Bethany Pray currently serves as CCLP's Interim Executive Director. Her areas of expertise include regulatory analysis and advocacy for Medicaid and commercial coverage, access to behavioral health benefits, Medicaid eligibility and much more.Staff page ›

May 3, 2023

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May Letter from Bethany Pray, Interim Executive Director

by | May 3, 2023

The anti-poverty movement involves hundreds of organizations that, like CCLP, take the fight to the state. Operating at the state level is an absolute necessity because many of the core laws and policies that affect access to health, housing, income, and food are created in state capitals. 

Flexibility for states, even when there is a strong federal framework, is a given. And in some areas, like tenants’ rights, the federal framework is minimal. Regardless of where a policy arises, the job of implementing and enforcing it falls largely to states, who decide how or whether to fund it and who will benefit. 

I met with many of those state colleagues last week in Chicago at the Shriver Center’s Legal Impact Network (LIN), and it drove home the fact that we are all working on a similar slate of issues, but necessarily with different communities and in different ways. Within the constraints of budget realities, courts and legislatures, people face similar frustrations, and dream up impressive solutions. 

I can’t overstate how much we rely on these national partners – LIN, the National Health Law Program, Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN), National Skills Coalition, Community Catalyst, The Clean Slate Initiative, to name a handful – to not only make our work possible, but even expand the impact of our work. We talk regularly with their staff members and benefit from their expertise and access to federal intel; we learn alongside them and their member organizations as they tackle becoming more equitable organizations; we attend their convenings and learn from the expertise of our colleagues across the country; we share our successes and provide support to others who want to adapt a Colorado win to their state’s needs. 

I will continue to have mixed feelings about the need to fight this fight in 50 states, not to mention DC, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories. That does make for a long struggle. And “states’ rights,” often cited as the justification for state flexibility, has been the mantra of racist policy-makers since before the Reconstruction Era, and is still used too often to limit rights (think banning abortion, establishing minimum sentencing, or gerrymandering Black voters out of representation.) 

But it can also give states a route to expanding and enforcing rights, to building on innovations, and to building a case for change on the federal level. So, we will continue to cheer when our out-of-state colleagues share the nitty gritty of impact litigation, will dig into models of how others have used opportunities to innovate in Medicaid through 1115 waivers, and couldn’t be happier to hear that an advocate from far away is developing legislation modeled on Colorado’s bill that gives mobile home park residents the right of first refusal when a park is offered for sale. These national partners create a forum for learning, self-examination, and change.  That’s what a movement is all about. 

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