This year's legislative labors are certain to be especially critical to the way you conduct your trucking business. Efforts likely to receive attention in legislatures across the country include highway tolls, transportation bonds, fuel taxes and speed limits, to name a few.
You can have a powerful effect on the decisions lawmakers make.
Are you ready to be a player?
Most state lawmakers will be back to work by early February, if not before.
Here are four easy steps to making your concerns known to those who shape your state laws:
1. If you are an OOIDA member and you don't know who your elected officials are or how to contact them, you can call the Association's Membership Department at 1-800-444-5791 and they'll look it up for you.
2. On a daily basis you can monitor the Web sites at landlinemag.com and ooida.com or tune in to "Land Line Now" on XM Channel 171 for updates on legislative action in your state. For in-depth coverage and a state-by-state accounting of action that relates to your business, read "State Update" in every issue of Land Line.
3. Don't sit on the sidelines. Contact your elected officials and express your concerns.
4. If you become aware of a new law being proposed in your home state that would affect trucking, call Land Line at 1-800-444-5791 and ask State Legislative Editor Keith Goble to place it on the state legislative watch list.
While many issues important to you will be debated by lawmakers in your own home state, what happens in Washington, DC, during 2006 is certain to be critical to your trucking business. The Second Session of the 109th U.S. Congress convened last month.
Lawmakers can't address your concerns if they don't know what they are. Your job is to clue them in.
You may feel as though you are one small voice in our big country, but if you don't speak up, who is going to do it for you?
OOIDA has a membership of more than 133,000 professional truckers.
If each member did their part to contact their elected officials, it would have a powerful impact on the decisions lawmakers make.
There are several ways to educate your lawmakers - write a letter to them, make a telephone call to his or her office, send them an e-mail or meet with them in person.
Second only to meeting with the lawmaker, letters are the most respected form of communication from constituents. A letter writer is much more likely to get a response from a legislator.
Letters do not have to be long, complicated or literary masterpieces. Simply state your concern for an issue in your own words, speaking from your heart. Keep it to one subject.
At the beginning of the letter, state clearly what your subject is and your position on it. If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, it helps to include the bill number. After that, personalize the letter by describing how the issue affects you. Then ask them to help you.
Make sure you type or write your name and complete address clearly so that they know where to send a response. Lawmakers pay particular attention to letters because an individual person has taken the time to write them. Legislators often believe that a well-written letter represents the views of many constituents who did not take the time to write.
Letters can be sent by regular mail or fax. Because of current mail screening processes, a faxed letter could reach a legislator's office as much as two weeks earlier than a letter sent through the mail.
E-mail is not yet a sure method of communication with lawmakers. Some offices reply and some do not. The trend, however, is to respond to all e-mails with an automatic general acknowledgement e-mail and then follow that up with a traditional letter reply if the e-mail sender lives in the lawmaker's jurisdiction and provided his or her postal address in the e-mail message.
There is no guarantee a phone call will get nearly the same time and attention from a lawmaker or a lawmaker's staff as a letter.
However, there still are significant benefits to phoning lawmakers, especially when time related to an issue is limited.
If you do decide to call your elected U.S. officials, the first thing to do is ask to speak to their legislative assistant - sometimes referred to as an LA - handling the issue you are calling about. If you are calling about issues related to trucking, ask for the "transportation LA." If the staffer is not there, ask for his or her name, leave a voice mail, and keep calling until they take or return your call.
No matter how mad you are about an issue or at a lawmaker, always try to communicate in a civil tone and use respectful language. If you are upset, by all means tell them, but do not use them as a punching bag for your words. You want them to be sympathetic to your words, not turned off.
Where to phone or write
There are only two addresses and one phone number you need to write or call your lawmakers in Washington, DC.
Your involvement in the bill process is essential to getting lawmakers to craft legislation that reflects your views. The earlier you get involved in the process, the better.
How a bill becomes law may, at times, seem confusing. The bill process, however, is quite simple to follow once you know the basics. The process is virtually the same in state legislatures from Juneau to Jackson.
Here is how it generally works:
A state representative or senator decides to sponsor a bill, which either changes current law, adds new law, or deletes existing law, sometimes at the suggestion of a constituent, interest group, public official or the governor.
The lawmaker may ask other legislators to join as co-sponsors.
At the lawmaker's direction, an office of legislative services provides research and drafting assistance, and prepares the bill in proper technical form.
The sponsoring lawmaker gives the bill to the clerk's office, and the bill's title is read aloud. This is known as the first reading.
