As the pro-fluoride lobby is losing local traction and momentum with their campaign to spread fluoridation throughout the country, they are relying less on local members and city councils to pass fluoridation. They are focusing more of their efforts on state-level policy. Now is clearly the time to take the work we have done at the local level and start applying it in state legislatures, not only to keep state fluoridation mandates from being implemented, but to reverse existing mandates, implement infant fluoride warnings, and prohibit fluoridation at the state-level.
The Momentum necessary to create policy change at the state level can only be created by the spread of local fluoride-free campaigns throughout your state. Join the movement to stay informed and connected with FAN, and work locally to end fluoridation, either with an existing group or by creating your own campaign. We will only win this battle if we work from the ground up, so start with the grassroots.
Read the latest fluoride news from your state. Local news stories can often provide you with state contacts and allies, information about your opposition, examples of previous campaign efforts, and an idea of how your local media covers the issue. Visit FAN’s state database to learn more about the fluoridation laws, sources of pollution, and other fluoride facts about your state.
Send letters to your state legislators, state senators, and Governor calling for an end to water fluoridation in your state and urging them in introduce legislation. Call your state legislator and schedule a meeting with them or their staff. Let them know exactly why you want to speak with them and send an information packet at least several days prior to your meeting so they have time to consider your request and prepare an initial response. You can also watch for electoral events, such as house parties, town hall events, and meet and greets, where your legislator will be interacting with the public. These are great opportunities to quickly bring up the issue of fluoridation with elected officials, and to ask them their position and person feelings about it. It’s no use if you don’t remember what they said, so try to record the interaction if you can.
Getting media exposure is the fastest way to build support and momentum for our campaign. Contact media outlets in your state, TV talk shows, local blogs, and radio shows, urging them to interview Dr. Paul Connett or another FAN expert about fluoridation. Write letters to the editor of the most influential newspapers in your state about the need for fluoride policy reform.
Do you belong to a state-level nonprofit that deals with environmental, public health, or human rights issues? Contact their management, let them know you’re a supporter and that you would like them to review water fluoridation and take a position in opposition to the practice.
Request that your state library, and or the libraries within your state, to carry important fluoride-free literature like “The Case Against Fluoride”, and “The Fluoride Deception”. Contact the state colleges, universities, and private institutions in your state and request that the administration host Dr. Connett as a speaker on the fluoridation issue. While FAN doesn’t have the funds to fly Dr. Connett everywhere, college’s will generally set aside funding to host speakers like Dr. Connett. Contact FAN if you would like to schedule a speaking engagement for one of our experts.
Create a Strategy
The first step in creating a state-level fluoride campaign strategy is to figure out what policy you want to implement. If your state has a statewide fluoridation mandate, then the emphasis ought to be on ending the mandate with legislation to give local governments authority to decide whether to practice fluoridation or not (model bill text). While in an ideal world, we would like to start out by prohibiting fluoridation, in reality elected officials like to change policy in small, incremental steps.
If you live in a state that does not have a statewide mandate, or your attempts at ending the mandate fail, then there are still other options. We suggest you try to implement either an infant warning campaign, and/or create a state-level fluoride study committee. Both bills ought to successfully inform legislators and citizens about the risks of fluoridation in a less dramatic way, which should eventually lead to future legislation ending the mandate or prohibiting fluoridation all together. Remember, democratic governments generally resist quick, expansive change. Don’t be afraid to make slow, incremental reforms. They generally take longer, but increase your chances of eventual success.
If you live in a state that allows statewide voter referendums, then this is another option available to you. This option will likely cost more money, take more time, and require a lot more volunteers to implement, but if you have these three elements, then it could be the fastest and most direct way to prohibit fluoridation throughout your entire state. If this is the route you take, go right for the jugular; introduce language prohibiting fluoridation outright, and prepare yourself for a massive education campaign that will require buying advertising, getting media coverage, and going door-to-door.
If a fluoridation referendum is your choice for policy change, then start by learning the requirements for getting your question on the ballot. Your Secretary of State can generally provide you with all of the requirements for putting together an official ballot petition. Once you know the rules, start going door-to-door with your petition, providing information about your referendum, and asking citizens to clearly sign their name and address. It helps to keep track of houses with no one home when canvassing a neighborhood, that way you can return at a different time to try again. Don’t forget other great petitioning locations, including outside the town dump entrances, outside city halls, in public squares, at local festivals and fairs, and outside local sporting events. With permission, you can usually stand outside supportive businesses like natural food stores and supermarkets.
Plan a timeline for the your campaign. Make sure you know when, and how often, the legislature meets, how the legislative process works, and how long it typically takes for a bill to get signed into law. In most cases, it may take months for a bill to become law. Also, make sure you know if there are any deadlines for submitting bills or referendum questions, and if there are laws or rules that must be followed when collecting signatures for referendums or lobbying decision-makers. You can generally find this information on your state legislature’s website, and by contacting your Secretary of State’s office.
