YOUR Involvement with the Alaska State Legislature
This morning I attended the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in my pajamas. No one seemed to mind.
That’s the beauty of the State’s teleconferencing system. Alaskans can listen, testify, and remain involved with public policy creation without leaving their homes. In Alaska, such innovations are necessary to keep citizens involved. Flying to Juneau once a week to provide testimony simply isn’t possible for most people. Here are some of the ways you can stay involved with the Legislature during the session:
1. Legislative Information Offices (LIOs) – There are 21 LIOs throughout Alaska, providing access to a myriad of legislative information in most communities. Here your an gather information on bills, legislators, meeting schedules, statues, etc. Some LIOs are only open during the Legislative Session, while others are open year round.
2. Teleconferencing from the LIO – LIOs have access to the statewide teleconferencing system. you can go to the LIO to listen and testify at many Committee meetings. According to the Anchorage LIO, most standing committee meetings are teleconferenced, while most sub-committee meetings are not.
3. Teleconferencing from home – You can call the LIO to get the toll free number and call into the meeting from home. You can testify or listen. If you are interested in a committee meeting that is not being teleconferenced, contact the chair of the committee and request that the meeting be teleconferenced–they will sometimes oblige requests.
4. Video conferencing – This doesn’t occur very often, reportedly because the only room equipped for it in Juneau is quite small. However, when it does occur, there is a video conference room available at the Anchorage and Fairbanks LIOs. The individual testifying can see the committee and be seen in Juneau. I suggest you do not wear your pajamas to this.
5. Gavel to Gavel – This is an online live streaming video of some of the Committee meetings. (Using this system with dail up internet service may make the video choppy). This can only be used to observe the meetings, not to testify. Recorded meetings are held in the archives.
6. Bill Action Status & Inquiry System (BASIS) – Enter the bill number, or choose from the list to find out the latest action taken on a bill.
7. Public Opinion Message System (POMS) – This is another way to have your message sent to one or more Legislators. Using the Legislative webiste, you can send your message electronically. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can call or fax your local LIO and they will send it for you. You must have your name and addressed spelled as it appears on your voter registration card.
8. Of course, you can always email, call, or write to your Legislators! Not sure who they are or how to contact them? The Alaska State Legislature webiste has contact information. However, I’ve found the Vote Smart website far more informative and easy to use. This site will provide contact information, biographies, voting records, issue positions, campaign finance information, and more for elected officials at the State and Federal levels.