How to Increase Civic Participation

Because civic participation is important, legislators have tried a number of ideas to get citizens more involved in the legislative process. Some of the more creative ideas have been;

Capital Fellows Program – Started in 1957 as the Ford Foundation Fellowship, the California State Assembly Fellowship Program is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious legislative fellowship programs. The program, now administered by the Center for California Studies at Sacramento State University, has grown to include California Senate Fellows, Executive Fellowship, and the Judicial Administration Fellowship. Each year, 18 individuals are selected to participate in the program. The 11-month fellowship provides an introduction to public policy formation and adoption in the California Legislature through full-time work as a professional legislative staff member. A number of Fellows have later been elected to the legislature, including current legislators Jose Solorio, Luis Alejo, and Krisin Olsen.

For more information, you can visit the Fellows Program website.

 

“The Shadows” – In the early 1980s, Assemblyman Lloyd Connelly was asked by some constituents if they could ‘job shadow’ him for a day at the Capitol to learn about the Capitol. He agreed, and between 1983 and mid-1988 had been “shadowed” by about 800 people. As of June 1988, when the Los Angeles Times wrote an article on the program, there was a yearlong waiting list to participate; “Even though the popular program is 5 years old, none of the other members of the Senate or Assembly have copied it. Some say that is because lawmakers are uncomfortable with such scrutiny.”

I am not aware of any current legislators who have any sort of “job shadow” program.

 

“There Ought to be a Law” Contest – Although citizens always have the ability to write to their legislators and request that they introduce legislation, some legislators hold annual contests to collect proposals from their constituents. The earliest “There Ought to be a Law” contest appears to have been held in Connecticut  in 1985, and it had arrived in California by 1988 (when Assemblywoman Gwen Moore had a column in her constituent newsletter with that title). In 1990, Assemblyman Dick Floyd started a “There Ought Not to Be a Law” contest.

A number of legislators currently hold “There Ought to be a Law” contests annually. The deadline for submissions is usually in mid November.

 

The Young Senators – In 1999, State Senator Richard Alarcon started a “Young Legislators program” which brings high school students from Los Angeles to Sacramento to learn about the legislative process and debate proposals during a mock floor session. Alarcon continued the program until 2008. Similar programs have been run by Senators Gil Cedillo (2007-2012) and Correa (2008-Present). The students were required to complete 30 hours of community service in order to participate.