The bill is then referred to an appropriate committee.
The members of the committee consider the bill and decide what action to take. The committee may amend, hold, table, substitute or make a favorable recommendation on the bill. The committee can also have public hearings on the proposal.
The bill's title is read aloud before the entire body. This is called the second reading. The bill is then debated in open session, also called "floor debate."
During floor debate, the measure can be amended or substituted. It is then given a third reading and voted on.
If approved, it heads to the other chamber - either the House of Representatives or the Senate - where the process is repeated.
However, there is one state legislature that has only one chamber - Nebraska.
If the bill is amended while in the second chamber and the chamber of origin disagrees with the change, a conference committee of members from both chambers may be formed to resolve differences.
After being approved in identical form by both chambers, the bill is printed as an enrolled bill, examined and signed by the presiding officer of each chamber.
The bill is then sent to the governor. The governor can sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.
For three decades, OOIDA has been met with the challenge of getting the word out quickly and effectively on important legislative issues affecting professional drivers. With the aid of today's Internet technology, and OOIDA's daily news and info hour on XM Satellite Radio, the Association now has the capability to very quickly relay to truckers information about important issues.
Now, it's up to you to step into action and make an impact with lawmakers on issues they are discussing that affect you.
OOIDA's Call to Action Team is on the pulse of hot-button issues being discussed in Congress and in state legislatures throughout the country. If you are not already among the growing number of truckers plugged in to daily legislative happenings, it is time you got connected.
You do not have to be a member of OOIDA to be on its Call to Action Team. Land Line readers and others in the trucking industry are invited to join.
It's as simple as calling OOIDA's offices and asking to be added to the Call to Action contact list. Team members with e-mail will receive the most current updates on critical legislative issues.
Team members without e-mail: Don't worry. You won't be left out. Time permitting, a mailing will be sent out informing you about important issues.
After receiving an alert, it is essential you call your elected official(s) - whose contact information will be provided - visit their office(s) for a face-to-face conversation or, when possible, attend a meeting where lawmakers are present for discussion.
You will be contacted only when an extremely important issue arises.
It's up to you to join the team and help make a difference. Contact OOIDA's Angel Burnell at 1-800-444-5791, Ext. 1600, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up. It's quick. It's easy. It's free. It will make a difference.
While a recent poll of the Association's membership shows that the majority of OOIDA members do take part in elections, the Association is continuing its efforts to get all truckers to make their voices heard.
In this election year, the most effective way to accomplish this task is to register to vote. If you haven't already registered, go ahead now and join the rest of the truckers who cast ballots to effect change.
In most states, you can register to vote in person or via mail. Depending on which state you live in, you can print your registration form off the Internet or pick one up in person from the Department of Motor Vehicles, local board of elections office, post office, library or other location.
Contact your local elections office or secretary of state's office for specifics. Listings for these offices can usually be found in the "government pages" section of your local phone book.
Once registered, be sure to vote.
Admittedly, the lifestyle of the professional trucker can often make voting a difficult exercise, and one for which a bit of early planning is sometimes needed.
To aid voters who aren't able to visit the polling booth on Election Day, many states allow advance voting and mail-in ballots in addition to traditional absentee ballots. A handful of states even offer permanent absentee ballots.
Your local elections office or secretary of state's office can tell you what options are available in your state.
And if all else fails, make time to head to the booth on Election Day.
FYI: A number of legislatures have brief sessions. Wyoming's actual session for the year, for example, is less than 30 days. Many state legislatures run longer than one calendar year. Also, many states recess at various times throughout the year or session.
Alabama's 2006 legislative session began Jan. 10 and ends April 24.
Senate general info: (334) 242-7800
House general info: (334) 242-7600
Senate bill status: (334) 242-7825
Senate bill status (in AL): 1-800-499-3051
House bill status: (334) 242-7627
House bill status (in AL): 1-800-499-3052
Alaska's Legislature convened Jan. 9 and adjourns May 9.
Senate general info: (907) 465-3701
House general info: (907) 465-3725
Bill status: (907) 465-4648
Arizona's legislative session started Jan. 9 and runs to April 22.
General info (in AZ): 1-800-352-8404
Senate general info and bill status: (602) 926-4231 or (602) 926-3559
House general info and bill status: (602) 926-4221 or (602) 926-3032
Arkansas' General Assembly has no regular session for 2006. The next session begins January 2007.
California's Legislature began Jan. 4, and runs to Aug. 31.
