A New Year, A New Legislative Session
Written By: Emilee O’Brien, Director of Advocacy at Spartanburg Academic Movement and United Way of the Piedmont
Mary Black Foundation works closely with Spartanburg Academic Movement and United Way of the Piedmont.
January brings new energy and reflection to our lives. January also signals the start of a new legislative session for our state General Assembly. Our representatives returned to the State House on January 10, 2023, to begin the next two-year legislative session in South Carolina.
As the Director of Advocacy for both Spartanburg Academic Movement and United Way of the Piedmont, I am learning to navigate the state political landscape every day. As I reflect on my first year in this unique role, shared by these two nonprofit organizations, I’d like to share some insight into advocacy efforts underway and how you can get involved in making positive change in our community.
First, I’d like to start with the Mary Black Foundation’s Health Equity Statement:
“We recognize that individuals’ ability to access opportunities is shaped by their social and community context. Inequities in access are often the result of centuries of unjust policies and structural discrimination.”
This statement is a bold and powerful reminder that education, health, and economic status are interconnected. The Health Equity Statement also serves as a reminder that policy change is often needed to achieve the outcomes we hope to see in our community.
Second, while many nonprofit and direct service organizations work to improve the day-to-day lives of our neighbors by meeting their immediate needs, without some policy change, it will be difficult to achieve an environment where all residents can thrive. We must understand the policies that allow health, educational, and economic disparities to exist, and then work to create alternative policy solutions. I am encouraged by the collaborative efforts of many organizations in Spartanburg working with residents and policy makers to change the conditions that lead to poor outcomes through programs and policies. For examples, check out the advocacy agendas for United Way of the Piedmont and Spartanburg Academic Movement.
Finally, as I think about the upcoming legislative session, I encourage you to get involved. Your voice is needed to inform policy at every level in our state. Every resident has lived experience to share and expertise on the issues that impact them most directly. Storytelling and data are crucial elements of advocacy at a local and state level. Legislators want to hear about the real impact of problems and possible solutions from their constituents.
What you can do:
Do you know who represents you? Start here with this link to find your federal, state, and county representatives. You can also find more information about your state legislators on our State House homepage. Our state legislative website has a plethora of information including member information, archived bills, and live updates.
You have a story to tell! If you are interested in sharing your story or speaking about an issue that impacts you, our state legislators meet four times a year at the Spartanburg County Administrative Building to hear from constituents. You can request to speak for 5 minutes on any topic of your choosing. To sign up, follow the instructions here. On a local level, both City Council and County Council also have public comment periods at each meeting for the public to address council members.
As you reflect and set intentions for the year ahead, I hope you will decide to participate in our local or state legislative processes to create positive change in our community. Through storytelling and engagement with government, every member of our community can advocate for the changes they envision. I look forward to hearing your story.