BY: TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Reverberations of actions taken in West Virginia are echoing across the country as teachers and other citizens follow our lead and demand better pay and benefits and more participation in their legislative processes.
Even though this week finds the halls of the Capitol quieter and free from the rush of the last 60 days, there is still a buzz around the state. Legislators, staff, and citizens alike may be pausing for a well deserved rest, but it is clear that the policymaking process is not over.
While most public-facing work that legislators do gets crammed into the 60-day Session, the bulk of the groundwork needed to make good policy begins just as the Session ends. During out-of-Session time, citizens can meet with legislators in their districts to educate them on important issues, assess candidates in advance of primary and general elections, and choose which of their neighbors will represent them in Charleston.
With all of this in mind, Session may have drawn to a close, but there is still a lot on the table.
With the PEIA Task Force Meetings starting soon and a Session worth of action under their belt, people across the state are looking for ways that they can continue to take an active role in the wake of the teachers’ strike. Here are a few ideas:
- Demand that meetings of the PEIA Task Force, including public hearings, be available via live stream. You can’t push for a better deal if you don’t know what’s on the table. Huge leaps and bounds were made this year in improving the quality of video streaming at the Capitol, they can make this happen too.
- Stay plugged into the network that helped to organize the Teachers’ strike. Teachers and their supporters who have been leading the charge will know of other avenues through which you can continue to take action.
- Get to know the legislators in your district. Meet with them while the Legislature is not in session. Understand what their positions are on issues you care about. As citizens we put a lot of trust in our representatives, and it’s hard to vote well if you don’t know what people stand for.
- Finally, never stop learning. The Hub, along with a number of our partners will be hosting legislative debrief events across the state in the weeks to come. These events will give you a chance to ask questions about bills that caught your eye at the Capitol this Session, to talk with folks who played a huge role in the Teachers’ Strike and other actions, and ask legislators where they come down on the issues that matter most to you.
It’s important to remember that, while these are a few suggestions, they are not the only ways to engage. If you keep a watchful eye on those who make decisions, continue to understand the process, and never stop asking critical questions, it will be easy to identify new opportunities for engagement and people just like you who want to make use of them.
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