Remote testimony approved in Colorado

May 15, 2014

If the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl demolition of the Denver Broncos taught us anything, it's that anything Colorado can do Washington can do better. With that in mind, it is worth noting that Colorado lawmakers have sent to their Governor a bill to allow remote testimony. As reported by Colorado's KREX news:

House Bill 1303 will allow organizations and residents to call in and provide their opinions in legislative sessions if they can’t make it to the capitol in Denver . . .

'The Western Slope deserves it; we deserve to have a voice as much as a voice as the eastern slope people does at the state capitol,' said Colorado State senator Steve King.

'Hundreds and hundreds and literally thousands of people want to be able to weigh in on something that's going on now they have the chance before alls you can do look at the TV and holler and scream now you can be involved in the process,' said Colorado State representative Ray Scott.

Officials say this will relieve a lot of stress because the commute to Denver is hazardous during the winter season.

The remote testimony sessions will be held at different universities across the state.

Officials say the bill will be effective July 1, 2015.

Do these concerns sound familiar?

Consider the recent editorials by the Spokesman Review and Vancouver Columbian:

  • "With the state Capitol on the west side of the Cascade Range, it’s always been a challenge for Eastern Washington citizens to stay engaged in the legislative process. Technology has long been available that would make remote testimony possible. Legislators just needed the will to make it happen . . . A Spokane motorist who wants to testify on a bill can make the 320-mile trek to Olympia in about five hours; if the weather and traffic cooperate. But, of course, Snoqualmie Pass is often closed due to heavy snow, and traffic is a reliable mess on the West Side. If the hearing is in the morning, the concerned Spokane citizen would have to get a hotel room the night before. If the hearing is rescheduled, it’s a multinight stay. There’s always flying, but that’s a pricey mode of travel for three minutes in front of a legislative microphone." - Spokesman Review (May 8, 2014)
  • "In this age of telecommunications and an interconnected world, there is no logical reason the voices of people in Olympia should ring louder than those in, say, Vancouver or Pasco or Spokane. There is no logical reason the Washington Legislature should delay employing remote testimony for matters that come before lawmakers. These days, relatively simple technology exists that would provide citizens from outside the capital with improved access to the political process, allowing for input to be heard from all corners of the state. If, for example, the Legislature is considering a bill that directly impacts the people of Asotin (population 1,251 and the seat of Asotin County), it is absurd to expect concerned citizens to drive six hours each way in order to deliver three minutes of testimony before lawmakers. The current system requires stakeholders to be present in Olympia, not knowing if a hearing might be held over a day or if they will be given an opportunity to speak." - Vancouver Columbian (May 12, 2014)

For those worried that we'll let Colorado claim this legislative transparency victory unchallenged I have some good news; Several Washington lawmakers are hoping to bring this debate to Olympia next session. Let's all give them some 12th Man encouragement to get it done.

Updated 9/10

Just received this comment from Governor's office concerning remote testimony:

The governor supports the goal of making it easier for people to participate in the legislative process. Providing an option for people to testify remotely is an idea with merit, though there are some fiscal and logistical challenges to making this effective and operational. Should the legislature pursue a feasible option, the governor would likely support it.

Additional Information
Legislative survey says: Remote testimony is a winner
Providing opportunity for remote testimony and improving public notice