How to get involved with state government

01/12/2014 7:09 AM

08/08/2014 10:21 AM

Listen to address

Gov. Sam Brownback will give his 2014 State of the State address at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday from the House chamber in the Statehouse

The speech will be broadcast live on KPTS, Channel 8.

Track legislation

• By computer: Find House and Senate calendars, listings of lawmakers and an explanation of how a bill becomes law at www.kslegislature.org.

You can search for bills by keywords or phrases and track a bill through the legislative process.

You also can listen to House and Senate sessions live.

• By phone: Call the legislative hotline at 800-432-3924. Use the same number for TTY calls for the hearing impaired.

The hotline has information about legislative activity and documents, including bill introductions, sponsorships, amendments, status, history and other related legislative action.

Track spending

To examine where the state’s money comes from and how it is being spent, go to www.kansas.gov/kanview.

Lobby a legislator

You can find updated contact information for legislators next week at Kansas.com and at www.kslegislature.org.

•  Write a letter. Be formal and brief. If the lawmaker represents the district where you live, point that out. Lawmakers say most of the mail they receive comes from organized groups. They place more emphasis on mail from individuals.
•  Send an e-mail. Legislators get bombarded with e-mails, so they may have to sort through a lot before getting to yours. Your own words are more effective than copy-and-paste material from lobbying groups.
•  Make a phone call. Although this is the most direct way to speak with a legislator, it may be the most difficult, because legislators are in session and committee meetings much of the day.
•  Watch for public forums. The Wichita-area delegation and individual legislators conduct several forums each session. Times and places will be published in The Eagle.
•  Register to vote. Some lawmakers send newsletters to the registered voters in their districts, explaining issues and seeking suggestions from constituents.
•  Use social media. Many politicians now have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts they use to communicate with constituents and voters.

Contact the governor

• By mail: Office of the Governor, Capitol, 300 SW 10th Ave., Suite 241S, Topeka, KS 66612-1590

• By phone: 877-579-6757 or 785-296-3232; for hearing impaired: 800-766-3777

• By e-mail: governor@ks.gov

• On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/govsambrownback

• On Twitter: @govsambrownback

Testify about a bill

If you feel strongly about a bill, you can speak before a committee assigned to study it. Contact the committee assigned to study the bill. You’ll find the information at www.kslegislature.org.

You’ll need written copies of your testimony. Ask how many copies to bring and how long you will be allowed to speak.

Committee members may ask questions, and committee decisions often may not be made the same day as the hearing.

Research the bill number and the bill’s status. Let the committee know whether you have any expertise on the issue. Be brief.

View campaign contributions

Find out who donated money to your legislator through reports filed with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. Go to www.kansas.gov/ethics/index.html and click on Campaign Finance on the left side of the screen, then click on View Submitted Forms & Reports.

Find a department

Go to www.kansas.gov for links to all state departments and elected officials, including the governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

Be a legislative page

Students who are 12 or older can get a firsthand look at how the Legislature works by volunteering to be a page for a day. Pages work as messengers from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. They also tour the Capitol building. Contact your legislator and ask to apply; spots fill up quickly.

Tour the Capitol

The newly renovated Capitol is open to the public 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.

The Kansas Historical Society offers free tours on weekdays. From January through May, tours are held at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. and 1, 2 and 3 p.m. From June through December, tours are at 9 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. Reservations are strongly encouraged but not required. Call 785-296-3966 for reservations or go to www.kshs.org, click on Visit, then Capitol Tours and fill out the online reservation form.

Tours of the Capitol dome are expected to resume soon.

The Visitors Center opened Jan. 2 on the ground floor of the Statehouse. It includes the Capitol Store, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Visitors can enter the Capitol off Eighth Avenue and can park free for two hours in the underground parking garage.

Eagle staff

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