Let them know
State Rep. Marti Crow and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius offered some sage advice in different venues when talking about the 2005 legislative session.
"Keep us informed and let us know about things you see in bills that affect us here in Leavenworth County," Crow, D-Leavenworth, told those attending the city of Lansing's Legislative Breakfast.
This year's session of the Kansas Legislature will feature the usual debates about what Crow called "emotional issues": school finance, the death penalty, health care, property taxes, sales taxes, casinos, highways.
Constituents, she said, are good about letting lawmakers know their thoughts about the emotional issues. But, Crow said, emotional issues are just a small part of government. She said lawmakers needed to hear from constituents on other matters, too.
During the course of a 90-day session, lawmakers will see an estimated 200 to 300 bills proposed, Crow said. Those bills, in turn, are revised and otherwise amended time and again in committee and on the floors of both houses. Often, a bill takes on a whole new look from its original version as the legislative process takes place.
Because of this, Crow said, legislators need to hear from their constituents when they hear of such changes.
Corporations, professional associations, unions and others have lobbyists to keep up on legislation affecting them. The majority of us aren't lobbyists, but that doesn't mean we can afford to sit idly by as laws that affect us are written or rewritten.
The governor, in her State of the State speech, said as much:
"And I welcome - indeed, I encourage - the active participation of all Kansas citizens in the discussions that take place and in the decisions that are made under the Capitol dome. I am your governor, and this is your Legislature. If your voices are not heard, you can be sure that many others will be - in particular those who are paid to present a point of view, and often do it most effectively. In the spirit of civility and democracy, I urge you to make your feelings known, whether to your local officials, to your lawmakers, to your school board or to me."
Only with our input can lawmakers truly be representative of our views.