Arizona's legislative session officially starts on Monday, January 8. For the next few months, your elected representatives will dedicate their full energy toward tackling pressing issues like rising inequality, climate change, and the brokenness of America's health care system by.... just kidding, this is Arizona! They're trying to ban people from wearing masks in public and deregulate blow-dry bars, because those are definitely the biggest issues facing the state.
In all seriousness, though, this year's legislative agenda does include some bills that could lead to real, positive change — such as providing legal immunity for people who report an overdose. Our full preview of the bills that have been filed so far can be found here; take a look and see if there are any ideas that you love — or hate.
Because, contrary to popular belief, your opinion does matter. Wildly unpopular bills (such as one that would have effectively criminalized the organizers of protests) have been killed in response to public outcry. And if you see an idea that you really like, expressing your support can't hurt either.
So if you've never gotten involved with the legislative process before, make this your year.
Here's a handy four-step guide:
1. Contact your representatives.
First, enter your address here and figure out which legislative district you live in. Then, use the legislature's member roster to find out who represents you in the State Senate and House of Representatives. You'll also find emails and phone numbers for your representatives there.
Whether you’re calling or emailing, it’s generally a good idea to explain that you’re a constituent and provide your address as proof.
Keep your message short and simple: “Hi, my name is _______ and I’m calling to request that Rep. ______ vote for / against BILL NUMBER because REASON.”
2. Tell any relevant committee chairs.
In order for a bill to become a law, it first has to be approved by a committee. But every year, some bills never get a committee hearing and end up dying a quiet death.
If you think a bill really sucks, tell the committee chair that you don’t think it should get a hearing, and explain why. If, on the other hand, you think a piece of legislation deserves consideration, let the chair know.
3. Testify at a committee hearing.
Once a bill gets scheduled for a hearing, you can register to speak during the citizen comment period. This is especially recommended if you have personal experience with the issue that the bill seeks to address.
Typically, committee hearings take place in the afternoon. They sometimes drag on for hours. And, often, the most controversial bills — i.e., the ones that a lot of people have signed up to comment on — get saved for last.
If spending several hours at the Capitol in the middle of a weekday afternoon isn't an option for you, you can also use the Request-to-Speak system to virtually register your opposition to — or support of — a bill.
4. Lobby the speaker of the House or the Senate president.
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A bill can pass the Senate but get killed by the speaker once it reaches the House, and vice versa.
So if a terrible bill passes through one chamber, you can contact the leader of the other chamber and let them know that you don’t want to see it progress any further.
Finally, Governor Doug Ducey has the ultimate power to veto any bill that lands on his desk. You can contact his office here.