|Advocacy Toolbox FAQ|
What is the difference between "advocacy" and "lobbying?"
The goal of advocacy is to transfer information/provide education. The goal of lobbying is to influence a legislator to action on a specific piece of legislation. Most state employees are ethically able to advocate for change that benefits society using research, educational materials, personal stories, etc. Requests for action, even substantive action on a specific piece of legislation, should be considered lobbying and falls outside of the scope of ethical conduct for most state employees. Many agencies utilize the professional services of lobbyists to perform these activities. State Employees may make requests of legislators for causes important to them on their personal time, but should be aware, that expertise on a subject may transcend the personal right to communicate with an individual legislator even outside of work. Since state laws vary widely, it is a good idea to check with your legislative liaison, or legal department, prior to initiating communication with legislators if you are in doubt. For more information on this topic please refer to the following resources:
Workplace Rules and Guidelines for Public Health Advocates by the American Public Health Association
As a state employee, how can I advocate?
When considering advocacy efforts, state employees should ALWAYS operate within state guidelines. If you receive CDC or other federal and foundation funding, you should also operate within their advocacy/lobbying guidelines, including the Hatch Act rules. For example, you must never use federal dollars to lobby (see CDC Guidance on Anit-Lobbying). That is, when you meet/talk with legislators you cannot advocate for funding or a specific vote on proposed legislation. To be sure you are operating in the confines of the state or federal requirements, it is always a good idea to check with your supervisor and/or grant administrator to inform them of your interest in contacting a legislator. In general, state employees can: