To the Editor,
Good government matters to every one of us. The Legislative session is underway and in the next six weeks legislation will live, die or be amended, some of which impacts you, either directly or indirectly. Legislation may pass that reduces revenue to our county and municipalities or cripples the livelihood of our local workers. The list of the bills introduced and the items impacted by the budget touches many aspects of our life: education, environment, health care, highways to mention just a few.
The tendency to throw up our hands and simply condemn the process as fatally flawed or criticize elected officials is an easy out. But, we are a government "of the people and by the people" And, WE, are the people. The knowledge of what goes on in Charleston is no longer limited to elected officials and lobbyists. It's been 25 years since I began my legislative service and citizens had to travel to our State Capitol to pick up a bill in a timely manner and then take the time to observe committee meetings and floor sessions to find out what was transpiring. It was a tedious process and was not "citizen friendly." If you were part of a special interest group you could rely on the group's lobbyist. Delegates or Senators would fax bills if they knew of your concern. Legislative summaries were often outdated before they reached constituents through the U.S. Mail
That access is no longer limited. The information you need can now be accessed through www.wvlegislature.gov. By going to "bill status" you can pull up legislation by short title or subject. Select House or Senate bills and relevant bills are listed. See a bill that is of interest? Type in the Senate or House Bill number and read the content of the bill. The site allows you to track the progress of any bill through the committee process and through both the Senate and the House. As the bill is amended, you can view the amended version. See an article in the newspaper and want to know more? The information is as close as your computer. Don't have access to the Internet? Visit your local library.
Throughout that process, it's important that you communicate, not only to your legislators, but to those who have similar interests and concerns.
I often hear citizens lament "what we feel about legislation doesn't matter." I disagree. We, the people, have power in our individual and collective voices. There is power in numbers; power to those who take the time to speak up; and power to those who rally their fellow voters. There really is power in the people!