By Carolyn Barclift
Washington State Legislature: Our citizen Legislature operates on a biennium, or 2-year, calendar comprised of two regular sessions each biennium. All regular sessions begin in January. Our fiscal biennium starts July 1 of odd-numbered years and ends two years later on June 30. There are 105 Legislative days in odd years but only 60 Legislative days in even years. A special session lasts no more than 30 days. Legislation considered still active at the conclusion of a long session is continued into the short session. Every voter has two State Representatives (two year terms) and one State Senator (four year terms).
As we’ve learned through our activities over the past year, there are many ways to contact and urge our MoCs to support our causes. There are just as many ways, and perhaps more chances, to contact and influence our state and county elected representatives. It’s all about our location, location, location.
What is OI doing about state office elections? OI members clearly chose active OI involvement in elections and issues at state and county levels in addition to the federal work we already do. The OISC is working towards how we will determine OI issue positions and priorities, forms of advocacy or resistance, and how we will effectively engage and endorse candidates. On February 5th, at the Thurston County Courthouse, our general membership meeting will provide you with an opportunity to brainstorm within smaller groups to help us determine our OI way forward.
Lobby Day Opportunities for 2018: Productive advocacy includes Lobby Days. These are gatherings of members/groups from across our state, at the State Capitol in Olympia, to lobby our Legislators. Rallies are held (permits required), briefings conducted on bills to be discussed with Legislators, and followed with appointments made for you/group reps with the Legislators that represent you. It’s a key opportunity to meet legislators face-to-face, in their offices and/or “on the floor,” to share the positive or negative impacts of the difficult budget or policy decisions they face. It’s one way to form valuable relationships and garner support to advance our causes in Washington.
As our decision to get involved in state resistance/advocacy was recent, we don’t have the chance to organize a Lobby Day for this session. But there are other organizations having Lobby Days throughout the session. Many groups are happy to have other like-minded folks join them. If you join a group’s Lobby Day, you can elect to attend rallies and briefings. You can choose whether or not to attend Legislator appointments. Some Lobby Days require participants to register. Some will require paying a fee to offset the costs of the event. Some will provide box lunches, and others don’t. You’ll need to check the group’s info for those details. If you are passionate about specific issues, you can participate in this form of targeted citizen lobbying to help advance specific causes right in our front yard.
Lobby Days are informative networking opportunities and we don’t want you to have to wait until the 2019 Legislative Session to get engaged in this type of advocacy. Every week during session, check our blog for a list of groups having Lobby Days the next upcoming week. Look at it right after you read OI’s Calls to Action. Sponsors are organizations we think you may have common cause with and so be of interest to you. The blogposts will include links to an organizer’s website. This is a really important chance to participate in democracy now. Review their website to see their legislative agendas and/or read their issue positions. Attendance won’t be as a representative of OI. It will be as a participant with the sponsoring organization. You will want/need to check if registration and/or a fee are required ahead of time.
Here’s an example of an actual upcoming Lobby Day you may be interested in:
Please join the League of Women Voters of Washington and Fix Democracy First in Olympia, WA on January 24th for Democracy Lobby Day! From the LWVWA :
On Wednesday, January 24th, we will be lobbying our legislators on various pro-democracy bills that improve election access, voting rights, campaign finance and legislative ethics.
We will be meeting with legislators to advocate for bills that expand opportunities to vote, promote more representative election systems, empower disenfranchised communities, reduce the influence of special interest money and strengthen government ethics. We will also be providing training on the critical Democracy issues in Washington and how to effectively advocate with your legislator, as well as provide help for those who want to testify and assist in setting up meetings with your legislators.
2018 LWVWA Legislative Priorities and Position Papers Can Be Found Here: https://leagueofwomenvotersofwashington.wildapricot.org/2018-Issue-Papers/
Register Here for Democracy Lobby Day: https://leagueofwomenvotersofwashington.wildapricot.org/event-2738439
Here's the day's agenda:
8:00 am - Senate State Government Hearing (optional)
9:00 – 9:30 am - Welcome - Meet & Greet
9:30 - 11:00 am - Senate Hearing Rm 4, John. A Cherberg building - Orientation, training, speakers
11:00 am - 1:30 pm - Legislator meetings
1:30 pm - House State Government Hearing (optional)
2:00 - 4:00 pm - Legislative Building Rm 112 - Debrief, report backs, speakers
Possible after hours event – TBA
You are welcome to join us for all or part of the day’s itinerary. We'll be sending updates with specific bill information and other opportunities to participate prior to lobby day.
If you have questions or would like to volunteer, please contact Kathy Sakahara at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cindy Black at email@example.com.
We suggest a guided tour of the Capitol and grounds if you are unfamiliar with the Capitol campus. Tours are regularly scheduled and will familiarize you on what happens and where. We hope you’ll participate and let us know what and how it goes.