2021 Washington Legislative Session Goes Virtual
If you’re longing for the usual bustle around our state capitol during the 2021 legislative session, look no further than the device you’re reading this on now! The pandemic has pushed the legislature to adapt to a fully remote 105-day session, which has the silver lining of allowing widespread civic engagement for people who aren’t able to travel to Olympia to give 2 minutes of testimony.
The Washington legislature now offers opportunities for online participation. With the capitol building and legislative offices closed, all public testimony will be happening via Zoom, making testimony much easier to provide for those outside of Western Washington. If you aren’t interested in providing comment or testimony but want to observe the process at work, you can always watch live hearings on TVW.
As exciting as it is to have the legislative session available right at your fingertips, a fully remote session also means reduced bill capacity. Representatives across the state have had to limit the number of bills introduced while public hearings are kept on a tight schedule to ensure as many bills as possible have their chance to be heard on the virtual floor.
Technical limitations of remote session are driving legislators to focus on a few key issues, addressing our state’s regressive tax structure, investing in economic recovery, responding to the public health crisis, addressing systemic racism in the criminal legal system and reforms required or driven by remote education.
Here at United Way of King County, we know that state policy affects our community’s ability to thrive. We need to address the barriers that prevent sufficient funding to protect families from the triple pandemics of COVID-19, the economic downturn and structural racial inequities that exacerbate both. We will be advocating for education, anti-poverty and homelessness policies and funding, including our lead item, Open Doors. This legislation will work to advance educational equity for youth of color and reconnect them to their education when they fall away as a result of the range of barriers they face.
Other key items on our agenda:
- Working Families Tax Credit, HB 1297
- Access to cash assistance programs, HB 1151
- Expanding rental assistance to prevent evictions, HB 1277 and SB 5279
- Statewide eviction protections, HB 1236 and SB 5160
- Avoiding austerity budgeting cuts and ensuring adequate revenue to sustain human services during the pandemic and every day
Read our official legislative agenda here.