How are we decoding what’s to come during WV’s 2019 Legislative Session?

Senate Chamber on January 10, 2019. Photo by Will Price.

BY TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB

In the coming weeks, The Hub’s policy team will highlight bills that stand to impact WV communities.

Right now, we’re combing through the forecasting that’s been done in the run up to the 84th Legislative Session and getting excited about what’s to come.

Each year, the session kicks off with opportunities for citizens to learn about what legislators have set as the priorities of the coming session. This forecasting is usually done by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President. Following which issues they choose to focus on can provide valuable insight for citizen lobbyists.

Here are a few things that I try to think about as I listen to what they have to say:

First, listening to which policies legislators have chosen as priorities can help in creating common ground as citizens advocate for their needs.

For example, during this year’s Issues and Eggs breakfast, hosted by the Charleston Area Alliance, workforce development was listed as a major priority for leadership in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. In fact, legislators across the board framed workforce development as a method for addressing the opioid crisis, economic development, and access to education.

Not only does this let us know about bills that legislators may be eager to introduce, but if you know that legislators are concerned with building a strong workforce, you may be able to find areas where your issue supports this goal – one you know they are already interested in achieving.

Second, I try to notice what is being left out of the conversation.

Legislators spent lots of time this week talking about education – which is an extremely important topic. But, was there something that was skipped in order to make room for that piece of the conversation?

There are a number of reasons that a policy or issue might not be mentioned. Legislators may care deeply, but don’t have enough time during one or two speeches to talk about everything that’s important. Or, the issue may have dropped further down the list of priorities. If that’s the case, it’s a great opportunity to reach out to your Senator or Delegate to let them know what’s important to you.

Finally, I try to think about what themes lie beneath the priorities that I’m hearing about.

In the legislative process it’s easy to view each bill separately – like a to do list of things to pass or not pass – and forget to think about the big picture goals that can guide many actions – or bills – at once.

Now that you’ve thought through the legislators’ top priorities, what are your priority issues for the 84th Legislative Session?

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