Opinion: What can I do to influence lawmakers?

In her weekly column, Nancy Churchill discusses ways citizens can become involved in lawmaking.

In her weekly column, Nancy Churchill discusses ways citizens can become involved in lawmaking

Nancy Churchill
Dangerous Rhetoric

The Washington state legislative session started on Monday (Jan. 9). This lawmaking session in Olympia will last 105 days until Sun., April 23. During this period, the lawmakers are working non-stop, very long days, including the weekends.

Nancy Churchill
Nancy Churchill

Both chambers of Washington’s legislature are controlled by a Democratic majority. Unfortunately, In 105 days, Democratic lawmakers can drive through many new laws that will make our lives more difficult, expensive, and dangerous for the people of our state.

This Democratic majority means that it’s of vital importance for YOU to become involved in lawmaking! You CAN influence the lawmakers, but you must pay attention and participate early in the session. Here’s how you can become a citizen activist.

The power of public hearings

Many bills are filed, and only some of them will be considered. Every bill that has a chance to become law will have two hearings, a public hearing and then an executive hearing (usually two or three days later). The best time to try to influence the lawmakers is when a bill is in the public hearing. When you participate in a public hearing, even in a simple way, the committee members take notice.

The home page for the Legislature is at leg.wa.gov. On that page, you will see “Scheduled hearings and floor sessions for (today’s date). This section of the page scrolls, so you can see what hearings will be happening today. If you want to see the future hearings, you simply change the date. Find an interesting committee, and click on the Agenda to see what bills will be consider in that meeting. On the agenda, any text that is green is a link to more information. You should be able to open the bill, so that you can see what the bill is about, and you can also click on the “Testify” button.

On the “Bill Info” page, be aware that the bill title is often deceptive. Be sure to read the “Original Bill” and also “House Bill Analysis” if any is available. If the bill is sponsored by a Democrat, it most likely does the opposite of what you’d expect from reading the title.

Four ways to testify

Testifying in a public hearing is like being able to VOTE on a bill! It’s often the only way to stop bad legislation. It’s also the best way to promote good legislation. The best part is that you can do three out of four types of testimony. Do as many as you can; it does make a difference. When a bill is scheduled for a public hearing, it will have a link named “Testify” so that you can submit your testimony to the committee.

The most powerful option is to testify in person. This requires a drive to Olympia to show up at the public hearing in person. In-person testimony is powerful because it allows the legislators to develop a better understanding of you by reading your body language, hearing the passion in your voice, and hearing your testimony. In-person testimony also gives you “standing” so that you can deliver more information to the committee at a later date.

The next type of testimony is remote testimony. This is like a Zoom meeting, where you can deliver your remarks, and the legislators can see you and hear you. It’s extremely helpful for voters in eastern Washington to have this ability to testify without having to drive to Olympia in bad winter weather. Obviously, if you chose to testify in-person, you won’t also testify remotely. 

The third way to testify is “position noted for the record”. It’s quick, easy, and powerful! This gives you a simple Pro or Con “vote”. The legislators are watching the tally of pro/cons very carefully. If I have an opinion on a bill, I ALWAYS take advantage of this option!

Finally, voters can also submit written testimony. Don’t get too fancy. Write something like “I oppose (or support) this legislation because… point 1 and point 2.” I try to keep my written comments around two sentences, unless I am a subject matter expert with a very deep understanding of the topic. The legislators have to be able to skim many comments quickly, so staying short and to the point is very important.

If I take the time to submit written comments, I use the copy and paste feature to also “Comment on the Bill” on the “Bill Information” page. When you comment on the bill, your statement goes to your elected representatives. If you care about the issue, be sure to let them know. If you show up consistently, and your comments make sense, your legislators will get to know you. They may even call you for more information on your position. It’s happened to me!

Getting involved in the process of making the law is very important. My friends estimate conservatives stopped about 50 really bad bills in committee during the last session. We can do more with your help.

To get on our mailing list and receive updates on what’s in committee, please visit influencingolympia.com and click on the “Start Now” button. We’ll be sending updates and information regularly. Then, just make a little time in your schedule to play the game that really makes a difference in your life… the game of lawmaking!

Nancy Churchill is 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.

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