How to Influence Lawmaking in Olympia
It's simple ~ Testify!
On Monday, Jan. 8, the Washington State Legislature began its short 60-day session of lawmaking. As we’ve come to expect with a Democrat supermajority, there are many potential laws being introduced which will increase taxes, spend more on special interest projects, create more regulations, change the meaning of common words, hamstring law enforcement and further erode what’s left of your Second Amendment rights. And that’s just the first week.
So how does a busy hard-working average citizen throw some sand in the gears, and slow down some of the oncoming nonsense?
The key to Influencing Olympia is testimony. When you testify, you make a difference. The more conservatives testify, the more likely we can stop bad legislation. It’s that simple.
Each bill is assigned to a committee. Each committee is usually a small group of maybe 8 to 15 lawmakers that considers bills organized by topic, like education or agriculture. It’s much easer for voters to influence these small groups.
The committee members pay close attention to all three types of testimony in order to judge which bills should get out of committee and go on to a future floor vote. In fact, it is crucial to stop bills in committee … once they get to the floor, conservatives don’t have the votes to stop them.
Unfortunately, it’s NOT simple to keep track of what’s going on over there in Olympia. What bills have been introduced, which ones should we pay attention to and WHEN can we testify on them?
Influencing Olympia Effectively
You need a guide, a mentor, and maybe a little training. You need “Influencing Olympia Effectively”, an online course and daily legislative tracking tool (www.influencingolympia.com). This is a volunteer-developed, online educational project I’ve supported for several years. The course and access to the 2024 Master Spreadsheet is free to everyone who registers.
When you visit the website, just click “start now” and fill out the form. You’ll receive a password by email. Be sure to login right away so you can find the master spreadsheet… it’s inside the course.
Visit the Legislature from home!
Luckily, we have an amazing tool in the legislative website at leg.wa.gov. This is where to go to find the bills and all the information about them. This is where to go to find the committee agendas and meeting schedules for each day.
And this is how you find the links you need to testify for or against a bill from the comfort of your own living room! Now YOU can influence legislation from home without driving to Olympia in the Winter.
There are three ways to testify on a bill. The first way is “in-person” testimony, which can be done in Olympia at the hearing, or online via a remote link. If you have strong opinions on a bill and have a solid grasp of the way the bill will impact you or others, then it’s good to take the time to testify in person. In person testimony carries the most weight, and if you make a good impression the legislators will remember you and your testimony.
The downside is that you have to attend the meeting, show up on time, and wait for your turn. Even for a zoom meeting you probably need to look your best, so brush your hair, turn up the lights, and dress up a little. You need to have some brief prepared remarks that you can share in only a minute or two. You have to use your best manners, and keep your emotions in check or you’ll lose all credibility with the busy legislators.
Written testimony is a great way to testify when you cannot get off work to attend a particular hearing on a bill. If you are a subject matter expert, include the details of your expertise and the points that you want to make, but remember that a great deal of information is submitted, so keep your written testimony as short and concise as possible.
I often submit written testimony, but I try to keep my remarks to one or two sentences, starting with “I support (or oppose) this bill because…” Why do this? Because testimony is a numbers game. The more the better.
Note your position for the record (Pro or Con)
The quickest and easiest way to testify is to choose to “Note my position for the record.” When you choose this option, you are literally “voting” for the bill—either Pro or Con. Using the Influencing Olympia Master Spreadsheet, you can “vote” on 15 to 20 bills each day in a very short amount of time. The best part is that the legislators watch these pro/con votes very carefully.
If a bill gets a lot of early opposition, that may be enough resistance to keep it from getting out of committee—time is at a premium, and big, contentious legislative battles take lots of time. Conversely, if a bill gets a lot of support, then it’s more likely to proceed out of committee.
Saving the state takes just a little effort
It’s important for you to participate in the lawmaking process starting on day one. It’s important for YOU to testify, and also for YOU to build a little team of friends who will ALSO testify on the bills that are important to you. You can submit all three types of testimony (in person, written, and pro/con) on each bill!
It just takes a few minutes a day to track each day’s hearings and testify on the bills that impact you. I’ll help you stay organized and do my best to keep up with the action everyday. We might miss a few bills, but the Influencing team is having a bigger impact every session. Join us!
Nancy Churchill is the a writer and activist in Eastern Washington, and the state committeewoman for the Ferry County Republican Party. She may be reached at DangerousRhetoric@pm.me. The opinions expressed in Dangerous Rhetoric are her own.
You can subscribe to the Influencing Olympia Substack, too!