Active citizen participation is an integral part of a functioning representative democracy. Members of the General Assembly want and need citizen input when crafting laws. As a citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is your right to voice your opinion regarding pending legislation. There are many ways in which citizens can communicate with their legislator; phone calls, letters, email, or through visits to their legislative offices.
A citizen testifying before a committee
As a citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, one of your greatest responsibilities is to help elect the legislators who represent all Virginians. But your role in the democratic process of government does not end at the polls. By sharing your opinions and ideas with your elected officials, you help them resolve issues and evaluate pending legislation.
There are a number of online resources available on the Virginia General Assembly website to assist you in taking an active role in the legislative process:
- Know who your Senator or
Delegate is and how to contact them. If you don't know who represents you in the Senate and House or Congress, you can find out by using Who's My Legislator. In addition, a biographical page on each delegate and senator is available from the General Assembly's homepage.
- Make sure you understand the legislative process. Even the most basic understanding of the process will help you effectively express your ideas.
- Contact your Senator or
Delegate about a particular issue before the legislature takes action on it. Most matters coming before the legislature are well publicized before session. Using the Legislative Information System (LIS), you can track legislation and review committee agendas prior to a meeting. You can access LIS on the bottom of the General Assembly's home page.
- Meetings of the General Assembly are required by law to be open to the public. Citizen testimony in committee and subcommittee is encouraged. Committee and subcommittee chairmen may invite members of the audience to speak for or against proposed legislation. Citizens do not need to register in advance to speak before a committee or subcommittee. Public hearings may require advanced registration. For additional information on testifying before a legislative panel, please see a Tips for Testifying .
- Lobbyists are individuals who receive compensation or are reimbursed for expenses for representing an organization, association or other group for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence legislative (or executive) action by means of oral or written communication. Lobbyists play an important role in the legislative process, by providing information on many issues. Virginia law requires lobbyists, with a few exceptions, to register with the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and file annual reports of their activities. For more information about lobbyist registration, reporting requirements and a searchable database of registered lobbyists by name, principal or disclosure reports, please go to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's website.