VA Our Way Reports on Virginia General Assembly to Give Citizens Access to Decision-Making

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The Virginia organization was created to fight for more transparency in the General Assembly through on-the-ground reporting in real-time

Elections are incredibly important at all levels,” Gupta said “but it is equally important for citizens to be involved after Election Day. VA Our Way is one way for Virginians to take part in the legislative process after they have cast their ballots.

Although all eyes are trained on the midterm elections and a potential shift in control of the U.S. Congress, many of the laws that have the greatest effect on Virginians are actually passed on the state level. Every year, in the Virginia General Assembly, state legislators consider thousands of bills during a 30- or 60-day session (depending on the year). These decisions impact every citizen of the Commonwealth, which is why VA Our Way, sends a team of reporters to cover meetings and votes in the Assembly. They are working hard to raise awareness of what is happening at the Assembly and create ways for Virginians to involve themselves in the state law-making process.

“Despite its importance, the General Assembly is still largely unknown and inaccessible to most Virginians,” said Shashi Gupta, a founding member of the organization. “Laws are discussed and either die or pass quickly, oftentimes in disproportionately partisan Committees. Their outcomes, unfortunately, are sometimes shielded from the public, particularly if a bill dies in a committee meeting and, therefore, never makes it to a vote.”

The General Assembly has taken some steps in recent years to democratize its processes by recording committee hearings, publishing votes, and creating a public database of legislation. However, citizen activism remains alarmingly low and staying informed about the day-to-day activities of the General Assembly can be nearly impossible for an everyday Virginian. The resources that do exist are oftentimes made available after-the-fact and give Virginians an explanation of what occurred, but rarely real-time information that they can use to take action. VA Our Way strives to change this dynamic, by giving citizens real-time access to information at the General Assembly that they can react to as events unfold.

VA Our Way began addressing these issues of transparency and access by sending a team of reporters to dozens of meetings in the 2018 General Assembly. Reporting from inside the General Assembly, information was shared through email updates to residents who signed up for VA Our Way updates and on the VA Our Way website, http://www.vaourway.org.

“Elections are incredibly important at all levels,” Gupta said “but it is equally important for citizens to be involved after Election Day. VA Our Way is one way for Virginians to take part in the legislative process after they have cast their ballots.”

About VA Our Way
Formed by a group of concerned Virginians who recognized the disconnect between the Virginia state legislature and its citizens, VA Our Way aims to further democratize General Assembly processes, while also giving citizens tools to better involve themselves in the state law-making process. The organization places a team of reporters within the General Assembly to monitor its actions in real-time and report to Virginians about legislation that affects them. Citizens can sign up for updates about specific legislation on VA Our Way’s website and stay abreast of activities taking place at the state level.

Learn more at http://www.vaourway.org

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Heidi Drauschak
VA Our Way
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