Legislative Battles

FOA: 2013 LEGISLATIVE “EYEBALL WARS” BATTLE

Rarely is there a public policy that is discussed for more than three decades in the halls of Florida’s Capitol, but the debate over whether to allow optometrists to prescribe oral medications, coined the “Eyeball Wars,” was one for the history books.

At the onset of the 2013 Legislative Session, the Florida Optometric Association (FOA) engaged Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC (BCC) to help build a proactive public affairs campaign to educate lawmakers and the media on the benefits of allowing optometrists to prescribe approved oral medications for the treatment of eye diseases and conditions.

Working closely with FOA’s government relations and grassroots teams, BCC set into motion a strategic communications campaign that elevated the issue before key targets with the goal of changing the perception of the proposed legislation from a significant and hotly-contested change in public policy to that of a commonsense measure that would increase access to eye care for all Floridians, especially those residing in rural parts of the state.

To ensure this change in perception was achieved, BCC armed the FOA with media monitoring and rapid response, in order to insert the FOA’s positive message into the story and counter any arguments made by the opposition; garnered earned media, including generating stories from influential members of the Capitol Press Corps who had reported on the “Eyeball Wars” for years, and getting editorial boards, such as the Orlando Sentinel, to endorse the FOA’s position and weigh in on the critical need for this change in public policy; coordinated paid media to garner maximum attention surrounding the effort; developed collateral material, including FAQs, myth vs. facts and vote alerts, to ensure the government relations team had the tools necessary to educate lawmakers on what the bill was and what it was not.

Ultimately, the legislation passed both the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate by unanimous votes and was quickly signed into law by Governor Rick Scott, ending a legislative battle that raged for more than 30 years.