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Public Policy FAQs

Questions about Public Policy? Let us help with the answers!

How will the Health Care Reform affect Maryland?
Check out the following handouts for more information on this important topic!
Health Care Reform Step by Step Guide to Success
Health Care Reform - Key Maryland Programs

How does a bill become law?
The short version: Once a bill is introduced in either the House or the Senate, the bill is assigned to a committee, who analyzes the bill's proposals, conducts hearings when proponents and opponents can testify, then votes on whether to recommend the bill for passage by the full house. If the committee votes to approve the bill, then the full house votes on it. If the committee votes down a bill, it almost never proceeds to the full House for a vote. The process is then repeated in the other House. If the second House also approves it, the bills are reconciled to confirm their contents are identical. Congress follows a very similar process. For a complete review of the process in Maryland, go to http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/07leg/html/proc.html.

What is a legislative session?
Maryland's General Assembly is in session for 90 days per year, from mid-January through mid-April. During this period, bills are introduced, assigned to a committee for review and hearings, and eventually voted on. More information about the General Assembly is available at http://mlis.state.md.us/.

If the Maryland Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics hires a lobbyist, why is it important that I get involved?
Remember that you, as the constituent, are the person to whom the legislator is ultimately responsible, because you live in their district and you can vote them out of office. Additionally, the impact of your story of personal hardship or struggle, and how it relates to a bill, can never be matched by a lobbyist. While the lobbyist can be effective in communicating your message, the lobbyist has other goals in mind. Since most lobbyists represent multiple clients, they are obligated to many masters. It may not be in the lobbyist's interest to push your message in the way you might, since they cannot afford to alienate legislators; lobbyists who alienate legislators will have no clients very quickly. In short, you are the person with the power. It's up to you to "carry your own carrot."

What's the best way to communicate my opinions to my State legislators?
The most effective means of contact is the most challenging: in person in the legislator's office in Annapolis. Very few citizens are able to do this, so when it does happen, it means a lot. You may also have the opportunity to meet him/her at a public event in your district, but you won't have much time to offer opinions. Calls are the next most effective, but don't expect to actually speak with your legislator at that time---your call will be handled by an aide, who will note your call; don't expect a return call, unless you have a prior relationship with the legislator. Hand-written letters are rare today, so their impact can be bigger than an email. Email is the most convenient to the citizen, but most legislators probably get several hundred emails daily, and yours will likely get lost in the inbox. That's not to say it won't get read, but amongst several hundred others, its impact may be diminished.

What do you say when you visit representatives during events like Legislative Day or PPW?
Appointments with any elected official are usually fifteen minutes or less. So, during these events, our message must be well-prepared in advance, and you'll probably receive guidance on this from an organizer. You should know if you want to add anything, but be sure it's on-topic and you are able to communicate it effectively. But remember legislators are just people, and most of them are very friendly and want to help. It's also useful to establish some common ground: if you're both hikers, that can be the start of an effective relationship.

How can I find out who represents me in the State General Assembly?
Your representatives are determined by which legislative district you live in. The State is divided into 47 legislative districts. Each district is represented by one State Senator and three State Delegates. In some of the rural parts of Maryland, the district may be further divided into A and B (for example, District 3A and District 3B). In that case, the Senator still represents the entire district, but one Delegate represents one half, while two Delegates represent the other half.

What State Legislative district do I live in?
Go to http://mdelect.net click on "Find Federal and State Officials"; on the next page key in your address and city, then click the “Find Elected Officials” button. (If you also click the box for House of Delegates or State Senate, a map of your State Legislative district will be shown. This is NOT the same district which determines who represents you in Congress in Washington, D.C.) The left side panel of the page will list your State Delegates; scroll halfway down to see the name of your State Senator.

How can I find out who represents me in Congress?
Everyone who lives in Maryland is represented by U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, but your representative is determined by which Congressional District you live in. The state is divided into eight Congressional districts.

Which Congressional District do I live in?
Go to http://mdelect.net click on "Find Federal and State Officials"; on the next page key in your address and city, then click the “Find Elected Officials” button. (If you also click the box for Congressional District, a map of your Congressional district will be shown. This is NOT the same district which determines who represents you in the State General Assembly in Annapolis.) Scroll about two-thirds down the left side panel to find your Congressional Representative. U.S. Senators Mikulski and Cardin are listed at the bottom of the left side panel.

I’m interested in public policy. How do I get more involved?
Start by signing up for Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics email publications: “On the Pulse,” “Policy Initiatives and Advocacy Report,”and “Action Alerts.” Go to http://www.eatright.org, login as a member, and look for the “Stay Connected” options at the bottom of the page. You can subscribe to as many email newsletters as you like.

the Maryland Academy occasionally organizes trips to Washington, D.C. to visit with members of Congress. Contact Berit Christensen, MDA's Public Policy Coordinator, at bmchrist@cord.edu for more information.

When will you hold the next Legislative Day in Annapolis?
A date has not yet been set, but a date in late February 2013 is expected.