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Creating a culture of public involvement in government decisions

The functions of government are at a point where citizens of all ages need to become involved in how government operates today and how it should operate in the future.  The functions of our government both nationally and in some cases at the state and local level need to have citizens engaged in the decisions being made.  Decisions made by elected and non-elected individuals can and do affect our daily lives and the lives of our families.  We have seen this in the case of the healthcare legislation which is being reviewed at the Supreme Court for constitutional issues.

Many issues face our country and our states today and into the foreseeable future.  It will take the involvement of all of us to bring our country and states through the present economic times.  Understanding how government works and how it should work is the key to knowing how it needs to change.  Government will never change unless the people force changes to be made. Government needs to be more responsive to the needs of its citizens and in some cases it has been but it is the exception rather than the rule.  It needs to become the rule rather than the exception.

The question to be answered is how individuals can become more involved in the decisions of government and what changes need to be made to make it easier to accomplish.  One change which needs to take place is legislation; especially major legislation should be presented before the people for comments before decisions are made.  In connection with the provision there needs to be a requirement that legislators be required to read legislation before making a decision to support or oppose it.  Granted there appear to be hundreds of pieces of legislation created and passed through committees each legislative session.

Some may say that there are too many to read each document in its entirety and understand what the content represents. This point is well taken but what should change in reference to the quantity is for legislatures to reduce the number by prioritizing their actions.  This does not mean and should not be taken to mean that issues need to be ignored.  In terms of the requirement for legislators to read the documents on which they are being asked to make a decision, it is their responsibility.  In conjunction with this requirement it should not be staff that read legislation and give a brief evaluation to the elected official.  Each individual who reads a document may come to a different conclusion and the conclusion of a staff member may not be the same as the elected official making the decision.

Another point to be made involves individuals getting access to legislation being considered for passage by the applicable legislature.  The technology of today creates countless opportunities to access legislation either through congressional websites or sites which access legislation and provide status on their progress.  We have the right and authority as voters to be involved with legislation on which our congressional legislators must make a decision.  I understand that many individuals may say that they do not have the time to read each document being processed through Congress and I understand their position.  In terms of being involved individuals need to know what legislation is on the calendar of each legislative body and choose those who they will have an impact their lives and the lives of their families.

Choosing legislation on which to be involved should not be the result of the coverage of the media but the full list of legislation being processed.  Media coverage is great but they will only cover a limited number of legislative acts and it may not be the ones you feel they should publicize.  We as individuals need to make up our own minds on what legislative acts we feel are the most important in terms of the impact to our lives.  Media resources cannot know how specific legislation will impact certain segments of the public and often the ones they cover are not the ones the public feels they should.

Getting involved in the legislative process is important today given the culture that currently exists in Congress.  As consumers we have a powerful voice in terms of changing the dynamics of society and the way it operates and the way it would change in some legislation.  Legislation is not the only area where the public needs to be involved.  Rules and regulations are generated by every government entity and the public should have the right to see a preview of regulations before they are finalized and implemented.  If government entities have established this option, I commend them but if not they need to let the public know the proposed changes to the applicable society functions or entities.  It may well change what is written into the rules and regulations if government organizations know the public is watching what they do.  This would be a good thing if it occurs, for it should be an integral part of organizational function and policies for each government department or agency.  This change in the way government operates may well make a difference in the number of rules and regulations which are created.  In addition our elected officials should have the authority to review rules and regulations before being implemented.


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Dennis AuBuchon

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