Want the basics on policy, advocacy, and the legislative process? You’re in the right place!


By definition, a policy is, “a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business, or individual."

Policies are everywhere: from the speed limits you observe on your way to work, to the dress code your employer mandates, to the agreement you signed on the credit card you used to pay for dinner.


This is a rough outline of how the process goes:

Step 1: Identify The Problem

Before you can have a policy you must identify a problem. For example: secondhand smoke kills hundreds of non-smoking Louisianans each year.

Step 2: Identify The Desired Outcome

Then you must decide on what outcome you want from your policy. For this example the desired outcome could be: Fewer people get sick and die from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Step 3: Form Policy

Then you can start to think about forming a policy. This might be laws that restrict smoking in public places like bars and gaming facilities.

Step 4: Advocate

Advocate for your policy. Go in front of your local city council and educate them about the effects of secondhand smoke.

Step 5: Adopt

Your policy is adopted - congratulations! You're not done!

Step 6: Implement

Now you implement your policy. This includes educating bar and casino owners and patrons about the new law and helping to spread awareness.

Step 7: Evaluate

Finally, the policy has to be evaluated. Did it work? What was good/bad about the process as well as the policy.

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Good policy is both scientifically sound and politically feasible. This means that it will achieve the desired outcome as well as have a chance to be adopted.


Bad policy is:

  • Unenforceable — no where in the policy is any kind of enforcement authority granted
  • Unfunded — no money = no change
  • Too vague — if it doesn't apply to anyone... it doesn't apply to anyone
  • Too specific — once you start listing, you will inevitably forget something


The following graphic from the Metcalf Foundation has example of different levels of policy from least intrusive to most intrusive.

policy 101


By definition, a policy is, “a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business, or individual."



"One that defends or maintains a cause or proposal" (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)


“The act or process of advocating" (Webster' Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)

Advocacy involves actions taken by concerned citizens to demonstrate their support for an issue. Your voice makes a difference. Decisionmaking centers around you, the voters. At some point in the legislative process, there will be one letter or one call that breaks the camel's back and affects change. And while your letter may not be the straw that breaks the camel's back, it may make the last straw possible.

If we don't speak up and communicate with our legislators, we won't get what we need out of the policymaking process.


My job won't let me advocate.

Many employees feel that their employer will not allow them to advocate. If you are a citizen of Louisiana you not only have the right, but the responsibility to advocate for causes that are important to you. No job can tell you what you can and cannot do when you are not representing your employer or using their resources.

I just don't have the time.

Most of us don't have a lot of extra time. But if we don't speak out for our own rights on issues such as access to healthy foods and healthy workplaces, who will speak for us? On some issues, it takesas little as five letters or phone calls to tilt a policymaker's opinion one way or the other.

I won't make a difference.

Every voice makes a difference. Look at recent presidential elections. The decision sometimes comes down to a few votes in a few states. Your opinion matters, but it only makes a difference if you make it known. The assumption that your voice won't make a difference is what makes bad public policy possible.

Someone else will do it.

It is probably true that someone else will contact your legislator, but how do you know they are working for the same cause? There are many groups trying to get their voices heard. If they are talking and you are silent, how will anyone know your point of view?Your silence makes your opponents' voices even louder. Absolutely no one is going to advocate for our priorities—except us. And in many cases others may be fighting against us. There are millions of Americans who share our goals and objectives. Think how easy it would be to change things if each person took only five minutes out of their day to make that phone call or write that letter.

Nothing ever changes.

How often have you heard this? Sometimes, it seems like glaciers move faster than the legislative process. Legislative change happens slowly; the system is engineered this way on purpose. If laws were easy to change, then every swing of public opinion could change laws that would swiftly affect citizens. Though the system is slow, changedoeshappen and you can affect change.

I don't know enough.

You don't have to know all the details of a bill. Legislators don't expect you to. All you have to know is why the bill is important. Elected officials put a high value on input from the people they represent.


We’ve compiled some information about the Louisiana legislature to help you understand the process.


  • The Louisiana Constitution establishes the legislature, which is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The legislature is responsible for determining general policy for the state and for the residents of the state through the enactment of laws.
  • There are 39 senators and 105 members of the House of Representatives.
  • Members of both houses of the legislature serve a four-year term, with a term limit of three terms (twelve years).
  • The legislature is required to convene in the state capitol in Baton Rouge for regular annual sessions. The sessions start in March or April and finish in June or July.
  • In even numbered years (i.e. 2014) lawmakers can file an unlimited number of bills, but there can be no bills that relate to taxes. In odd numbered years (i.e. 2013) lawmakers are limited to 5 non-fiscal related bills each, all other bills must be fiscal in nature.


  • Glossary of legislative terms
  • Find your legislator
  • Learn how a bill becomes a law
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