The Inside versus the Outside Game

by Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

One of the challenges of lobbying for NASW WI in the current political environment is balancing speaking out on major social justice or policy issues that are partisan and are not supported by the Majority Party or the Governor (the “Outside Game”) while at the same time working with the Majority Party and ultimately the Governor to get support of bipartisan legislation that will help our profession and our clients (the “Inside Game”).

These varied lobbying efforts are portrayed in various newsletter articles. On the one hand, NASW WI is part of a Gun Violence Prevention Coalition that is seeking to reinstate the 48 hour waiting period for the purchase of handguns and closing loopholes in the law that currently allow those convicted of violent felonies and misdemeanors to purchase guns at gun shows and on the internet without a background check. We are also a part of a coalition that is supporting an alternative budget to that proposed by Governor Walker. In addition we are strongly supportive of the Higher Education Lower Debt bill, which will help Wisconsin residents (and many social workers) refinance their federal loans at lower interest rates. This bill has zero support from the Majority Party.

On the other hand, I am currently working with Republican legislators to: 1) Promote the Mental Health Services in in home settings bill; 2) Promote the Child Victim’s act; 3) Promote a bill that will support the Social Work’s Section’s policy of requiring that applicants for clinical licensure have 1,000 hours of supervised clinical practice doing DSM diagnosis and psychotherapy; 4) Promote a bill that would require HMO’s to reimburse CAPSW’s and other qualified treatment trainees for serving Medical Assistance clients; and 5) Promote a bill that would ease prior authorization requirements for licensed clinical social workers.

This advocacy and lobbying work is a difficult balance when I know that a legislator from the Majority Party that is helpful on a bill important to NASW WI may be terrible on one of our social policy issues such as gun violence prevention, drug testing for welfare recipients, reproductive rights, the higher education lower debt bill or other issues.

As difficult and even strange it is at times to do this “political dance” or playing both the “inside and outside game” it is absolutely necessary for our profession and our clients. We need allies in the Majority Party to protect our profession against the many attacks on professionalism and regulation that are occurring today. We need these allies to also promote and strengthen our profession so it can continue to do its wonderful work helping clients, repairing the wounds in our society and fighting for social justice.

We also need to continue to join coalitions and speak out against harmful social policies even if there is no chance of making progress in this legislative session. It is our moral obligation as social workers to speak out against social injustice and work to make this a better world.

By playing both the “inside” and “outside game” and doing the “political dance” as necessary we can be true to our values and also promote, support and strengthen our wonderful profession.

Our 2017 Lobby Day on April 12th in Madison is one opportunity our members have of promoting our profession and our social justice issues. It is an opportunity to educate legislators about our profession and our issues. I hope to see many of you there on April 12th!