Remote testimony opens the legislative process for all Washingtonians
During the 2017 Legislative Session many important issues will be considered such as the Governor's $4 billion plus tax increase package, how to purge McCleary contempt and the death penalty to name just a few. These are issues that are important to all Washingtonians and not just those within reasonable driving distance from Olympia (of course "reasonable" driving distance even in the Puget Sound is up for debate as my colleague recently pointed out). So less than a week before session starts, what is the outlook for those wanting to make the trip to Olympia for public testimony? Consider some of the recent updates from WSDOT:
@WSDOT_East Jan 3: Good morning! #SR27 still closed Fairfield to Tekoa. Crews worked all nite. Still too windy. Sno blows back. #wawx
@WSDOT_East Jan 1: I-90 Kittitas & Vantage, MP 115-136, closed thru night 4 poor visibility. Crews evaluate conditions & reopening Mon morning.
Washington State DOT
@wsdot 29 Dec 2016: Things could get dicey over the passes. Check conditions before heading out: http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/passes/ #wawx #SlowDown
I-90 Snoqualmie Pass
@SnoqualmiePass 27 Dec 2016: Eastbound I-90 is closed near the summit due to spin outs. No estimated reopening.
Even assuming the weather allows you to make the drive from the real "eastside" (not Bellevue) to Olympia, there is also the fact you need to take a full day off work to travel hours for 1-2 minutes of testimony in a public hearing. And that presumes there is actually five days notice provided of the agenda for the public hearing so you can make plans.
Thankfully there is a better way to include all Washingtonians in the legislative debate: remote testimony. The Senate has been successfully using this process the past few years and according to Sen. Sharon Brown (R-8) plans to provide the opportunity again this year at the discretion of committee chairs. Hopefully the House will also finally provide the option for remote testimony.
To further complement the great resource provided by remote testimony lawmakers should also take steps to improve the public notice process for hearings and ban the use of title only bills.
Statement from Sen. Mike Padden (R-4) on importance of remote testimony:
“Remote testimony is especially important to the people of my district and all of Eastern Washington. In our half of the state we see it as a way to conquer the long distances that discourage citizen participation in legislative hearings. We have worked very hard in the Senate to expand opportunities for citizens to testify before the Legislature without having to make a trip over the Pass. We still have some distance to go before we are finished, and we hope our colleagues will recognize the importance of this issue in the House.”