File photo

File photo

Increased participation might be ‘silver lining’ in online state legislative session

Online tools will provide increased access.

By Joseph Claypoole, Washington State Journal

This might be the most accessible Legislative session in history, thanks to online tools provided by the state.

McKenna Troje, 22, a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle, participated in a one-person experiment this weekend to see how difficult registering to testify remotely on a bill would be during this year’s state legislative session, which launches Jan. 11 and will be run mostly online in accordance with the state’s COVID-19 public health guidelines.

“That was pretty easy,” Troje said.

Troje hasn’t attended a committee hearing before nor has she ever visited the state Legislature’s leg.wa.gov website.

So she started by Googling how to testify on Washington legislation, and the first result took her to a page on the Legislature’s website that provides detailed instructions on what to do before, during, and after testimony, as well as what participants can expect when joining online.

Rep. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland, said that a bonus to this year’s remote session might be that a larger number of residents from all over the state will participate in the lawmaking process.

“It [remote testimony] has enabled us to enhance openness, access, and transparency,” Kloba said. “Not only will this make participation more equitable for those who cannot take a day off of work but also for Washingtonians who live farther from Olympia.”

Lawmakers at a press event on Thursday said they’ve been holding practice sessions for weeks on how best to conduct routine legislative activity online, working out kinks and establishing best practices in running committee hearings and floor debates and votes in the House and Senate.

Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, celebrated opportunities the online session might provide.

“You can see live, exactly what’s happening at all times,” Nguyen said, pointing to the live TVW broadcast that will stream on cable and online.

If you can watch YouTube, he said, you can watch — and participate in — the legislative session.

It’s unclear, however, how much commonplace but unofficial legislative activity might play out, including the quiet exchanges and sidetalk among lawmakers that can shift a vote or the way lobbyists in hushed hallway conversations make their cases. Those kinds of interactions may well become even less visible to the public this year.

Amongst the difficulties that come with an online session, lawmakers will still be debating across the aisle with contentious issues like COVID-19 relief, affordable housing and reforming the governor’s emergency powers.

More information on how to provide testimony or just watch hearings can be found at https://leg.wa.gov/legislature/Pages/Testify.aspx.

The Washington State Journal is a non-profit news website managed by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation: wastatejournal.org.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in News

West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle. Photo courtesy of King County
Power outages cause massive wastewater spill into Puget Sound, Lake Washington

King County estimates millions gallons of untreated wastewater overflowed into surrounding waters.

Democrats in the Washington State House are proposing to pay for transportation improvements partly by raising the gas tax by 18 cents. (Sound Publishing file photo)
House Democrats lay out massive $26B transportation package funded by gas tax hike

An 18-cent gas tax increase and a fee on carbon emissions would fund new roads and more.

File photo
Report: 70 percent of gun deaths in Washington are attributable to suicide

Research done at The Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program at Harborview… Continue reading

XXX
BECU scholarships open

High school seniors and college students can apply for a $2,500 scholarship.

June 2018 algae bloom. Photo courtesy of Department of Ecology
Human-caused ‘dead zones’ threaten health of Puget Sound

Wastewater treatment plants account for about 70% of the excess nutrients.

Robert Allen, 61, had never been homeless in his life before 2019, when he lost his housing. The chef has been trying to get back on his feet, and hopes to open a nonprofit and make hot sauce. File photo
King County implements 0.01% sales tax to raise money for housing the homeless

Officials plan to buy hotels, motels and nursing homes for conversion into permanent housing.

Former felons in Washington state can only get their voting rights back after serving time, parole, and probation. Image courtesy procon.org.
Bill promotes automatic right to vote for people released from prison

Currently, former felons in Washington can regain their right to vote after serving their sentence, parole, and probation.

City of Enumclaw council chambers
City looking for Arts Commission applicants

The Arts Commission meets at 4 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month.

gavel and sounding block on desk
Alleged poisoner, molester trial date set

Allen W. Bittner is accused of poisoning his stepdaughter using home-made chloroform.

Most Read