The Virtual Senate Floor
This session has been called “historic” many times, and for good reason. From dropping bills to caucus meetings, moving online has changed the entire legislative process. One of these changes is how we actually vote on the floor!
If you ever had a chance to come down to Olympia during a normal session and watched floor , you might have seen pages hustling up and down the aisles with various papers, legislators coming in and out, and staff milling around the sidelines. I myself would get up frequently, often when I saw a stakeholder or committee staff passing by or wanted to have a quick chat with another senator. All the people involved in the legislative process were accessible and nearby, allowing spontaneous discussion and quick check-ins. Now, that’s been replaced with Teams chats and meeting requests! It makes me appreciate the hustle and bustle in the Senate chamber.
This session I’m seeing a real focus on impactful legislation. With instructions to limit the number of bills and to refrain from introducing companion, or identical, bills in both the House and Senate, we’ve drilled down on COVID relief, police and criminal justice reform, equity, and healthcare. Bills have been worked and re-worked to be as comprehensive and effective as possible. I’m so proud to be a part of this legislature and work towards a Washington that works for everyone.
My New Committee: Ways & Means
This is my first year on the Ways & Means Committee, which deals with bills that affect the state budget. With 25 members, over half the entire Senate is on this committee! I originally requested to join to act as an advocate for education spending, but I’m learning so much more.
As Chair of a policy committee, I work on bills with my fellow members who all have some sort of expertise on the topic. In a fiscal committee, especially with this many members, so many more eyes with different perspectives get to evaluate legislation and determine if this is where state dollars are best spent. This allows for conversations on difficult but important topics, such as equity concerns. It’s another chance for the public and experts to testify and for legislators to get to understand the policy being brought by their colleagues. This committee meets in the evening and often runs very late, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in this part of the process.
A tool called the WA COVID Vaccine Finder has been launched to help Washingtonians find appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine. To book an appointment, however, eligibility must be verified on the COVID-19 Phase Finder.
Update on the State Auditor’s Office
The Office of the State Auditor (SAO) is beginning to notify people by email during the next two weeks whose unemployment benefits claims information may have been affected by a security breach. If you do not hear from the SAO, your information has not been compromised. The SAO is also providing identity theft protection and 12 months of free credit monitoring. The SAO is requesting people not to contact the Employment Security Department about this issue. To read more information about this recent announcement, please click here, and for more information about the breach generally, please click here.
Monuments on the Capitol Campuses
A new monument will soon be featured in Olympia honoring the legacy of pioneer George Bush and his son, William Owen Bush, the state’s first Black lawmaker. In hopes of escaping discrimination, Mr. Bush and his family journeyed from their home in Missouri to Oregon. Oregon unfortunately was not hospitable to any Black people at the time and the Bush family headed north establishing a farm near Tumwater, Washington. William Owen went on the help found Washington State University.
Photo: Rep. William Owen Bush (1832-1907). Son of pioneer, George Bush, Circa 1905
In our nation’s capital there will soon be a statue honoring Billy Frank, Jr. A member of the Nisqually Tribe, Billy Frank, Jr. dedicated his life to protecting
the treaty rights guaranteed to Washington Tribes and Tribal members. Frank was noted for his advocacy for environmental stewardship. He became a leader of a civil disobedience movement that insisted on the treaty rights (the right to fish in “usual and accustomed places”) guaranteed to Washington tribes more than a century before.
Frank was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in November 2015. The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge was renamed in his honor in December 2015. Other awards included the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism and the Washington State Environmental Excellence Award.
It means so much to see champions of equity being honored as examples to all of us and especially to our young people. These monuments are hopefully a sign that all Washingtonians are becoming champions of equity as well.
Photo: Nisqually Tribal member Billy Frank Jr. (1931-2014) was a tireless advocate for treaty rights and environmental stewardship
Photo: Nisqually Tribal Elder Billy Frank Jr. and Governor Chris Gregoire, and former Governors Mike Lowery and Gary Locke.
How to participate in this legislative session:
Watch – Committee meetings, debates, and more can all be seen live or in a recording at TVW.org
Research – Look up legislation by lawmaker or by topic here.
Learn – Learn about the entire legislative process from start to finish here.
Testify – Visit here for an overview of the process. Written testimony is also an option, and you can also email me your story.
Get in touch – As always, please feel free to contact my office with any questions or comments.