On Monday, January 11th, the Washington State Legislature will convene for the 2021 legislative session and is scheduled to virtually address hundreds of policy proposals along with passing 2021-2023 operating, transportation and capital budgets. While legislative leaders communicated the need to exhibit restraint and only propose legislation that addresses priority issues related to COVID-19, economic recovery, equity, and climate change, pre-filed bills illustrate that legislators are interested in matters that go beyond those four topics.
Week 1 will begin rather slowly with most committee hearing agendas showing introductory and work sessions. The Governor’s budget proposals will be heard in both chambers and two carryover policy bills are also scheduled: low carbon fuel standard (HB 1091) and WA Privacy Act (SB 5062). All committee hearings will be conducted virtually and remote testimony will be available to sign up for up to one hour before the hearing begins. The Legislative Information Center has provided clear instructions for citizens to virtually participate in the legislative process. All of the various links can be found in this one pager.
However, there are some direct links to pages that will be immediately insightful:
- Bill Information. This page is the fountain of all information for a particular bill. It shows all the information associated with the bill: bill title, sponsors, language and amendments, non-partisan bill summaries, committee information and votes, links to hearing information as well as to hearing videos. Simply type in the bill number, and you are connected. This page also contains links for other ways to discover bills: daily bill introductions, bills by sponsor, tracking tools and methods to cross reference and so much more.
- Committee Schedules, Agendas and Documents. This is the second most handy page. It allows you to search for bill information by bill number, chamber, specific committee, specific date or date range. Most helpful is how you can view the hearing schedule by day or by the full schedule or by hearing agendas. If displayed in “Schedule” mode, there are quick links to the hearing agenda, hearing documents and a view video feature. Hearing documents can be overlooked but this link contains all the documents that are being displayed to the committee members and may include a more detailed agenda, any formal presentations/reports or other committee staff materials that are provided to committee members. This committee information is available through the committee agenda and the bill page but is not as straightforward.
- Cutoff Calendar. Note that this link currently takes you to the 2020 cutoff calendar. The 2021 cutoff calendar will be posted when it is officially adopted this week and it will be available through this link. I am attaching the DRAFT 2021 cutoff calendar for your immediate reference. The first policy cutoff is scheduled for February 15th, that is about 7 days earlier than previous long sessions (105 days). They have condensed the calendar to allow for more floor time considering the virtual nature is likely to slow this portion of the session significantly. Session is scheduled to end on Sunday, April 25th, 2021.
- Remote Testimony Committee Sign-In. There is a set of instructions for each chamber and they both provide instructions for written testimony. In general, you can sign up to testify up to one hour before the hearing. You will be provided a zoom link that is unique to you. While they will attempt to hear from everyone, they are not guaranteeing that everyone will be able to testify and like previous sessions, your time may be limited. Please refer to the instructions for additional clarifications. Detailed instructions (includes screenshots for illustration) are available HERE.
If you are not testifying, there are a few ways to view a committee hearing live or a later date.
- TVW Streaming. You can stream any of the hearings that are being aired LIVE on TVW. Streaming can have broadband or Wi-Fi challenges, so you may get frustrated with breaks or buffering in the stream.
- TVW Channel locator. If you have cable, this is the most secure way to watch TVW coverage. They air a variety of shows and will air committee hearings live that are tackling popular topics.
- TVW Senate. This streaming link will cast Senate activity explicitly.
- TVW House. This streaming link will cast House activity explicitly.
- View Committee Videos. Through the Committee Schedules and Agendas page, there is a link to “View Video” for each committee hearing. Not all of the hearings will be available live, but most will be available a few hours after the hearing ends. This feature will allow you to go back and watch past hearings if you weren’t able to view it in real time. It also provides you to fast forward to your interest and clip segments for sharing.
The House and Senate democrat caucuses released an announcement, Remote Session 101: How you can be involved in the 2021 legislative session. It provides similar information as I shared above including a video from House Speaker Laurie Jinkins and Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig. The Associated Press hosted a Legislative Preview last week that included a panel of legislators from both parties: Senators Shelly Short (R) and Manka Dhingra (D) and House Speaker Jinkins and Minority leader, J.T. Wilcox. Governor joins the cast as well. You can view the preview HERE.
The House Republicans have launched The Washington Ledger, a new website that aggregates all the various legislative news related to public policy, legislative process and government. See the website for all the various applications you can use to follow updates.
Content contributed by Brynn Brady, Ceiba Consulting. Used by permission.