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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How to Talk to Your Legislator

How to Talk to Your Legislator

Courtesy: iStock

Let’s face it; the legislative process can be daunting to an outsider. Tracking the status of bills, reading committee reports, knowing when and how to testify are all things the public can become involved in. The website, Policy Ninja can help you with that and more.

“Policy Ninja is a tool for transparency and participation,” says website co-founder Kory Payne (who originally started the Hawaii Policy Portal, Policy Ninja’s first iteration). 

The website pulls together data from political donors, offices of elected officials and legislative bills. Members can sign up and quickly see who gave to whom and whether or not a bill will become law. “We have a right to public data,” he says.

But Policy Ninja isn’t just pages of numbers, you can also testify on a bill or resolution, contact your senator or representative, or write a letter to the editor for local publications. The website incorporates ready-made templates to either email legislators or submit testimony. You can also get a general overview of a bill and how it will affect the community if it’s passed (or if it’s not).

Payne and his co-founder Kevin Vaccarello hope to incorporate two new functions. The first is a webcam function that will allow users to create and edit a video message to submit to legislators. The second is a call function where users can contact a legislator’s office directly from their computer. 

“Americans see politics as a crooked game of quid pro quo,” says Payne. “Our thinking is that if we make it easy for people to participate and make it easy for people to see how the government is structured and how it works people will get involved.”

Right now Policy Ninja is a paying members-only service, with mostly nonprofit and for-profit organizations utilizing the tools for $50 a month (or $35 a month of HANO members), but Payne and Vaccarello are working on getting a grant to allow organizations and individuals to use the website for free. 

To become a black belt of the political process, head to the State Capitol tonight from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for a free advocacy workshop in Room 312.


Posted on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 in Permalink

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