The power of the internet
Published 10:22 am Wednesday, February 1, 2017
The computer and the internet have changed the world since I first went to Richmond. In those days, the greatest volume of communication was through the mail. If it was important, constituents called. Regrettably, because of the limited time that we have to consider legislation, sometimes legislation had already passed by the time the mail had arrived. The average person was reluctant to call and pay for a long-distance call.
However, in recent years, cell phone calls allow many more people to call and not incur any additional charges.
Many cannot only reach legislators by use of the internet, but also by searching the legislative information system for those issues of interest or concern to them. This has opened the legislative process to anyone interested. If they do not have a computer or smartphone, they can visit a library and go online there. Generally, if used properly, folks can get faster information and provide their opinion on issues as legislation comes before us rather than after they have read about the results in the newspaper or heard on television or radio.
This has been a great help for legislators as we try to serve our districts. It works best when constituents email us to let us know how a piece of legislation will affect them, their family or their business. Additionally, it is important to know who you are and your address. Many emails we receive are from those in other regions who may have different perspectives than those in our part of the state. We try to respond to each, but sheer volume sometimes makes that impossible.
As with all things, there are pluses and minuses. A more open government sometimes leads to the information available being misunderstood. On Friday, a constituent called about a dog bill that had passed the Senate with no opposition. Someone had misunderstood the bill and started emailing dog breeders that the legislation would possibly put them out of business. That message spread like wild fire. Thankfully, my constituent called me to determine if this was true. It was not. The section of the law that was in question had nothing to do with dog breeders.
Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is District15@senate.virginia.gov.