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@vashonbeachcomber.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.vashonbeachcomber.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

x
For Islander, Volunteer Firefighting Is a Way of Life

Brett Kranjcevich has marked 40 years as a volunteer firefighter, following a long family legacy.

x
Vashon Emergency Operations Center COVID-19 Pandemic Situation Report

Here’s what you need to know about Jan. 12 to Jan. 18.

Schools Have Tentative Plan To Bring Kids Back To Classrooms

The district is preparing to phase in limited in-person learning for elementary-aged children.

x
Sandpiper Cafe Opens At Island Golf Club

“It’s an amazing thing that we’re going to be able to do here,” said island chef Doug Arends.

x
Vashon’s Vintage Newspapers Find a Home in Cyberspace

Digitized copies of early Vashon newspapers are now available on the information superhighway.

x
Vashon Schools Get a Shiny New Maintenance Building

The new building replaces an old maintenance building constructed before 1910.

x
Dockton Gets a New Welcome

A mossy sign welcoming visitors to Dockton has sprouted up welcoming visitors to the historic town.

County Tax Increases Could Cost Island Tax Districts Everything

Spurred by the Vashon Park District, a bill has been revived to potentially shake up state tax law.

x
Firmest Timetable Yet Released For Next Vaccine Round

Here’s what you need to know about Jan. 5 to Jan. 11.

Most Read