As a new legislative session gets underway, policy makers are again considering the priorities and direction for our state. Participation in our democracy is an obligation, and as someone who has been in and around the state capitol for the last two decades, I can tell you that citizen voices matter in the rotunda.
Here are some things to consider as you lean into this legislative session:
Getting involved starts with paying attention. You can search bills by subject or bill number at oklegistature.gov. Once you’ve identified the bills you care about, you can sign up to receive notifications as those bills make their way through the legislative process. There are organizations and subscription services that will help you create a tracking list and set up reports to trigger additional advocacy efforts within your organization. If you have questions, I’m happy to provide some additional guidance, or ask any lobbyist – they know how to do this too.
Not all bills are created equal. There are now 2,300 proposed new laws in the pipeline. Most of them won’t become law, and thank goodness for that, because we definitely don’t need 2,300 new laws. If you see something outlandish on the books, take a deep breath – it may never get a hearing.
Gratitude goes a long way. There are some great bills out there addressing real problems, but often, these bills garner less attention. The legislators who advocate for good bills deserve our thanks. If you see something you like, send the legislator who’s working on that issue a kind note.
Advocacy matters. Send emails, make phone calls, involve your friends and family. If there’s an issue that matters to you, speak up. Start with the bill authors, and then find out which committee will hear your legislation and reach out to those committee members too. When you do, be respectful but direct. Legislators have a big agenda and limited time, so be clear in your requests. You can find a list of legislators, committees and contact information at oklegislature.gov, or as with most things, there’s an app for that. The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives has a legislative guide available for Apple and Android devices. Learn more at oaec.coop.
The voices of Rotarians, some of our most respected community members, carry significant weight with policy makers, so I encourage you to speak out on the things that matter to you. Getting involved is easier than you might think, and it’s certainly important as we evaluate truth, fairness, goodwill and better friendships. A responsible, engaged citizenry can create policy that’s beneficial to all concerned. It only takes all of us.