Democracy at a Distance: How to be heard at the Minnesota Capitol during COVID

How can I connect with lawmakers when the Capitol is closed?

When the Minnesota Legislature convenes its 2021 regular session on January 5th, lawmaking will continue to take place at a distance. Legislators are holding hearings and meetings remotely but coming to St. Paul for floor sessions. The Capitol building, at this time, remains closed to visitorsSo, what does that mean for you – the constituent – who wants to meet with your legislator or keep tabs on what decisions are being made?

The staff of the Minnesota Catholic Conference has compiled the following tools and opportunities for you to connect with lawmakers, and stay in the know during the upcoming session:

1) Keep an eye to your email

The Minnesota Catholic Conference will send you regular newsletters and action alerts from our Catholic Advocacy Network. These action alerts will enable you to easily send a message to your legislators at key times on key issues that are impacting life and dignity. Not only will you be able to send an email message, but you can also send a video message, call your legislators, or connect over social media – all through the action alerts we send to your email. You can also sign up here for text alerts!

2) Set up a virtual visit with your legislators

Your legislators want to hear from you! If they don’t know what issues are important to you, they cannot represent your interests. By building a relationship with them you can be a resource to them and help them understand how to promote and defend life & dignity.

Find out who represents you and their contact information on the directory page of the Catholic Advocacy Network Action Center. By contacting your Representative and Senator, you can ask to set up a digital meeting. Typically, your legislator’s assistant will help arrange the meeting and answer any questions you may have about how a virtual meeting will function.

3) Stay up to date on what is happening in the House or Senate

Visit the combined legislative calendar to learn when meetings, hearings, and votes will happen on a given day and what is coming up.

4) Tune in to livestreams of legislative hearings/meetings and votes

 

Now that the legislature is primarily operating remotely, the House and Senate are broadcasting hearings/meetings and votes live for the public to watch. Prior to COVID, only some hearings were broadcast since the public could attend in person. That of course was always more difficult for people who live at a great distance. Now, no matter where you live, you can stay informed.

5) Testify during a hearing

Is there a particular issue or bill on which you want to give your input? Do you have a powerful story that could help lawmakers better uphold life and dignity? Just as when the legislature was meeting in person, constituents are still encouraged to share their testimony!

In order to testify during a bill’s hearing you will first need to identify which committee is hearing the bill. You can find that on the calendar (linked above). Every committee has an administrator; this is who you will contact in order to testify. Here are House committees and here are the Senate committees. Click on the committee you want and then find the name and email of the committee administrator.


 

6) Attend Catholics at the Capitol: On Mission for Life & Dignity – April 15, 2021

Although we know that the Capitol will be closed for the near future, we do want you to know that our bi-annual Catholics at the Capitol event will still be going forward. We are planning for this amazing event to be in person and are prepared to move to a hybrid or online program if necessary.

During Catholics at the Capitol you will join Minnesota’s bishops and Catholics statewide on mission to defend life and dignity at our State Capitol. You will be formed in the faith by celebrating Mass at the Cathedral, be informed on the issues by speakers such as internationally renowned champion for life Obianuju Ekeocha, and Archbishop Jose Gomez, USCCB President and Archbishop of Los Angeles. Following the morning program you will be sent on mission to transform our state with a eucharistic procession to the State Capitol before speaking with your legislators. Discount early-bird registration begins in December!