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Highlights of PA Advocacy Day 2015

On April 20, 2015, dozens of dedicated American Heart Association volunteers from across Pennsylvania converged on the State Capitol to raise awareness of important heart and stroke-related policy issues.  For a number of attendees, this was their first-ever advocacy day, and they found it to be a very informative and rewarding experience. 

As part of the day’s event, AHA hosted a press conference focused on CPR as a graduation requirement.  In addition, we were thrilled to have the smoke-free bill sponsors, Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) and Representative Tom Murt (R-Montgomery), take part in the press conference to show their support for AHA and the clean indoor air issue. 

Throughout the day, volunteers took to the Capitol halls, speaking to Legislators and their staff on three specific issues: 

  • Tobacco Taxes.  Governor Tom Wolf has proposed to increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack and levy a 40 percent wholesale tax on other tobacco products.  Study after study shows that increasing tobacco taxes reduces youth smoking, helps adult smokers quit, and reduces smoking-related deaths. 
  • Hands-only CPR Training in Schools.  AHA is leading the way to support efforts that would ensure students graduating from high school are provided with a hands-only, 30-minute CPR training.  We believe that learning the basic skill of physically administering CPR will ensure every high school graduate is ready to step up and save a life.
  • Clean Indoor Air.  For many years, AHA has supported strengthening Pennsylvania’s smoke-free law, known as the “Clean Indoor Air Act.”  The law was enacted in 2008 and contains over a dozen exemptions, far more than any surrounding state.  These workplaces, where smoking is permitted, exposes Pennsylvania workers, and the public, to the dangers of secondhand smoke.  Legislation has been introduced in the House (House Bill 682) and the Senate (Senate Bill 567) that would remove the exemptions. 

The efforts of our volunteers truly made an impact in Harrisburg!  Their involvement, personal stories and engagement are an important part of how we fulfill our mission of building healthier lives, free from cardiovascular disease and stroke.


 

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Thank You for Everything You Do!

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week this week (April 12 – 16) – and with that thought on our minds, we wanted to tell you how much we appreciate you, and all that you do for You’re the Cure initiatives all across the East Coast.

We appreciate every single alert response, every call, every visit you have made to your lawmakers and elected officials. We appreciate you joining us in conference rooms across our division as we train you on different state policies and how to be an engaged advocate. We appreciate those who serve on our Advocacy Committees, putting in long hours in meetings and on calls as you help us shape our grassroots plans.

We appreciate you, and we appreciate your time and all you do as a partner of the American Heart Association. In case you ever forget, every little thing – both large and small – makes a difference!

Every Little Thing you do

as a You’re the Cure advocate helps,

and we appreciate you!

 THANK YOU for all you do.

Just a note: If you haven't joined our advocacy network yet, it's never too late! Just visit us at www.yourethecure.org and become a You're the Cure member. It only takes a few moments to sign up, but you'll help make a difference that will last through the years!

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MN Advocates Testify on AHA Issues at the Capitol

Last week was full of hearings up at the Capitol and State Office Building! We want to thank ALL of our volunteers who testified on our issues. Check it out below:

The House Transportation Finance Committee released their omnibus transportation finance bill on Tuesday. We lined up 4 testifiers to focus on a narrative about bike/walk investment that stressed the business case and need for investment in Greater MN. Peter Grasse (3M Employees Bicycle User Group), Patrick Hollister (Active Living Planner, PartnerSHIP4Health), Dawn Moen (Program Specialist, BLEND-CentraCare Health Foundation), Dorian Grilley (Executive Director, Bicycle Alliance of MN).

Patrick Hollister (right) and Peter Grasse  (below) testified  at the MN House Transportation Committee hearing about the economic and social benefits that walkable/bikeable communities bring to Greater MN and the need for infrastructure in the suburbs to support bicycling as a real choice to get to and from work. ‪#‎FundBikePedinMN‬ ‪#‎mnleg

Dawn Moen (below), testified in the MN House Transportation Committee, thanking the committee for their support of Safe Routes to School and advocating for more state investment in active transportation.

