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How to participate in your state legislature

Legislatures are in session across the region. Thanks to COVID-19 precautions, it's easier than ever to participate.

Montana-legislature-screenshot.png
Legislatures throughout the region have incorporated more options for watching or participating in hearings as precautions to COVID-19. (Screenshot of Montana Legislature)

Government cannot govern properly if it doesn't know the will of the people. And one of the best ways to get involved can be letting the people who represent you in a governing body know what you think of the issues before them.

When state legislatures are in session, anyone can attend committee hearings and floor sessions. During committee hearings, there are opportunities to speak in favor of or against bills. However, attending a state legislature to listen to testimony or to testify can be a burden, especially for people far removed, geographically, from a state capital.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, state governments have embraced technological tools that make it possible to participate in the lawmaking process no matter where you are.

That is especially an asset for people in rural areas who previously may have felt they didn’t have the time or opportunity to make their voices heard on issues important to them.

On each state legislature’s website, you can find out who represents you and how to contact them. You can find schedules and calendars, read bills and, in many cases, watch live or recorded meetings and debates.

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Here are some resources for how to participate in the legislature in states in this region:

Iowa

Iowa Legislature website: https://www.legis.iowa.gov

To read bills: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation

To contact your legislators: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find

To watch, listen or testify: Committee, subcommittee and floor sessions are available via video conference. Click on the video camera icon next to an agenda item to download the necessary software and enter the virtual room. The site says submitting written testimony is preferred.

Minnesota

Minnesota Legislature website: https://www.leg.mn.gov

To read bills: https://www.leg.mn.gov/leg/legis

To contact your legislators: The Legislature website has a "who represents me" area under both the House and the Senate.

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To watch or listen: Clicking on a day on the calendar on the Legislature’s website will bring up a list of all meetings and floor sessions for that day. Each entry explains how to view the meeting. All meeting videos also are archived and available for later viewing. Instructions for providing testimony on a bill also are included in the same calendar listing.

Montana

Montana Legislature website: https://leg.mt.gov

To read bills: http://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/law0203w$.startup?P_SESS=20211

To contact your legislators: https://leg.mt.gov/legislator-lookup

To watch, listen or testify: The Montana Legislature’s homepage prominently lists instructions and links for testifying remotely and uploading testimony, as well as to watch or listen to meetings, both live and archived.

North Dakota

North Dakota Legislature website: https://www.legis.nd.gov

To read bills: https://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/67-2021/subject-index/major-topic.html

To contact your legislators: https://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/67-2021/members

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To watch, listen or testify: The North Dakota Legislature includes prominent links on its homepage for how to testify on bills and how to watch hearings, both live and archived.

South Dakota

South Dakota Legislature website: https://sdlegislature.gov

To read bills: https://sdlegislature.gov/Session/Bills/44

To contact your legislators: https://sdlegislature.gov/Legislators/Listing/44

To watch, listen or testify: The South Dakota Legislature includes links for watching upcoming hearings and viewing agendas on its homepage. This document provides information on how to testify remotely or submit testimony.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURERURAL LIFEPOLICY
Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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