How laws are made: our trip to Oklahoma’s Capitol
Sapulpa Times columnist Brooke DeLong takes a trip to Oklahoma City to see how laws get passed, shattering some of their expectations.
I admit I have never cared too much for politics because of the politics involved. But what I dislike even more is our rights being taken away or values I don’t believe in becoming legalized. Needless to say, my daughter and I found ourselves at our state’s Capitol for the first time this week. We went with an open mind, supporting our cause while getting a better feel for the process of how a bill is made into law and a peek into the workday of our Legislators.
The Capitol is a beautiful seven-story building with artwork and statues; it was completed in 1917 with current construction happening which is scheduled to be finished in 2022. There is even a basement with a workout room and post office. The Capitol is open daily to the public from 9-5, be prepared to walk through a metal detector.
We assumed the Capitol building would be similar to a library. In reality, it is a beehive of activity. Two or three groups a day have rallies or set up in the rotunda areas to promote their cause, not to mention a band playing every now and then. That doesn’t include individuals or small groups visiting. It was a bit overwhelming for us.
The Capitol is where the Governor, Lt. Governor, State Auditor and more are housed. We were able to visit the Senate and House floors where bills are heard and voted on. My 13-year-old daughter had this to say: “I had no idea how laws were passed or rejected in those big rooms with 48 plus desks and spectators—of all things.”
Another eye-opener was getting a glimpse into the Monday-through-Thursday lives of our Legislators. We were able to visit with them, (some local and some not) along with a few assistants who help them keep up with their busy schedules. With more than 2,800 bills being put on the floor their responsibility is large. Senator Leewright had a large stack of bills on his desk to research which was only a small portion for the week. Representative Mark Lawson admitted to staying up until 11 some evenings doing work. One Senator’s inbox was overflowing from material visitors had recently dropped off from the past day or two advocating for their cause.
The Lawmakers visit with constituents (that would be you and me), are present for meetings and sessions, research bills, attend functions and more. Many rent an apartment near the Capitol during the week and travel home to their families for the weekend where there could still be meetings or functions waiting for them.
Session lasts until the end of May, so they no doubt will be busy for a few more months. But, I don’t think they mind. We’ve heard everyone from our state Representative Kevin Hern to at least 10 other Legislators speak this past week and they are all passionate about what they are doing. Almost every single one invited constituents to email, call or visit their office while one Senator even offered coffee.
And that’s my point; to help you feel more comfortable reaching out to your legislators, whether it is visiting the Capitol or contacting them via email or phone, or even on Facebook. I would love to inspire you to get involved be it with your local party affiliation, an advocacy group or simply with your family. I don’t think it is just enough to vote the right person in anymore…or has it ever been? Educate yourself on the bills coming up and let your opinions be known. The lawmakers represent their people but how are they supposed to know what concerns we have? I can almost guarantee people who have opposing values to yours are expressing their opinions.
If you do plan a trip to the Capitol and would like to meet your senator or house representative, I would highly recommend making an appointment by calling their number. Also, please remember to be respectful; I understand being passionate about a cause, but once someone loses their manners the focus is on the person instead of the cause, which can often defeat the purpose of your call!
Overall, we had a fantastic time and it was meaningful to watch history being made, in a sense; we’ll definitely be back. I truly believe we have some dedicated men and women in office who are there to humbly serve. They work hard for us, so let’s help them get to know the people they are serving!
Don’t just take my word for it—here is what our local lawmakers have to say:
“There is no better way to serve the constituency of District 12 than to be able to sit down face to face and work on issues that affect our community. It’s important to let your voice be heard. It is truly an honor to serve and I encourage you to reach out to me anytime.” Senator James Leewright SD 12 (405)-521-5528, email@example.com
“Compared to my first term, things are incredibly optimistic at the Capitol right now with a new Governor and 46 new State Representatives (out of 101). I greatly appreciate you taking the time to come to your State Capitol and voice your opinion. I represent 37,000 people, but I cannot do my job effectively unless I am hearing from them.” Rep. Kyle Hilbert Dist. 29 (405) 557-7353 firstname.lastname@example.org
“It’s always a pleasure seeing constituents at the Capitol. Hearing their concerns and listening to them advocate for their causes helps me make decisions as their Representative. It’s also an opportunity that allows them to see their government at work. My door is always open to constituents at the Capitol. I work for them”. Rep. Mark Lawson Dist. 30 (405) 557-7414 email@example.com
Go to oklegislature.gov to find legislators and track bills.
About the Author
Brooke DeLong has a degree in Naturopathy and is passionate about educating and inspiring people. She is a wife and mom to four awesome kids.