responded quickly, and negotiated a reasonable solution. The bill was amended, and sent to the House for a final vote.
The #IWantToWork team maintained constant communication with House members, beginning with Labor and Industry Committee members, and members of the Appropriations Committee, building recognition, answering questions, and posting photos on Facebook, and Instagram, and tweeting on Twitter. It’s not an exaggeration to say they’ve sent thousands of emails, and put up hundreds of posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Whenever a vote was scheduled, they heard from the team. When members took action to cosponsor, vote in committee, or, this week, to vote on final passage in the House, the team made sure they received a thank you email and often posted a comment/photo on Facebook.
And that’s how we got to this week’s unanimous vote. We’re already prepped for the effort in the PA Senate. We have a great champion, Sen. Lisa Baker, chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, and a bill, SB 200, that already has 33 cosponsors in the 50-member Senate. Our team is now focusing all of its efforts on getting that legislation through that chamber.
So while a unanimous vote looks good (and feels good!), sometimes you need to pause and take stock of all the hard work, organization, and teamwork that made it happen.