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How to get involved in the Utah Legislature, whether you have 5 minutes or all day

FILE - The Utah Capitol is pictured on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, the penultimate day of the 2018 Utah Legislature.
FILE - The Utah Capitol is pictured on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, the penultimate day of the 2018 Utah Legislature.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The 2020 Utah Legislature general session starts Monday, Jan. 27, and if you think you don't need to pay attention, think again.

Your state legislators could one day be U.S. senators or representatives. 46 of the current 100 senators, 198 representatives and close to half of all U.S. presidents previously served as state legislators, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Additionally, laws that start in state legislatures sometimes make it to other states, or even Congress. For example, in 2015 Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said the health care plan he enacted during his time as governor of Massachusetts was a precursor to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, according to NPR.

FILE - Work continues at the Capitol on the penultimate day of the 2018 Utah Legislature, Wednesday, March 7, 2018.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Even though Utah's lawmakers have already been elected, there are still plenty of ways citizens can get involved in the legislative process, whether they have a whole day or only five minutes to spare.

If you have five minutes

Find out who your representatives are.

This is as easy as visiting the Utah State Legislature website and entering your street address and ZIP code. Once you know who represents you, you have someone to keep accountable.

FILE - Members of the Senate gather at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City for a special session on Wednesday, July 18, 2018.
FILE - Members of the Senate gather at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City for a special session on Wednesday, July 18, 2018.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Follow the Legislature on social media.

Both legislative bodies post updates to various social media channels.

Senate: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube

House majority: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube

House minority: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube

This account auto-tweets official Utah Legislature actions, and the hashtags #utleg and #utpol are good to follow on Twitter for updates from legislative bodies, legislators and journalists alike.

Your own representatives may also post updates to individual social media accounts.

Get updates from credible news sources.

FILE - Attendees walk through the capitol during the final day of the Utah Legislature in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 8, 2018.
FILE - Attendees walk through the capitol during the final day of the Utah Legislature in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 8, 2018.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Some local news organizations offer frequent Legislature updates. Find a source that you like and sign up to get updates through whichever channel works best for you.

The Deseret News posts coverage on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up to receive Deseret News email newsletters or notifications via the Deseret News app.

Do some studying.

Learn what these legislative terms mean, how to read a bill, or how a bill becomes a law.

Track the status of a bill.

If there's a current bill you're interested in, you can see where the bill is in the legislative process and see how your representatives voted on it under the "Status" tab. You can also use the Legislature's floor calendars and bill tracking service to keep tabs on bills.

If you have 20 minutes

Contact your representatives.

Find their contact information using the Senate and House rosters.

This former Congressional employee recommends calling your representatives, but if that’s too intimidating, just get in touch any way you can.

  • Email them.
  • Write them a letter.
  • Visit their office.
  • Tweet at them.

Remember, they work for you, so find a way to let them know what you think about what they’re doing, including which bills they support and sponsor.

Figure out which issues are important to you.

If you're not sure where to start, take some time to think about the issues in your community that matter to you.

You might find some ideas by sorting through legislative committees and bills by subject. For example, if you’re interested in education, you can keep track of the bills that address education, or the committees that address education and which topics they’re addressing in their meetings.

You can also calculate your taxpayer receipt to find out where your tax dollars are going. After that, you may have a few opinions on how tax money is allocated.

FILE - Visitors at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City walk around the rotunda and other areas as Utah legislators gather for a special session on Wednesday, July 18, 2018.
FILE - Visitors at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City walk around the rotunda and other areas as Utah legislators gather for a special session on Wednesday, July 18, 2018.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

If you have an hour

Attend (or watch) committee meetings.

Because committee meetings are open to the public, you’re welcome to attend them at the Utah state capitol. If you can’t attend in person, the Legislature website streams live audio and keeps archived audio of committee meetings.

Look for scheduled meetings by committee, or simply view the calendar on the Utah State Legislature home page.

Attend a town hall meeting.

Town hall meetings are a great way to speak to your representatives in person, ask questions and tell them what you think. Sign up for your representatives' email lists to get notified about when they hold town halls.

FILE - People look on as the Utah Legislature went into session Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, in Salt Lake City.
FILE - People look on as the Utah Legislature went into session Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, in Salt Lake City.
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

If you have all day

Watch floor debates.

You can also watch live floor debates on the Legislature home page, or archived floor debates in the Hearings/Debate tab of the bill you're interested in.

Testify before a legislative committee.

Keep track of the committees that cover topics that are important to you. Those committees are required to post public notices of their meetings, as well as the agendas for those meetings. Once you find a meeting that's relevant to the issue you're interested in, attend it and testify, using this as your guide.

Take a tour of the Capitol.

You can tour virtually or in person. Tours start hourly from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday thorough Friday.

FILE - The Utah State Capitol is barely visible as fog envelops the Salt Lake City skyline Thursday morning Nov. 29, 2018.
FILE - The Utah State Capitol is barely visible as fog envelops the Salt Lake City skyline Thursday morning Nov. 29, 2018.
Ryan Jensen, For the Deseret News