As a freshman senator having just completed his first legislative session, I’ve learned a lot over the past few months about how the process works. My position has also given me perspective on the most effective ways citizens can effective advocate for the issues they care about.
It’s important to understand that during the session, lawmakers have a few thousand bills in front of them for consideration. Many are advanced by special interest groups who are paid to advocate for them and hire professional lobbyists to do that work. Since that is the dynamic involved, the hallways of the capitol building in Salem are filled with lobbyists whose sole goal is to pass those bills on behalf of their clients. The voice of the average citizen can be easily drowned out under those circumstances. That’s especially true for those of us whose districts are on the other end of the state.
However, there are ways that citizens can empower themselves to be heard loudly and clearly by their elected representatives.
The legislative website, www.oregonlegislature.gov, contains a wealth of information about everything that happens during the session. It includes detailed information about every bill, such as its sponsors, what committees it has been assigned to and any amendments that have been proposed and adopted. The website is very user friendly and has similar information about past sessions. Citizens can view footage of meetings that have already taken place, and watch them live from the comfort of their own homes.
Special interest groups often solicit citizens’ private email addresses through online petitions and use them to bombard legislators with form emails advocating for particular bills. Several of those emails are sent to every senator and representative, regardless of whether those citizens actually live in their districts.
When one of those bills is up for a vote in committee or on the House or Senate floor, our email inboxes get filled with those emails. All it does it make it more difficult to respond to sincere, heartfelt emails from constituents with genuine concerns.
Similarly, many of those same groups will call members of their organization and offer to connect them to our offices. Those citizens will then have those calls routed to our offices, but are sometimes confused about who they are talking to or why.
Constituent service is the top priority of my office, because I am here to do a job that you elected me to do. Because of that, I urge you to use the legislative website to find out as much as you can about what is happening during the session. Personalized emails are always appreciated, and if you want a response, please include a phone number so I can get back to you. Handwritten letters may be considered a thing of the past, but we always enjoy receiving those and try to send a response back on my official letterhead. Phone calls are also an effective means of reaching out. If we are unable to answer, leave a phone number and we will try to get back to you as soon as possible.
Town Hall Meetings Scheduled for Medford, Talent
I have scheduled two town hall meetings to take place next week. The first will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 25 in the Multipurpose Room of the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center, located at 101 S. Bartlett Rd. in Medford.
The second will be held the following evening, Wednesday, July 26, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Talent Town Hall, located at 206 E. Main St.
Please feel free to come share your thoughts and concerns about the recently concluded 2017 legislative session, as well as any laws or bills you would like to see proposed and passed in the future.
Sen. Alan DeBoer
Senate District 3