Virtual testimony for the public coming to the Washington state Legislature

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SPOKANE, Wash. — For around 10 years, the Washington Policy Center has pushed for virtual testimony in the Washington Legislature. This is now becoming a reality.

If lawmakers approve remote rules on Monday in the legislative session, people from around the state can speak about a bill from anywhere in the state.

“There really is no reason why we couldn’t have done this five, six, seven, 10 years ago, but I think now, because of the pandemic, it’s really putting it front and center,” said Chris Cargill, Eastern Washington Director of the policy center.

There are several reasons for the push to testify remotely. Cargill said this option gives people the opportunity to speak without traveling to Olympia, especially for people who may have to cross a mountain pass in the middle of winter.

“That’s a great, great thing for transparency for the people’s– it’s the people’s legislature, so they should be able to be involved in what’s going on over there,” Cargill said.

He explained that Washington is behind on this option, and other states already allow this.

This legislative session will rely heavily on remote testimony for lawmakers due to the pandemic. Cargill said only about 10-15 lawmakers will be allowed on chamber floors. The public is also not allowed inside, making this virtual option necessary.

“It’s critically important no matter what is happening,” Cargill said, “and no matter who is participating, simply because the Legislature needs to hear from the citizens of the state.”

The 105-day session is longer this year because the state runs on a biennium, meaning odd years have a longer session rather than an even-numbered year.

You can sign up to testify about a certain bill online in both the House and Senate. However, there is no guarantee you will be able to speak due to time constraints and the amount of people registered to speak.

To register to speak in the Senate, click here.

To speak in the House, go to this link.

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