Marquette University incorporates the state legislative day into its core curriculum, and this year, all D2s and D3s attended the event. Students joined forces with the Wisconsin Dental Association (WDA) to speak against the bill with one voice. Here are highlights from the 2019 legislative day.
The event took place in mid-March. After boarding the buses, we took off on the 75-minute drive west to Madison, Wisconsin. Upon arrival, we were briefed on state issues in a group setting. The WDA dentists also were included in this session.
The hot topic this year was Governor Tony Evers’ proposal containing a range of issues including increasing Medicaid reimbursement, addressing the student loan crisis and mid-level providers. This discussion captivated both the students and dentists. Going to a legislative day at the state level never struck me as important as national lobbying; however, this session taught me that state talks are just as important.
The rest of the morning was spent with guest speakers and a dual-party panel of legislators. We listened to legislators provide their views on each aspect of Governor Evers’ proposal. Once introduced, the floor opened for questions. The Q&A session also provided the opportunity for the large group to think about each issue more critically. I gathered that each meeting in Madison had to be strategically structured to encourage the support of legislators with differing political agendas.
Meetings with legislators
The afternoon was spent at the state Capitol. Students and WDA dentists were split into small groups and assigned meetings with legislators. Assignments were made based on place of residence and potential personal ties to representatives.
The afternoon in Madison is comparable to Capitol Hill during the ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day. However, at the state level, it is more common to directly meet with legislators. I enjoy these meetings because they provide a firsthand impact on the legislator. I was able to meet with two representatives.
In addition to intimate meetings, I also enjoy Madison Legislative Day because we advocate on a grassroots level. As a result of our interaction with those at the Capitol, mid-level providers have been taken out of the governor’s proposal. Additionally, a new program has been introduced that was developed by dental professionals in the state. The focus of this new program is to encourage better distribution of providers instead of adding more to the workforce. We believe this will be a more sustainable alternative to mid-level providers.
Much of dentistry is organized on a state level, and these meetings can have a direct effect on future legislation. Even one day of effort reinforced the idea that we are making a difference and reiterated the importance of maintaining relationships with legislators.
Start the lobby day conversation with your state association
Legislators make decisions on a wide variety of topics. It is impossible for them to be experts on every issue. That is our job. We must share our side of the story. Dentistry may be foreign to them, and we can make a difference in decisions they make tomorrow, next week or next year.
I am thankful Wisconsin has provided Marquette students the opportunity to attend days like these. I realize not all schools have this privilege. However, I encourage each of you to push for your schools to become more involved at the state level.
For those of you interested in taking the next step, ASDA has helpful resources to get started, including state dental association contacts. Additionally, the blog post “How to organize a state lobby day” describes important steps to getting the ball rolling.
State legislative days are incredible occasions to interest our peers in advocacy and excite them for changes we can create.
~Janae Momchilovich, Marquette ’21, Council on Advocacy Legislative Coordinator, Districts 6-7