Lawmakers Trying to Become More Accessible

Lawmakers Trying to Become More Accessible

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John Daley ReportingCan you get through to your lawmaker? How difficult is it to speak to them up on Capitol Hill? Are lawmakers accessible? Those questions came up today as a legislative committee began exploring the issue.

At Utah Jazz games the team's constituents, the fans, get to watch the action, but getting one-on-one time to talk with the team's stars is unlikely. Same too for the US soccer team, in town for a big game tomorrow. Fans line the sidelines hoping for a minute or two of precious quality-time.

It's a little like that up on Utah's Capitol Hill where lawmakers debate issues center stage on the floor, and later a growing number of lobbyists and ordinary citizens jockey in the hallways to bend their ear when they can. So how can lawmakers make themselves more accessible? That was one question at a meeting of the Legislative Process Committee.

Rep. Ron Bigelow, (R) West Valley City: "Our great challenge during the legislative session is there are so many thing going on, that we don't even know they're here to visit us. How do we solve that so that we can be available?"

Rep. Roz McGee, (D) Salt Lake City: "I think the legislature can do a better job being accessible to the public and the media."

Ideas discussed include a text pager system to alert lawmakers about constituents waiting to see them, email filters to help narrow down the thousands of messages received, or even reserving formal sessions to three days a week so lawmakers could meet with constituents the other two.

Rep. Roz McGee, (D) Salt Lake City: "I think the public's business would be better done in that format; rather that cramming so much into 45 days, to have somewhat more of a consultative process and availability to constituents."

Complicating matters is the renovation of the old Capitol building. Lawmakers want their new quarters to be accessible as possible, but security demands may limit that.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, (R) Cache County: "We'll have more space so I think we can plan more for opening and doing than we can here, but I think the security issue will close the access and I'm sorry to see that."

Fortunately there will be some time to plan; the Capitol renovation won't be done until 2008.

Lawmakers want to hear from you on this issue. They'll be having a public meeting July 11th at 2:00 PM. If you have concerns about access for the public or the media, this is your chance to voice those concerns.

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