Initiate your Campaign
Once you’ve chosen the fluoride campaign that makes sense for your state, you need to build your support. Identify and reach out to existing supporters. Fluoride campaigns work best when they are anchored by a coalition of groups and individuals, particularly medical and scientific experts. Who else might be interested in helping to pass the resolution? Do an internet search for anyone else who has opposed fluoridation in your state. You can usually find supporters in news stories about previous fluoride campaigns, or in online forums or on social media sites opposed to fluoridation. Search past legislative records on your state legislature’s website for previous fluoridation hearings. If bills were introduced long ago (usually more than 10 years ago), you may have to visit your state archive for these records. They can be very good tools, and often times can provide you with names of local activists, leaders, lobbyists, and groups who have opposed fluoridation in the past. They may still be active and interested in joining your campaign. Track them down and urge them to get involved.
What natural allies do you have in the your state? Try to find coalition partners sooner rather than later. Coalitions work best when everyone is involved in the process from the beginning. Naturopathic doctor associations, chiropractors, organic food producers, health food stores and their customers, environmental experts, retired water works employees, clean water organizations, environmental groups and medical professionals are generally good groups to approach for support initially. Contact their lobbyists, as well as their board members. Ask to make a presentation at their next meeting on legislative issues.
This is obvious, but don’t forget to also locate any other local fluoride-free groups in your state. Your campaign will be much easier if you can bring together existing campaigns from several different communities in your state.
Identify a state legislator you think will be supportive of your resolution. This is essential if your state requires bills to be introduced by legislators, rather than by both legislators and citizens. Without a legislator who will actually take ownership of the issue and make it his or her cause, it will be difficult (if not impossible) to successfully introduce and pass a bill. You can identify likely champions by investigating officials’ voting records and asking your coalition partners if they have any allies at the state house. Legislators who represent communities that have already taken a position against fluoridation are also great candidates for sponsors.
You can also provide every legislator with information on fluoridation, then approach them all – one by one–requesting their sponsorship of your bill. Start with your own legislator(s), and if they are unwilling at first, request that they consider introducing the bill on behalf of a constituent. Sometimes an official may not care about fluoridation, but would be willing to introduce the bill solely because they represent you and feel obligated.
Once you find a supportive legislator, meet with him or her. Try to have people who live in the legislator’s district or ward meet with the representative. Once you arrange a meeting, try to organize as diverse a group as possible to represent your demonstrate that your issue has community support. At the meeting, you should present the legislator(s) with sample text of the proposed bill, along with a packet of information supporting your legislation. This will make the legislator’s job easier, and make them more likely to support your issue.
Try to get the media interested. Once your bill is introduced and scheduled for a vote, contact the media and ask them to do a story about the campaign. Legislation gives local media a reason to cover the larger issues of fluoride through the state, and sometimes at the national level. Write letters to the editor and OpEds in support of the bill. When there is coverage of fluoridation in the local paper, try to find the online version of the story and have supporters “comment” on the story, showing support for your bill. Stories that receive a lot of comments, or Letters to editors, are generally followed up with further coverage.
Host a press conference, public forum, and/or debate on the bill. It’s usually a good idea to hold community meetings or other educational events throughout the state to talk to your fellow residents about your bill. Reserve space in a public libraries, town halls, or social halls. Advertise your meeting in local papers, on the internet (with a Facebook groups), and with posters around towns. Organize a statewide tour of screenings of the Fluoride Action Network’s “Professional Perspectives” film. Host several key speakers opposing fluoridation at a luncheon in the capital, if you can, and invite legislators, their staff, and members of the media to attend. Politicians love free food, and this is a great way to get them to sit for an hour-long presentation on your bill.
Don’t forget to bring information packets to hand out to any members of the public or media who attend. Also, make sure to have a sign-up sheet to collect names, telephone numbers, and email addresses so you can alert these new supporters about upcoming campaign events and council actions.
Canvass neighborhoods. Just because your bill isn’t a referendum doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go door-to-door looking for support. Write up a petition supporting your resolution and have residents who live in districts of the legislators who will be considering your bill. Start with the legislators who will be on the committee that will first review your bill, and then move onto the districts of the House and Senate leadership. It may not be an efficient use of your time to canvass every district. Focus on the key decision-makers, and focus more of your time on actual face to face lobbying of these decision-makers at the State House.
Keep in contact with legislators. “Lobbying” is just another word for letting your elected officials know how you feel about an issue. Communicating with your legislators is a right, not a privilege. You should make sure all of the representatives in the legislature have a packet of information about your bill. Try to get constituents from different districts to arrange meetings with their representatives to show support for the bill. Remember those petition signers? Now is the time to contact them and urge them to call or meet with their legislator.
Increase your base of support. As the date of the vote approaches, make sure you are working with residents across the state and asking them to call or write their representatives in support of the bill. Organize a statewide “call-in” day during which people from every neighborhood will call their representatives in support of the bill. If a particular representative is opposed to the bill, do targeted outreach in that neighborhood (canvassing). You can also use free online petition like www.change.org to organize emails campaigns targeting decision-makers.
Attend all meetings. In some cases, study committees or subcommittees will consider the bill before the full legislature or senate does. Make sure you attend these meetings and present the argument for your resolution during the public comments section of any hearings. On the day your bill is going to be voted on, make sure the hearing room is filled with supporters of your bill. Bring colorful and eye-catching signs to show support for the bill. Encourage supporters to speak in favor of the bill during the public hearing, and make sure you have people ready with prepared remarks, particularly your scientific and medical experts. The day of the vote is your final chance to how that the community really cares about your issue. Keep the pressure on, and don’t give up until you succeed.