With a little effort, voters, lawmakers can remain in touch Legislators can seem a world away once the legislative session convenes.

Posted: Friday, January 12, 2001

They're not. They're as close as the phone, fax or e-mail.

In addition, Kenai Peninsula legislators stay in touch through twice monthly constituent meetings via teleconference on the second and fourth Thursdays of every month. The first one will be Jan. 25. (Sen. Jerry Ward, District E, and Rep. Mike Chenault, District 9, are available from 6 to 7 p.m. The teleconference site is the Kenai Legislative Information Office, 145 Main Street Loop, Suite 217. Sen. John Torgerson, District D, and Reps. Ken Lancaster, District 8, and Drew Scalzi, District 7, are available from 7 to 8 p.m. The teleconference site is Torgerson's Soldotna office in the 4-D Building, 35477 Kenai Spur Highway, Suite 101-B.)

For those who prefer doing business eyeball-to-eyeball, Alaska Airlines is again offering discounted "constituent" fares to Juneau during the legislative session.

Keeping in touch with elected officials -- and elected officials keeping in touch with constituents -- is critical to good government. Legislators need to hear from the public in order to do their job well.

Internet technology makes staying in touch easier than ever. Messages can be sent to legislators via e-mail, and bills can be followed through the Bill Action and Status Inquiry System, which can be accessed through the Legislature's home page at www.legis.state.ak.us.

Novices to the legislative process might want to stop by the Kenai Legislative Information Office for information on how best to keep in touch. The LIO will assist with copies of bills and resolutions and any backup materials available. In addition, the office can direct interested persons to available materials on the Internet. The LIO staff also invites residents to call with their particular interests, so they can be contacted when pending legislation and upcoming committee hearings deal with those interests.

Plus, on Feb. 7, there will be a Community Schools class designed to take the mystery out of tracking bills. The class will be from 6 to 9 p.m. at Soldotna Middle School's computer lab. There is no charge for the class.

During the legislative session, the Legislative Information Office has extended hours -- from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office also remains open during the noon lunch hour.

Public opinion messages, popularly known as POMs, may be sent from the LIO to any legislator. POMs must be written in 50 words or less and must be signed. People may fax a signed message to 283-3075; the message will then be forwarded to the legislators of the sender's choice.

Peninsula legislators also welcome e-mails, letters, phone calls and faxes. It is most helpful when people seeking to influence legislation are specific about their concerns. For example, it's really not fair to tell legislators to "cut the budget" without offering ideas for cuts.

While about 700 miles separate peninsula residents and their legislators at this time of year, there are lots of ways to bridge the distance to the Capital City without ever leaving town. To help you stay in touch, fine the contact information for the peninsula's legislative delegation and peninsula Legislative Information Offices in a related story.



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