Ideas for Creating a Public Policy Proposal

An effective public policy proposal tells a story in a clear, efficient manner geared toward encouraging legislative action aimed at a solution.  Here are some things to include and some things to avoid when creating an effective public policy proposal.

Try to:

  • Create a clear, concise title for your resolution:  Often your proposal’s reader will only have time to glance at the title when reviewing a number of proposals in succession. The title should give the reader as much information as possible, without becoming too cumbersome.
  • Use complete sentences when describing the problem, its consequences and the proposed action: In most cases, the audience will not understand the issues as well as the author of the proposal. This is an educational process. Failure to adequately inform the audience may lead to the proposal not being recommended.
  • In the description of the problem section, refer to current law: If the current law is causing the problem, the reader should be informed of that fact. The audience needs to understand what is to be changed.
  • Always try to include a statement explaining what may happen, or continue to happen, if no action is taken: In particular, legislators need to know the consequence of inaction. 
  • Offer your proposed action or solution to the legislative problem in a proactive, positive way: Remember, you are proposing a solution, which requires discussion, action, and moving ahead. Even if your proposed solution involves repealing some undesirable law, the action taken is proactive.

Try to avoid:

  • Abbreviations: The audience may not understand the proposal when abbreviations are used. For example, health and human service professionals likely know that MFIP refers to the Minnesota Family Investment Program, but legislators may not. 
  • Negative messages: A legislative proposal that is seen by the reader as punitive or overly negative will likely be rejected.
  • Being vague: Focus your proposal on achieving a solution. The reader will likely review the proposal with the attitude of “what would you like me to do?” You do not want your reader to be confused or make unwarranted assumptions about your proposal.

Following these steps will assist you in developing a legislative proposal which transmits a clear message to the reader.