The South Dakota Legislature is participating in what we hope is a winter reflourishing of democracy by expanding opportunities for citizen participation in the Legislature. On Tuesday, the Legislative Research Council announced that, to help keep everyone safe from coronavirus, every Legislative committee will have the option to take remote testimony by audio and/or video through Microsoft Teams.
Those wishing to testify before the committee remotely must submit their request to the committee Chair at least 24 hours before the start of the committee meeting at which they want to speak. Requests can be submitted using the email addresses posted on the LRC website. The email request should include the testifier’s full name, whom they are representing (self, organization, etc.), city of residence, meeting date, the bill number they wish to address, and whether they are a proponent or opponent of the bill. Proposed handouts and reference materials should be attached to the email as Word documents or PDF’s.
Testifiers who are approved by the committee Chair to join the meeting remotely will receive a Microsoft Teams invitation to the committee meeting. During the meeting, the Chair will call on them by name at the appropriate time to offer their comments [LRC, press release, 2021.01.19].
The document-sharing feature may be particularly useful; I hope LRC will rig their Teams set-up to allow all remote listeners to see those documents as well.
If live online videoconferencing isn’t your thing, you can use those same committee email addresses to submit written testimony to the entire committee.
This expansion of remote testimony in our Legislative committees shows that moving committee work online doesn’t hurt the Legislative process; it actually opens the door more more citizens to participate in lawmaking.