To make a difference in the political process, consider organizing a “Doctor for a Day” program through your state society to be held at your state capitol. State medical societies have held similar programs, treating minor complaints at state capitol buildings and passing out fact sheets on various issues. This allows legislators to become more familiar with the conditions physiatrists treat, rather than just physicians’ legislative requests. State PM&R societies should consult with other “Doctor for a Day” organizers and state legislative staff, and seek legal advice on professional insurance issues surrounding this activity.
State legislative sessions are the forums in which state legislation (also called “bills”) is debated and voted on by state lawmakers. Some legislation is enacted or voted into law. A state legislature may be divided into two chambers: the Senate and the House (or Assembly). The two-chamber system is often referred to as “bicameral.” A state may have only one chamber and is referred to as “unicameral.” Today, 49 states have bicameral legislatures, and one, Nebraska, is unicameral.
Composition of Legislatures
Since state legislatures differ in their political affiliation based on population, legislative elections are held and impact the partisan makeup, be it Republican, Democratic, or Independent. Some states have “Green” candidates to reflect environmental issues. The Nebraska legislature is nonpartisan.
Legislative Sessions and Schedules
There are two main types of legislative sessions: regular and special (or extraordinary). The general session is the formal forum for enacting laws for the welfare of citizens in a state. Special sessions are generally called by the governor or legislature to deal with specified matters, such as a budget crisis. Each state has a legislative manual that provides details on protocol for conducting legislative sessions. Find the dates of your state’s legislative session online.
Doctor for a Day
“Doctor for a Day” is an advocacy activity planned with state legislative staff during a session wherein physicians rotate during business hours to provide medical services to the members. The state medical and specialty societies often work together and schedule their member/physicians to be available at the state capitol for a period to render health care services and in exchange, learn more about the legislative process firsthand, and have the opportunities to hear legislative debate from the lawmakers and private citizens. Additionally, many legislatures have full-time nursing staff available during the sessions. A typical schedule may allow for two physicians for each day of the legislative session or for a shorter period, one assigned to the House and one to the Senate. This activity also provides physicians the opportunity to advocate for specific health care issues while on the capitol premises. If your state society is interested in organizing a “Doctor for a Day” activity, coordinate with your state medical society and contact the state division of legislative services for assistance.
In Florida, the state medical and specialty societies hold the clinic for each day of their 60-day legislative session. The Florida physicians are at the capitol as “on-call” physicians to treat members of the legislature and their staff. For the most part, they treat conditions such as colds and other minor ailments. When they are not seeing patients in the clinic, they are encouraged to walk around the capitol, attend committee meetings, and even try and set up appointments with their state representatives and senators. Physicians are generally permitted to sit in the House or Senate chamber along with the members and hear debate on legislation. Physicians participating are not permitted to write prescriptions but rather refer the members to their personal physicians. In case of emergencies, physicians and nurses contact “911” and use the local hospital.
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