by Alyssa Fabia, Tribal Outreach and Research Associate
Held January 11-12, 2024, this pre-legislative session Policy Summit arose out of lessons learned during last year’s victories and stumbles. This was the first year of this new event, and the emerging 2-day gathering was held at the Wellstone Center in Saint Paul and hosted by the Minnesota Environmental Justice Table, Climate Generation and the Insitute for Local Self-Reliance.
Organizations from across the environmental sectors met, socialized and strategized with the goal of coordinating policy agendas for the upcoming legislative session.
We started off by identifying our wins and lessons from the 2023 session and thinking about our hopes for the upcoming 2024 session. As we went around the room with sticky notes and tagged big pieces of easel paper with our thoughts, we were also able to read what other people were thinking. What emerged were some key themes:
- Put things in context for legislators, build a narrative, and invite them along so they are part of the story, too.
- You can always explain why you lost, but you can’t ever explain why you didn’t show up.
- Coordination and collaboration are critical, we don’t need to fight among ourselves.
- Rural-urban divide is still an issue.
- A trifecta does not guarantee a win, and accountability is still critical.
From there we broke into small groups and built off our wins, lessons, and hopes. We dove into existing norms and best practices for work in the Legislature and, in some cases, spun off and identified key structural barriers that made our work harder.
- Educate yourself before contacting legislators.
- Avoid redundancy
- Don’t make extra work for your colleagues.
- Coordinate with coalitions before session.
- But don’t be afraid to ask for help if you don’t understand something or need support.
- Be polite with legislative staff.
- Support those who are going to testify and prepare them for the experience.
- Prepare up-to-date research and science.
- Be clear on where 501(c)3 and where 501(c)3/501(c)4 organizations can and cannot work together.
- Organize for accessibility and solidarity with BIPOC communities and rural communities.
- Include “do no harm” factor and racial and equity lenses.
Our time also included breakouts into sectors so people could meet with others focused on specific issues related to their organization’s legislative priorities. This time was spent on in-depth review of organizational work, collaboration and goal setting for the upcoming session.