Senate general info and bill status: (916) 651-4120|
Assembly general info and bill status: (916) 319-2856
Colorado's General Assembly meets Jan. 11 through May 10.
Senate general info: (303) 866-2316
House general info: (303) 866-2904
Bill status: (303) 866-3055
Senate bill status (in CO): 1-888-473-8136
House bill status (in CO): 1-800-811-7647
Connecticut's General Assembly meets from Jan. 8 to May 3.
General info: (860) 240-0100
Bill status: (860) 240-8888 or (860) 757-6550
Delaware's General Assembly convened Jan. 10 and ends June 30.
Senate general info: (302) 744-4286
House general info: (302) 744-4171
Bill status: (302) 744-4114
Bill status (in DE): 1-800-282-8545
Florida's Legislature starts March 7 and ends May 5.
Senate general info: (850) 487-5270
House general info: (850) 488-1157
Bill status: (850) 488-4371
Bill status (in FL): 1-800-342-1827
Georgia's General Assembly opened Jan. 9 and continues to March.
Senate general info: (404) 656-0028
House general info: (404) 656-0305
Senate bill status: (404) 656-5040
House bill status: (404) 656-5015
Hawaii's Legislature convened Jan. 18 and adjourns May 5.
Senate general info: (808) 586-6720
House general info: (808) 586-6400
Bill status: (808) 587-0478
Idaho's Legislature started Jan. 9 and ends March 17.
General info: (208) 332-1000
Bill status: (208) 334-3175
Bill status (in ID): 1-800-626-0471
Illinois' General Assembly session began Jan. 11 and adjourns April 7.
General info: (217) 782-3944
Bill status (in IL): 1-800-252-6300
Senate bill status: (217) 782-4517
House bill status: (217) 782-5799
Indiana's General Assembly convened Jan. 9 and ends March 14.
Senate general info (in IN): 1-800-382-9467
Senate general info: (317) 232-9400
House general info (in IN): 1-800-382-9841
House general info: (317) 232-9600
Bill status: (317) 232-9856
Iowa's General Assembly started Jan. 9 and adjourns April 18.
Senate general info: (515) 281-3371
House general info: (515) 281-3221
Bill status: (515) 281-5129
Kansas' Legislature convened Jan. 9 and ends April 8.
General info and bill status (in KS): 1-800-432-3924
Senate general info: (785) 296-2456
House general info: (785) 296-7633
Bill status: (785) 296-2149
Kentucky's General Assembly convened Jan. 3 and ends April 11.
General info and bill status: (502) 564-8100
Bill status (in KY): 1-877-257-5541
Louisiana's Legislature convenes March 27 and wraps up June 19.
Senate general info: (225) 342-2040
House general info: (225) 342-6945
Bill status: (225) 342-2456
Bill status (in LA): 1-800-256-3793
Maine's legislative session runs from Jan. 4 to April 19.
Senate general info: (207) 287-1540
House general info: (207) 287- 1400
Bill status: (207) 287-1692
Senate bill status (in ME): 1-800-423-6900
House bill status (in ME): 1-800-423-2900
Maryland's General Assembly convened Jan. 11 and ends April 10.
General info: (410) 841-3000
General info (in MD for western, Eastern Shore and southern parts only): 1-800-492-7122
Bill status: (410) 946-5400
Massachusetts' General Court started Jan. 4 and the formal session ends July 3, while the informal session ends Dec. 31.
Senate general info and bill status: (617) 722-1276
House general info and bill status: (617) 722-2356
Michigan's Legislature convened Jan. 11 and wraps up Dec. 31.
Senate general info: (517) 373-2400
House general info: (517) 373-0135
Bill status: (517) 373-0630
Minnesota's Legislature convenes March 1 and ends May 22.
Senate general info and bill status: (651) 296-0504
Senate general info (in MN): 1-888-234-1112
House general info: (651) 296-2146
House general info (in MN): 1-800-657-3550
House bill status: (651) 296-6646
Mississippi's Legislature started Jan. 3 and ends April 2.
General info: (601) 359-3770
Bill status: (601) 359-3719
Missouri's General Assembly convened Jan. 4 and closes May 13.
Senate general info: (573) 751-3824
House general info: (573) 751-4043
Bill status: 1-800-877-5982
Montana's Legislature has no regular session for 2006. The next session will begin Jan. 2007.
Nebraska's Unicameral Legislature began Jan. 4 and ends April 12.
General info: (402) 471-2271
Bill status: (402) 471-0769
Bill status (in NE): 1-800-742-7456
Nevada's Legislature has no regular session for 2006. The next session will begin Feb. 5, 2007.
