BY TAYLOR BENNETT, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Legislators, staff, and citizens alike may be pausing for a well deserved rest, but it is clear that the policymaking process is not over. As we wait for the announcement of dates for the Governor’s special session – set to focus on educational reform – it’s time to take a look at what was accomplished and look ahead to the coming year.
While most public-facing work that legislators do is crammed into the 60-day session, the groundwork needed to make good policy begins just as the Legislative session ends. During out-of-session time, citizens 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, here are my ideas for how to stay plugged in over the next few months:
Turn a critical eye the achievements of the 2019 Session
- Looking back at which bills passed and which ones failed can provide clues about where Legislators are likely to focus in the future.
- Note the role that citizens may have played in the passage or failure of bills. Did citizens advocate for passage, come out resoundingly in opposition, or were they sidelined through the legislative process? How did citizen action impact the process, and what does that mean for your future strategy?
Think strategically now
- If a bill that you care about didn’t pass this year, take time to ask why. Are there legislators that need more information about your cause? Perhaps there are other organizations or individuals who might care about your issue but weren’t engaged. Now is a great time to make a plan for how to build those relationships.
- Perhaps a bill you care about made it through the process. Congratulations! It’s time to thank your legislators for their hard work and think about ways to build on your success.
- Even though the regular session is over, the Governor can call for special sessions throughout the year. Special sessions usually go largely unnoticed, making it difficult for citizens to keep up on which policies are being passed.
- While the Legislature is in session, it’s easy to forget that many of the policies that impact our lives the most are passed at the local level. Check out your local city council meetings, get to know your county commissioners, and make sure that your voice is heard in your community.
- Keep on reading. The Legislative Hubbub will be back each quarter to keep you engaged in policy happenings, both in Charleston and in localities across WV.