We just wrapped up a critical (and exhausting) federal election, but don’t relax just yet. The 2021 General Assembly session is right around the corner, as are primaries for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and the House of Delegates elections. We still have important work to do by holding politicians’ feet to the fire and pushing elected officials to advocate for meaningful, progressive change to create a better future for all of us.
There are important bills in the 2021 legislative session, including the Reproductive Health Equity Act, ending qualified immunity, and bolstering the 2020 Virginia Environmental Justice Act. Legislators must also address the hundreds of thousands of people facing eviction in a massive housing crisis.
The General Assembly session will look different this year because of Covid-19. The House of Delegates will meet virtually while the Senate will convene in-person (while social distancing, though not open to the public). Even though we at Progress Virginia won’t be streaming meetings through Eyes on Richmond this year, we’re pushing for all committee and subcommittee hearings to be live-streamed by the legislature. Instead of showing up in Richmond to testify in support or against legislation in 2021, you can do it virtually (details below).
Here are a few ways to hold them accountable when the General Assembly session starts in January.
- Get to know your legislators. Legislators listen to the people can vote them into (or out of) office. Know who you can fire with your vote and hold them accountable. Find out who your representatives are at whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/.
- Keep up with your legislators online. Sign up for email alerts from your legislators (you can usually do this on their websites) and follow them on social media. Many legislators, like Delegate Cia Price and Lashrecse Aird, are super active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and share updates on all the happenings in Richmond. The Virginia Public Access Project sends out a daily email with news articles relevant to Virginia and breaks them down by topic. Sign up for updates at https://www.vpap.org/vanews/.
- Track bills. Track legislation (you can search by bill number, legislator, or subject) and get to know the various committees, including memberships, regular meeting times, and the bills and resolutions each is currently working on. You can also live-stream House and Senate committee meetings and floor sessions when they start on January 13, 2021.
- Make your voice heard (even if your voice shakes). Did you know you can speak directly to legislators before they vote on a bill? It’s true—there are opportunities for public comment for anyone who wants to speak in House and Senate committee hearings. The first time might be intimidating, but it’s easy once you figure it out! The good news is that you don’t have to schlep it to Richmond to make your voice heard. Peruse the meeting schedule and sign up to speak on a proposal in a committee hearing! Give legislators a piece of your mind!
- Call or email your legislators. Have an opinion on a piece of legislation? Pick up the phone and call your Virginia state Senator or Delegate before the legislature takes action on it. Phone calls make a big impact, and all you have to do is identify yourself as a constituent and state your case. If you aren’t comfortable calling, send an email!
- Attend community events. These can be great opportunities to get in front of your elected officials. Though likely virtual for the foreseeable future, you can still make your presence (and opinions) known in online town halls, meetings, and speaking events.
We elect politicians. It’s their job to represent our communities, and it’s our job to hold them accountable. By staying active in the political process after elections, we can make sure elected officials are doing their job. They need to represent our interests and to push for progress for all of us. Let’s make sure they remember that.
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