By Lisa Horne, president Arizona Food Allergy Alliance (AFAA)
In 2012 Senator Linda Lopez approached AFAA as the leading voice for the food allergy and anaphylaxis community of Arizona, regarding potential legislation for restaurant education and awareness. We worked on that bill together, but unfortunately it failed to pass out of committee. At the close of the 2012 session in the spring of that year, I met with the Senator in her offices to discuss how to move forward and try for the restaurant legislation in the next session. In that meeting I asked her if she would consider also sponsoring another piece of legislation for AFAA. I told her about Ammaria Johnson, and Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signing into law what is now known as “stock general use epinephrine”. She agreed to sponsor a bill modeled after Virginia here in Arizona.
After Sen. Lopez was on-board for sponsoring the restaurant and school-epinephrine legislation, we put together working groups for both bills, and began gathering information and individuals/organizations to help us fine-tune the language and logistics of both bills. We had several individuals from Arizona Food Allergy Alliance from our medical advisory board, volunteer leadership, and parent members. Additionally, we had local government individuals from the Departments of Health & Human Services, Education and so forth.
Early on we realized that we needed to put the restaurant legislation on the back burner and go full bore with the stock-epinephrine bill.
We then presented our draft bill to the Arizona Senate and House Committees. Arizona is a very RED state, and it was not feasible in order to get this bill passed and meet our ultimate goal of saving lives – by making it a straightforward mandate. Rather the law requires that each year the Arizona Department of Education is required to submit for funding of this provision. If funded, it will be mandated in public and charter schools. If not funded, it will be flexible enough so that those that want to take advantage of the provision may do so if we can find the resources without any local red tape. We had several of our parent members, medical advisory board and volunteer leadership attend and testify at the committee hearings. We rallied the state both within our food allergy and anaphylaxis community, as well as their family and friends, in a letter, email and phone calling campaign to our local elected officials. Several of our medical advisory board members and I wrote Op-Ed’s for local papers including the Arizona Republic.
When it came down to the wire we only needed House Speaker Andy Tobin to schedule us for Committee of the Whole. Due to politics related to adopting Medicaid reform under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, our state legislature was at a standstill. Had this continued our bill would have died. Luckily, due to efforts of our local constituents and House Speaker Andy Tobin, we were scheduled and had a majority vote from both the House and Senate to then go to Governor Jan Brewer’s desk. Governor Brewer signed our bill into law in June, although we had the “media” signing recently in September.
What can other activists do:
1- Find a local Senator or Representative that BELIEVES in your bill and cause. Not just someone to sponsor it – someone that believes in it and will fight for it. The road ahead will not be an easy one, and you need someone who will fight the long good fight alongside you.
2- Get credible individuals in the community to rally around you e.g. Local/State Department of Health Services, Education, etc. – as well as local allergists, teachers, nurses etc. — Get them to speak on behalf of this bill to the media, Op-Ed’s, etc. Get the word out. Education, awareness and advocacy go hand in hand.
3- Rally your community and have them ask their friends/family to do so as well. Write a template email, phone-call script, and fax letter that individuals can grab off your website or Facebook and use. Give them their local senator’s and representative’s contact information. By making this readily available all they now have to do is use the contact info you provided and the script/letter template.
Lisa Horne founded the Arizona Food Allergy Alliance, which focuses on education, awareness, advocacy, and research as well as support. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing, and has worked in broadcasting and journalism, prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom.