Oregon Citizens Lobby gears up for legislative session
During a typical legislative session, the hallways of the Oregon state Capitol in Salem are filled with dozens of lobbyists representing a variety of interests.
But when the 2013 session starts on Monday, Feb. 4, those hired guns will be joined by members of the Oregon Citizens Lobby.
The citizens lobby did a test run of sorts during the Legislatures month-long February 2012 session. Karla Kay Edwards, the statewide director for Americans for Prosperity, was among the participants.
Edwards said the citizens lobby project is specific to Oregon, and is not being spearheaded by any specific group or individual.
Its a truly collaborative effort with a bunch of perspectives, Edwards said. None of us have titles. Its a bunch of us working jointly together to try and move this thing forward.
The complex nature of the legislative process can be intimidating for the average voter, Edwards said.
But through the citizens lobby, people can learn how to participate and make a positive difference.
We believe that people wont engage the Legislature unless they have the tools to know how, she said. We want them to learn how to become involved and engaged with the Legislature and how to be effective with their own legislators and beyond.
Once they complete their initial training, citizen lobbyists will be able to testify in committee, analyze bills and track them through the process.
After you teach people how things happen, they recognize that they are as knowledgeable and can be as beneficial to the process as any elected legislator can be, Edwards said. Its fun to see the empowerment of everyday citizens.
Edwards said there should be enough citizen lobbyists on hand for the 2013 session to track what happens in all of the legislative committees. The advent of information and Internet technology enables people to take part, even if they live far from Salem.
It doesnt matter who is in charge of the Legislature, Edwards said. This is about citizens being involved in government and always partaking. Parties dont dictate good policy. Citizens dictate good policy, and were trying to make that change.
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