Lessons in the Legislative Process Build Better Leaders

Joe Dorman 
With the end of the legislative session, the work for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy now transitions to more of an educational component.

From the early part of the year through the end of May, our work primarily is dedicated to not only educating lawmakers about policy and the impact of potential laws, but also to reach out to Oklahomans of all backgrounds across the state to encourage them to reach out to policymakers.

These calls help share the desires of constituents in legislative districts to help influence the direction of bills being considered and voted upon. We are at this point collecting ideas for suggestions on interim studies and compiling the results of the legislative session to share with advocates across the state.

If you have a civic organization in your community that would like to hear from the staff or board members with OICA, we spend much of the middle and latter part of the year working with local leaders to help encourage advocacy and outreach.

This consists of our team members going to communities to do presentations on how to be an effective advocate, how to understand the legislative process in our state, or presenting a detailed analysis of the child-related legislation which was considered in the 2021 session.

One especially rewarding part of the job is when we can work with youth-related programs to better understand the process. This past week, I had the pleasure of providing a legislative process class to the 2021 delegates of Youth Leadership Oklahoma.

This program was established to take about 50 incoming high school seniors from across the state on a week-long tour of different destinations where they learn about different aspects of leadership. This year, the program was timed to allow the delegates to begin the week learning about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by being present during activities and concluding the week in Oklahoma City where I had the opportunity to teach them how a bill becomes a law.

This was done with the help of Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, and Reps. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City  and Daniel Pae, R-Lawton. The four of us guided the students through a two hour discussion, including the group conducting a mock legislature from filing to making it to the desk of the governor.

The mature conversation about a tough issue in debate was rewarding and left me optimistic for the type of young leaders we have in our state. The diverse background led to thought-provoking opinions, while the respectful way the debate occurred showed that people can indeed disagree while maintaining respect for one another.

I fully expect the young people participating in this program, along with the many other youth organizations shaping leaders at an early age, will continue to generate individuals who will solidly take charge in their future pursuits. We, as adults, need to take time to work with these students to help give them wise counsel and provide opportunities to put them into roles that build their confidence and experience.

OICA looks forward to continuing partnerships with youth organizations to provide those lessons on understanding the system of government better and speaking with adult organizations to enhance that insight of how the process works. 

If you would like to learn how to become a member of OICA and arrange for an OICA team member to visit with your organization, contact Christine at cfaulkner@oica.org or call (405) 236-5437 to learn more.

About OICA: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by a group of citizens seeking to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk. Our mission statement: “Creating awareness, taking action and changing policy to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.”