Democracy is slow—it is a world of the tortoise, not the hare. The language to describe legislative steps—“sent to Committee,” “the committee took action,” or “adopted and engrossed”—seem to imply efficiency, celerity, and progress. However, in Massachusetts, a legislative clerk must still physically carry the printed legislation down the hall and lay it on the Governor’s desk. Legislation is a cumbersome process often dismissed with the adage: “Two things you should never watch being made: sausage and the law.”
The Index of Creativity and Innovation legislation (SB 789) has passed the California Senate thanks to the leadership of Senator Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) and the sponsorship of the California Alliance for Arts Education. The Senate sent the bill to the Assembly, where it is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Committee on Education, on June 13.. With the approval of the Assembly and the signature of the Governor, California would become one of the first states to adopt a creative index as a tool to promote creativity in our schools.
After conceiving the idea, I led the campaign for the Index in Massachusetts. Then I created and implemented a similar campaign strategy in Oklahoma. So, I am very pleased that California is moving towards success.
I came to California in March and April to help “stir the pot” for the Index legislation. In March, I participated in the CREATE California conference in San Diego, sponsored by the California Arts Council and Superintendent Tom Torlakson and the Department of Education . Roughly three weeks later, I joined a delegation in Sacramento to meet with key staff from the offices of the Governor, Senate President Pro Tem and Speaker of the Assembly.
These meetings are critical. They are part ritual, part dance, part information and part persuasion. And a key component of the recipe is the group present in the room.. In addition to Joe Landon, executive director of the Alliance, we had Sarah Murr of Boeing Corporation; John Eger, former telecommunications lawyer, now professor of public policy and communication at San Diego State University; Jason Schmelzer, Boeing’s lobbyist, and Kathy Lynch, lobbyist for the California Alliance for Arts Education.
Sarah and John communicated the critical need for creativity in the economy—how corporations like Boeing depend more and more on the creative skills of their employees. A great deal of political commitment is action rather than words. . Both Sarah and John flew to Sacramento for the day, demonstrating with their presence the importance of the issue.
Face to face meetings are essential to advocacy. We were able to answer questions, iron out misunderstandings and show our commitment. Time is valuable in the State House, so the meetings are brief—sometimes no more than 10 minutes. You have to get to the point, be respectful, persistent and consistent.
Did we move the bill forward in those meetings? Yes. But, like the tortoise running a race, we won’t know how far forward for a while. Every step counts. I thank Sarah and John and all the other advocates for taking part in the political process. This is how we set priorities in our country. And, those of us who care about education, our future and our children—we need to keep pushing the tortoise to the finish line.
Dan Hunter is a founding partner of Hunter Higgs, LLC, an advocacy and communications firm specializing in cultural non-profits. He is the originator of the public policy initiative, the Creative Challenge Index. After successfully passing the Index in Massachusetts, Hunter is currently developing campaigns for the Creative Challenge Index in several states. His newest book of humor—Iowa?…It’s a State—will be published this fall. He is also an award winning playwright. He teaches playwriting and political advocacy for the arts at Boston University.