I often receive questions on how business owners can become more active and make a difference in the arena of public policy. Although this is a different year than any other, it is more vital than ever to engage your lawmakers as they consider legislation that may affect your business in this legislative session.
As you may already know, public engagement in this year’s session is limited nearly entirely to virtual means. Citizen testimony to legislation will take place over the internet, and phone calls/emails will more often than not be the only way to share your thoughts on legislation with your representatives. With all of this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to share some pointers on how to be an effective advocate on business issues this session.
You can find information on all legislation at the website https://lis.virginia.gov. If you know the bill number for the legislation you are tracking, you can enter it in “Bills & Resolutions” and you will be shown a summary of the bill, the bill text, its patron, and where it currently resides in the legislative process. If you are interested in finding a bill containing certain subject matter, you can do so in the same menu or by searching via keyword.
Among a plethora of other information, you can find the House and Senate committee meeting schedules at https://virginiageneralassembly.gov under the “Members and Session” tab. At this webpage, you can also sign up to speak remotely at committee meetings and provide written comments. Since spoken testimony may be limited, I would highly recommend submitting written comment for each bill you intend to speak for or against.
If you are signed up to testify on a particular piece of legislation and are called on to speak in a committee meeting, start by thanking the committee chair, state your name, say where you are from, and inform the committee that you are a business owner or representative of your business. Briefly (and I mean briefly, testimony may be limited to 2 minutes or less) make a clear case for your position and then thank the committee members for their time. Legislators are ordinary citizens like the rest of us and rely on testimony to make informed decisions on legislation.
Many of the same guidelines I mentioned for testifying to legislation also apply here. You can find your legislator at https://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov and you will see the contact information for your representative. When calling or emailing your legislator in support or opposition to a bill, always state your name, your address, and that you are a business owner or representative serving his or her district. Again, it is important to share your thoughts early and often as the pace of this short session will be very fast.
Of course, feel free to contact me at any time if you have any questions on pending legislation or would like more information on how to get involved. I will be sending weekly updates starting this Friday on legislation of interest to the business community and would welcome your help in supporting our legislative agenda. Thank you for your advocacy in our public policy process – it is vital to ensure our business climate remains strong!
Terry Durkin
Vice President of Public Policy
Roanoke Regional Chamber