 

 

 

The Physical Education bill was heard in the Senate Education Budget Division on Thur. April 8th and in the House Education Finance Committee on Friday April 10th. Matt Johnson, PE teacher at Hassan Elementary School in Rogers (main picture and below), testified on our bill to ensure all MN students get a quality physical education. He opened by asking the committee members to stand up and move around to get some blood flow to the brain.

 

The bill will be laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus education bill. Thank you, Rep. Bob Dettmer, for being a tremendous lead author and champion for PE!

Dr. Russell Luepker, a longtime AHA volunteer (below) testified against the proposed tax relief for premium cigars in the Senate Tax Committee on Wed. April 8th. He did a fantastic job, as always, standing up against reducing the hard won tobacco tax increase we achieved in 2013. Check out this interesting article in the Star Tribune covering the hearing: “Cigar tax cut considered at Capitol, but anti-smoking activists push back”

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Tobacco to 21 is Progressing in the Hawaii State Legislature

Guest Blogger: Don Weisman, Hawaii Government Relations Director

As of April 1, Hawaii Senate Bill 1030, which proposes to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21, has passed through the required House and Senate committees. The next steps pending approval on the House floor, will be to move to a conference committee where House and Senate members will work out differences in their respective versions of the bill.

Tobacco to 21, as the issue is often referred, has taken on greater focus since a March 14 report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that it could join higher tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free air laws, and adequately funded community tobacco prevention, control and cessation programs as the cornerstones of effective reduction of tobacco addiction and use among minors. The IOM strongly concluded that boosting the tobacco sale age to 21 will have a substantial positive impact on public health and save lives. It found that raising the tobacco sale age will significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking; reduce smoking-caused deaths; and immediately improve the health of adolescents, young adults and young mothers who would be deterred from smoking, as well as their children. Significantly, the greatest impact would be among adolescents 15-17 who would no longer be able to pass for legal age and would have a harder time obtaining cigarettes from their older friends and classmates.

Overall, the report predicts that raising the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 will, over time, reduce the smoking rate by about 12 percent and smoking-related deaths by 10 percent.

The American Heart Association is supporting the Hawaii state legislation. National data shows that 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The ages of 18 to 21 are a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use. While half of adult smokers become daily smokers before 18, four out of five do so before they turn 21. Increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 will help prevent these young people from ever starting to smoke. If passed, Hawaii would join at least 58 localities in 7 states – including Hawaii County and New York City – that have already raised the tobacco sale age to 21. California, Washington and New Jersey state legislatures are also currently considering similar bills.

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Nevada Lobby Day 2015 Recap

On Tuesday, March 31st, American Heart Association staff, business leaders, survivors, and You’re the Cure advocates joined together in Carson City at the Capitol to support heart-healthy legislation.  In addition, dozens of advocates supported their efforts by taking action online.

To those of you who joined us in Carson City or took online action, the Nevada Advocacy Team wants to say THANK YOU!  

In case you didn’t attend Lobby Day, here’s how we did it:  

  • We hosted a Hand-Only CPR demonstration in the morning.  If you don’t know Hand-Only CPR or would like a 2 minute refresher, please click here!
  • We met face-to-face with legislators in the Assembly Education, Assembly Health and Humans Services Committees as well as members of the Senate Finance Committee.
  • We dropped off informational packets to all remaining legislators who were unavailable to meet due to previous engagements.

And if you missed this year’s Lobby Day, don’t worry! You can still support our efforts online by clicking here and there will be additional opportunities to take action in the coming months. We’ll need every single one of you along the way! 

Please email Ben Schmauss at Ben.Schmauss@heart.org or Josh Brown at Josh.Brown@heart.org if you are interested in future volunteer opportunities, or if you have any additional questions. 

Thank you again for being a critical part of the You’re the Cure team!

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It’s Not too Late – RSVP for Lobby Day, April 22nd

Can you believe it, our annual California AHA/ASA Lobby Day in Sacramento is just a few weeks away?  

