It’s that time of year again. I’m cranky and dry all the time because it’s so damn cold outside, oh and also the Virginia General Assembly is back in session.
I’ve already had a few OMG moments after reading about several bills targeting the LGBQT community and a couple of ALEC related bills attacking the EPA’s historic Clean Power Plan (the first ever national emission reduction plan for fossil fuel power plants). Fortunately none of this nonsense has become law yet. And there are some decent bills out there to support as well, like the Virginia Coastal Protection Act of course, but also others that relate to banning plastic bags, paid parental leave, and paid sick leave.
With the make-up of the General Assembly being what it is, I’m not anticipating that this will be a year of major progressive legislative changes in Virginia but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate. Click on some of the links above, do about 15 minutes worth of google searching for more articles describing bills (“legislative previews” like this one from the Sierra Club and this one from Equality Virginia can be helpful) pick out a few pieces of legislation that you REALLY like (and a few you REALLY don’t like, like this one which tries to stymy the climate and public health benefits of the Clean Power Plan), then use THIS LINK (save it for future reference) to look up your General Assembly representatives, and then bombard them with calls and emails about these issues for the next 60 days, you can even set up a meeting with them in Richmond.
If you’re already a political animal and want to take your game to the next level and start tracking specific bill, RichmondSunlight.com is an excellent resource. You can search for active bills based on keywords, you can trick bills, tag them with keywords, and much more.
You could also participate in a “lobby day” in Richmond. There are even a couple of lobby days that are providing transportation from Hampton Roads. Virginia Conservation Network, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club, and others will be participating in Conservation Lobby Day on Wednesday, February 3rd. Conservation Lobby Day will include breakfast, a keynote from Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, lobby meetings with your legislators, and a powerful creative action and march to show just how urgent it is that we act on climate. The day will end with a lunch and panel discussion. Registration is $25($15 for students) and you can register here using the code SClobbyday. If you need a ride be sure to check the box at the bottom saying so. Equality Virginia is also having a lobby day on February 9th in Richmond and there is a bus leaving from Hampton Roads with very limited seating.
Regardless of how you participate, whether it is going to Richmond or lobbying from the comfort of your couch the important thing is that you do participate in some way. As messed up as our political system is there is still no substitute for the grassroots. If only half of all citizens take the time to vote (and that’s a generous estimate based on presidential elections) image how few people actually contact their legislators after they are elected…it’s a scary thought and partially why these politicians think they can do whatever they want. All it takes to start off is something as simple as a call. And if you call and i call and my friend calls and your friend calls and their friends call and their friends call well…you get the idea. That’s not all though…Get involved with an organization that advocates for policies you support, get your friends and family involved. Start local and run for office yourself, let’s have a “festival of democracy”!
I do recognize that the issue of civic engagement is a bit more nuanced than “just do it” and needs to take into consideration issues of our own senses of and experiences with power, privilege, agency, and a host of others but… Just do it!!!