New Hampshire's Legislature convened Jan. 4 and ends by July 1.
General info: (603) 271-3321
Bill status: (603) 271-2239
New Jersey's Legislature convened Jan. 10 and runs to Dec.31.
General info and bill status: (609) 292-4840
General info and bill status (in NJ): 1-800-792-8630
New Mexico's Legislature started Jan. 17 and ends Feb. 16.
Senate general info: (505) 986-4714
House general info: (505) 986-4751
Bill status: (505) 986-4600
New York's Legislature convened Jan. 4 and will announce its adjournment date later.
Senate general info: (518) 455-2800
House general info: (518) 455-4100
Bill status: (518) 455-7545
Bill status (in NY): 1-800-342-9860
North Carolina's General Assembly runs from May 9 to July 26.
Senate general info: (919) 733-7761
House general info: (919) 733-7760
Bill status: (919) 733-7779 or (919) 733-7778
North Dakota's Assembly has no regular session for 2006. The next session begins Jan. 3, 2007.
Ohio's session began Jan. 3 and ends Dec. 31.
Senate general info: (614) 466-4900
House general info: (614) 466-3357
Bill status: (614) 466-8842
Bill status (in OH): 1-800-282-0253
Oklahoma's Legislature convenes Feb. 6 and adjourns May 26.
Senate general info and bill status: (405) 524-0126
Senate bill status: (405) 521-5642
House general info and bill status: (405) 521-2711
House general info and bill status (in OK): 1-800-522-8502
Oregon's Assembly has no regular session for 2006. The next session convenes Jan. 2007.
Pennsylvania's General Assembly opened Jan. 3 and ends Nov. 30.
Senate general info: (717) 787-5920
House general info: (717) 787-2372
Bill status: (717) 787-6732
Rhode Island's General Assembly started Jan. 3 and ends June 26.
Senate general info: (401) 222-6655
House general info: (401) 222-2466
Bill status: (401) 222-3580
South Carolina's Legislature opened Jan. 10 and closes June 1.
Senate general info and bill status: (803) 212-6200
House general info and bill status: (803) 734-2010
South Dakota's Legislature convened Jan. 10 and ends March 10.
Senate general info: (605) 773-3821
House general info: (605) 773-3851
Bill status: (605) 773-3251
Tennessee's General Assembly started Jan. 10 and runs until May 25.
General info: 1-800-449-8366
Senate general info: (615) 741-2368
House general info: (615) 741-3774
Bill status: (615) 741-0927
Texas' Legislature has no regular session in 2006. The next session begins in Jan. 2007.
Utah's Legislature opened Jan. 16 and closes March 1.
Senate general info and bill status: (801) 538-1035
House general info and bill status: (801) 538-1029
Vermont's General Assembly convened Jan. 3 and ends May 18.
General information: (802) 828-2228
General information (in Vermont): 1-800-322-5616
Senate general information: (802) 828-2241
House general information: (802) 828-2247
Bill status: (802) 828-2231
Bill status (in Vermont): 1-800-642-3280
Virginia's General Assembly started Jan. 11 and closes March 11.
Senate general information and bill status: (804) 698-7410
Senate general information and bill status (in Virginia): 1-888-892-6948
House general information and bill status: (804) 698-1500
House general information and bill status (in Virginia): 1-877-391-3228
Washington's Legislature opened Jan. 9 and ends March 9.
Senate general information: (360) 786-7550
House general information:(360) 786-7750
Bill status: (360) 786-7573
Bill status (in Washington): 1-800-562-6000
West Virginia's Legislature runs from Jan. 11 to March 10.
General information:(304) 347-4836
Senate general information:(304) 357-7800
House general information: (304) 340-3200
Senate bill status:(304) 357-7947
House bill status:(304) 340-3209
General information and bill status (In West Virginia):1-877-565-3447
Wisconsin's session began Jan. 17 and ends May 18.
Senate general information:(608) 266-2517
Assembly general information:(608) 266-1501
Senate bill status:(608) 266-1803|
Assembly bill status:(608) 266-2406
Bill status (In Wisconsin):1-800-362-9472
Wyoming's Legislature convenes Feb. 13 and adjourns March 10.
General information (in Wyoming): 1-866-996-8683
General information: (307) 777-8683
Senate general information:(307) 777-7711
House general information:(307) 777-7852
Bill status:(307) 777-6185
Bill status (in Wyoming):1-800-342-9570