There was a time when most people connected with their elected officials over landline phones or by sending a letter through the postal service.
Oh, have times changed.
Enter the Digital Age when most Americans—especially those age 50 and younger—communicate mostly from home or work PCs or from hand-held wireless devices like cell phones, smart phones, laptops, or iPads. Able to reach almost anyone from almost anywhere at any time via text, e-mail, or video, these modern communicators expect instant access to most information online. And state legislatures, including the Kentucky General Assembly, are more than willing to accommodate them.
Want to follow the progress of any bill through the House and Senate? Contact your legislator by e-mail, or find his or her phone number or address, 24 hours a day? How about find maps of legislative districts throughout the state? You can do all of this online, every minute of every hour, via the website of the Kentucky General Assembly’s administrative agency, the Legislative Research Commission (LRC), found at www.lrc.ky.gov.
You can also go online to connect with most state legislators or legislative caucuses (lawmakers grouped typically by party, region, or ideology) via social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other sites. I have a personal Facebook page that I use to keep up with citizens here in the 97th District, including many of you.
It’s all part of being a modern legislator.
What’s more, every state legislature in the country today streams live audio or video of at least some of its proceedings via the Internet for access by more than 80 percent of Americans, according to an article in the May issue of State Legislatures magazine. Most folks access this information via broadband—a connection that provides fast, efficient Internet access to folks in even the most remote areas. Around 68 percent of Americans used broadband to connect to the Internet in 2010 and, although Kentucky is not at national levels, the number of Kentuckians using broadband is growing, enabling more and more Kentuckians of all ages to see how the state legislative branch works.
Through this kind of technology, Kentucky is one of 41 states that offers video webcasts of state legislative floor proceedings and one of about 31 states and the District of Columbia that offers live viewing of all or parts of our legislative committee hearings. Our webcasts are provided in cooperation with KET on its website, www.ket.org. KET also broadcasts, via webcast and on TV, a nightly news program that recaps daily action during legislative sessions.
For those who like to use “apps” on their phones or tablets, the LRC has a mobile app that is increasingly popular with lawmakers, legislative staff, and other regular followers of General Assembly action. At least half of all state legislatures are using these mobile apps or adapted websites to reach out to citizens.
I mentioned earlier about my Facebook page. While there is no Facebook or Twitter page for the Legislative Research Commission or the Kentucky General Assembly as a whole, many individual lawmakers and legislative caucuses have personal social media profiles, like I do, to connect with constituents. Nationally, a third of state legislators had Facebook profiles two years ago, according to the State Legislatures article. That number is probably higher today.
Look at these figures from the article:
• There are 108 state legislative party caucuses in 40 states with Facebook pages today
• 22 state legislative chambers or agencies (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands) in 15 states have Facebook pages
• 36 legislative party caucuses in 20 states connect via blogs
• Nine legislative chambers or agencies in eight states connect via blogs
• 101 legislative party caucuses in 37 states connect via Twitter
• 49 legislative chambers or agencies (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) in 26 states connect via Twitter. A growing number of caucuses and chambers or agencies are also using the social media site Google+, according to the article.
While state lawmakers and state legislatures enjoy being able to reach citizens wherever they are, perhaps the better story is the fact that citizens are reaching back. Social networks are, according to the article, “where about 40 percent of Americans have participated in some kind of civic or political activity,” like posting political views, inviting people to act on a cause, following candidates, or joining political groups. In a society where political apathy has been the norm for decades, especially in voter turnout, it is good to see citizens speaking up and acting on what interests them.
See if you can get involved via social media on causes or civic questions that interest you. Exercise your voice for good government. And, of course, don’t forget to vote.
Please share your ideas with me by e-mailing Brent.Yonts@lrc.ky.gov. You can also send me a letter addressed to: Rep. Brent Yonts, Capitol Annex, Rm. 366 A, 702 Capital Ave., Frankfort KY 40601.