California AHA/ASA Lobby Day

Wednesday, April 22nd

West Steps of the Capitol

10am - 3pm (Registration starts at 9am) 

It’s not too late! Register here if you’d like to attend! 

 

A few highlights of the event will include: an opportunity to connect with other AHA/ASA advocates, an advocacy training to ensure you’re prepared for the day, motivational speakers and survivors connected to the AHA/ASA mission, the opportunity to directly communicate with your state legislators, and two complimentary heart-healthy meals. 

 

If you haven’t done so already and are planning to join us in Sacramento, please register here. Registration is required so we can schedule face-to-face meetings with your legislators’ offices!

Please contact me at your earliest convenience if you have any questions via email at Josh.Brown@heart.org or via phone at (916) 431-2364. 

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You're the Cure at the Capitol: A Sea of Red Arrives at the State House

On March 30 and 31, over 60 You’re the Cure advocates from across North Carolina met at the American Heart Association’s office for our annual State Lobby Day.  Advocates participated in advocacy training on Monday. We reviewed the AHA state lobby day issues, learned the components of an effective meeting with a lawmaker and had time to meet in our lobby day meeting groups. 

Yolanda Dickerson and Frank Amend, present and past chair of the NC Advocacy Coordinating Committee respectively, along with Ilana Adlee, You’re the Cure youth advocated, discussed how they prepare for legislative meetings and what to expect from a meeting with a lawmaker. Everyone left with an understanding of what to expect at the legislature on Tuesday.

Resembling a sea of red, we arrived on Tuesday at the Capitol and enjoyed conversations with many Representatives, Senators, and their legislative aides as advocates urged their lawmakers to support:

  • HB 250/SB 298: Healthy Food Small Retailer/Healthy Corner Store Act
  • SB 662: Appropriate Funds for Tobacco Use Prevention
  • A NC Plan to Close the Coverage Gap

At mid-day, Matt Newman and our You’re the Cure youth advocates lead their fellow advocates, lawmakers and legislative staff in a walk around Halifax Mall to help raise awareness about National Walking Day, April 1.  By day’s end, we heard attendees comment that it had been a great day filled with positive experiences. 

A special thank you to the NC Advocacy Coordinating Committee for their help in planning and executing this signature advocacy event.  Finally, a big thank you to all the advocates that joined us for this year’s lobby day!

It’s not too late to make a difference by taking action as part of our virtual lobby day, just click here.

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Spring is in the air, and that means many exciting activities at the AHA

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

The legislative session will wrap up any day but we are happy to announce the Governor signed the appropriations bill for the Millennium Fund, with $4.7 million dedicated to tobacco prevention, cessation, and treatment. That is an increase of over $1.5 million from last year’s funding. During session we were also able to discuss with Legislators the importance of physical education and nutrition in schools, and will work during the interim with Legislators, the Department of Education, and other organizations to improve the health of all Idaho students.

Another big spring event for the American Heart Association is our annual Heart and Stroke Walk. We are in the middle of preparations for the walk, which will take place on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at Julia Davis Park in Boise. We have a number of teams signed up but it’s not too late to register if you are interested in participating in this great event. We are excited to have people join us at this free community event promoting heart health.

Make sure to swing by the Advocacy booth to learn more about what we will be working on in the upcoming months. We will be spreading the word on our efforts to help cities go smoke free, helping eliminate the harms of second hand smoke on workers throughout Idaho. We will also be educating people on the high amount of sodium in most of our diets and how it effects our heart health. Be sure to sign the sodium pledge and commit to reducing your sodium intake in an effort to love your heart.

I encourage you to join us for the Heart Walk, gather your own team, or join a friend’s and register here: Boise Heart Walk. Stop by our booth and learn about all the exciting things we’ll be doing over the next few months to advocate for the health of all Idahoans.

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If You Build It, They Will Come: Relationships with Lawmakers

There’s a saying often used when referencing the act of sales which can also be applied to advocacy: It all comes down to relationships.

