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Proposing bills: 10 lessons learned in Hawaii

Hawaii Expedited Partner Therapy Bill Signing         

Lori E. Kamemoto, MD, MPH, Hawaii Section chair;
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie; and Cynthia J. Goto,
MD, past Hawaii Section chair, at the signing of a
bill proposed by the Hawaii Section to allow
expedited partner therapy for sexually transmitted
diseases

Lori E. Kamemoto, MD, MPH, Hawaii Section chair 

The Hawaii Section recently increased its state legislative activities with some success. We proposed our first two bills this legislative session. One bill, allowing expedited partner therapy for sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, was signed into law by the governor on July 1. The other bill, regarding the establishment of a maternal mortality review committee in Hawaii, accelerated discussion with stakeholders. We think this bill will have a good chance of passing next session. We also assisted with another bill that passed this year, requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception (EC) to all rape victims in Hawaii and to have EC readily available on site. It took 17 years for this bill to finally pass.

We discovered that the best way to learn about the legislative process is to jump right in and do it! For those interested in proposing bills, we hope the following lessons we learned are helpful:

 

 

  1. Develop a small and interested section legislative committee. Update the committee frequently via email
  2. Discuss legislative work at all your section meetings. You will be surprised by how many of your colleagues are interested and willing to write letters to, call, or email legislators. Because testimony is often required on very short notice, provide draft samples of testimonies, emails, and/or call scripts with instructions on how to submit them. Legislators do compare the stacks of testimonies in support of legislation to those against it
  3.           Women’s Health Legislator of the Year Award

    Hawaii Section leaders present State Sen. Josh
    Green (D-Kona), who was a primary sponsor of the
    bill allowing expedited partner therapy, with the
    2013 ACOG Women’s Health Legislator of the Year
    Award. Pictured left to right: Harry N. Yoshino, MD,
    past Hawaii Section chair; Lori E. Kamemoto, MD,
    MPH, Hawaii Section chair; State Sen. Green;
    Greigh I. Hirata, MD, Hawaii Section vice chair;
    and Raydeen M. Busse, MD, immediate past
    Hawaii Section chair

     

     

    Develop relationships with other stakeholder organizations. Nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and pediatricians were some of our biggest supporters. Find out if your state has a coalition of other organizations interested in women’s legislative issues. These organizations can be great supporters of bills. Hawaii also has a women’s caucus composed of women legislators. If your state has such a caucus, this is a good place to start to gain support for your bill
  4. There are so many legislative issues to consider. For our first bills, we tried to work on issues we thought were less controversial. However, you should understand that there will always be someone against your bill
  5. Prior to the start of the session, when discussing your proposed bill with supportive legislators, bring them good examples of other states’ bills. Determine if their office is willing to help write the bill, and collaborate with their staff. Make sure to meet the deadline for submitting bills and inquire about timelines
  6. Deadlines in the legislative process are strict. Be sure to determine what they are. Hawaii has an excellent Public Access Room, which we called many times to ask about deadlines and other nuances in the legislative process
  7. Be prepared to attend all committee hearings on your bill. Your oral testimony is usually short (three minutes or less), and showing up for these hearings is important to show your interest and support and to answer any questions. It is also important to be present to hear any opposing testimony for future strategy
  8. Be prepared to counter opposing testimony in your oral and written testimonies
  9. National ACOG is an invaluable resource and sounding board for issues that come up during the process. Do not hesitate to email or call ACOG staff
  10. Perseverance is the key to success


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