How Sweet It Is!
This post is written by Shelley Hendrix, Autism Speaks’ Director of State Advocacy Relations. She currently resides in Baton Rouge, La. with her two children, Liam and Mairin. Liam was diagnosed with autism age the age of two in 1998. She began advocating on behalf of her son and other children with autism almost from day one.
In both our Federal and State-based legislative initiatives, Autism Speaks uses a specific formula – our “cookie recipe.” My last two blogs focused on flour, representing our grassroots effort, and eggs, which represent unity and focus. With our cookie mix fully underway now, we need to add in three new ingredients – butter, which represents professional lobbyist assistance, a pinch of salt, which represents the bill’s legislative champion and sugar, which represents the policy. Each state’s “cookie,” its autism insurance reform initiative, is shaped, flavored and decorated differently once we bake them but when the recipe is followed to a tee we have a tasty treat in the end for people to enjoy.
Most sugar cookie recipes call for both one stick of butter, a pinch of salt and a cup of sugar. In order to get all the ingredients to mix most effectively, you have to blend all three of these before you mix them in with flour and eggs. Our goal at Autism Speaks is to secure the greatest benefit for as many children for as long as possible. Depending a state’s existing insurance code and their particular political-economical condition, our model legislation is retrofitted through a development process that requires legislators and the community work together to produce bill language that is most likely to pass. Although it sounds counterintuitive at first, developing a perfect bill is not necessarily our aim. Passing a good bill, that achieves our number one goal of the highest coverage for the most children, is what we are after. Politics is the ultimate art of negotiation – start high and work down through all interested parties – the parents, the children, the community as a whole, the legislators and the executive branch – to roll out a bill that the parties can agree to and – here is the key word – enforce.
A bill is just a bill – words on paper that might read well but have no true impact. A law is what actually affects change.
So we take our sweet piece of policy, the sugar, and often blend that together with butter, our lobbyists or other professional advisors, before we even begin adding the other ingredients to the mix. Once that is all whipped up together we throw in our pinch of salt – which is a champion. We have had champions in this state-by-state campaign who have been, most definitely, worth their salt. These champions fight like pit bulls in committees and on the legislative floor for your child almost like their own. To be most effective, these ingredients are mixed in a separate bowl, and then folded in with the flour, our grassroots, and eggs, our unity and focus, to produce the raw cookie dough.
Cookie dough made without sugar is just a biscuit. Cookie dough made without butter doesn’t have the smooth texture needed to roll it out and shape it properly. And salt? It’s just a pinch…but that pinch is important. Salt is used in baking for its chemical properties. Salt slows down all the chemical reactions during baking making the dough stronger and tighter. Salt impacts the shelf life of the final product and it potentiates the flavor of all the other ingredients, especially the flour. It might be the tiniest portion with regard to the scale of other ingredients but incredibly essential.
With all of these ingredients assembled and blended our dough is almost ready. But just like a bill is a bill – NOT a law. Similarly, dough is just dough – NOT a cookie. Next week, we will learn how to roll out that dough, have our cookies take shape and finish our recipe!
To learn more about Autism Votes, take action today on autism insurance reform legislation in your state, or find out about Autism Speaks’ federal legislative advocacy agenda, please visit www.autismvotes.org