As an advocate, building relationships with elected officials is the number one way you can ensure that lawmakers across your state are educated on the issues most important to you. You’re the Cure advocates are given opportunities to strengthen their skills at building relationships with decision makers through the various advocacy activities offered while promoting AHA’s policy goals.

One key to building relationships with legislators is to understand their preferred method of receiving information. What are the best ways to reach out to them, communicate with them, and follow up with them? Sometimes, the timing of communication can be one of the more important variables. VA Delegate Christopher Peace [R – New Kent] suggests that getting in touch with him at his local office is best: "Usually, setting a meeting in my Mechanicsville District Office prior to session sets a more relaxed environment in which a citizen advocate may express to me their thoughts on issues of importance to them and about legislative matters that may arise during the impending session."

Not sure what your legislator prefers? Make a call to their legislative assistant—not only will they be able to direct you, but developing a relationship with this "gatekeeper" can also help you form a better relationship with your lawmaker!

Additionally, sometimes your elected officials will be the ones to reach out to you directly.  NC Representative Becky Carney [D-Mecklenburg] said that in her opinion, the best way to communicate with her constituents is for them to "set up a meeting to talk about the issues that people have, or their concerns.  I prefer talking with people – communicating with me through email is a great way, [including] phone numbers so that I can call them back. Personal dialogue is sometimes better than written dialogue."

Your legislators know that advocates are vital for them to keep a finger on the pulse of their communities back home.

Councilmember-At-Large David Grosso [I-District of Columbia] shared his perspective: "Advocates are a major driving force in the legislative process. They are boots on the ground and know intricately those issues that impact different populations and communities. I want to know what their specific concerns are. As a member of the legislative body, sometimes we have a 30,000 ft. view of issues, but the advocates help us to focus on the nuance and intricacies of various matters. Having that perspective is invaluable because it enables us to tailor laws and regulations to the specific needs of the communities that we serve. Through our relationship with advocates, we are able to identify the areas where we can have the greatest impact, ensuring that we are serving a wide demographic in the most effective and efficient ways possible."

Through the voice of their constituents, elected officials are in a much better position to stay updated with a focused view of what's happening in their communities.

From DC, Maryland, Virginia, and into the Carolinas, our legislative bodies may look different; however, at the end of the day we are all people, one and the same. Our elected officials have important jobs where they represent us by making decisions that ultimately affect our daily life – but their main focus is their constituents.

If you’re up to it today, we would like to challenge you to use this information and take action. Send an email, make a phone call, or schedule a time to meet with your legislator today! Your elected officials are ready and willing to get to know you and what is important to you and your community!

A special thanks to Councilmember-At-Large Grosso [I-District of Columbia], VA Delegate Christopher Peace [R – New Kent], and NC Representative Becky Carney [D-Mecklenburg] for their contributions to this piece.

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Urge Senators to Lift the Cap on Charitable Donations!

Please tell Senate Finance Committee members that limiting the amount of funds non-profit organizations can raise in Vermont to fund their missions is the wrong way to raise revenue.

The Vermont House has passed legislation that would cap itemized deductions at 2.5 percent of the state standard deduction ($15,500/individual; $31,000/couple). The bill, which reportedly raises $33.2 million, is now before the Senate Finance Committee. Please contact members of the Senate finance Committee at http://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2016/25 and tell them that such a cap could have an adverse effect on the good work the AHA is doing in Vermont.

In a response to Vermont’s non-profit community recently Senate Finance Committee Chair Tim Ashe stated the following, “…one thing is clear – Vermont’s tax system is in need of change. We currently tax the things that are not growing, and we do not tax the things that are growing. I am in no jag whatsoever to merely raise new taxes to “get us through this year.” We really do need a long-term approach so that both government and our non-profit partners have stable funding for planning and operational purposes.”

We agree. Please tell committee members that implementing excise taxes on tobacco and sugary drinks could raise significant revenue for the state but more importantly, deter unhealthy behaviors that lead to diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer that are costing the state millions.

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