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@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

The Monroe Correctional Complex on April 9, 2020. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Formerly incarcerated people regain right to vote in Washington

Rights restored immediately upon release.

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

Spring Chinook Salmon. Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Salmon update: King County wants cleaner water, more habitat

Salmon and orcas are in the spotlight once again as King County… Continue reading

Guns seized during April 7 arrests (photo credit: Dept. of Justice)
More than 20 arrested across the Puget Sound in drug distribution conspiracy

DOJ says law enforcement agencies seized over 70 guns and hundreds of thousands in cash.

T
Sheriff’s office wants help identifying Green River killer victim

Staff reports In 2003, Gary Ridgway, Washington’s notorious Green River killer, pleaded… Continue reading

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. File photo
King County needs more lawyers to attack backlog of cases

6,107 open cases is double the normal amount for King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Public Health – Seattle & King County staff administering COVID-19 vaccine to a local emergency responder. COURTESY PHOTO, Public Health-Seattle & King County
Starting April 15, everyone 16 and older is eligible for a vaccine

Gov. Inslee said an expected increase in vaccine supply enables the state to open eligibility.

A CVS pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Phase Finder for vaccine eligibility to be eliminated March 31

Eligibility verification via Phase Finder no longer required for appointments, vaccinations beginning this week.

Courtesy photo
Issaquah School District settles negligence lawsuit for $4.25 million

The lawsuit alleged the district covered for a now-convicted child molester while he was a teacher.

Sound Publishing file photo
More people can get the COVID vaccine on March 31, but supply is still limited

The number of people eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is set… Continue reading

Kindergarten and first grade students line up outside of Panther Lake Elementary in Federal Way on March 15. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
Inslee: K-12 schools can reduce COVID social distancing

The governor reduced social distancing requirements for K-12 classrooms from 6 feet to 3 feet.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. (Wikimedia Commons)
Insurers told to stop using credit scores to set rates

A ban of that practice will be in place until the pandemic is over, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says.