Click here to read at the Gazette.
BY SEN. MIKE PADDEN
This legislative session, which started Jan. 11, will require you as a resident to work harder than ever to keep our representative democracy…well…representative.
Access to democracy is a major topic at the start of this year’s gathering of lawmakers.
Earlier this month, the majority party formally adopted rules to allow for a primarily virtual session, including the closure of legislative buildings to the public and changes to the rules to eliminate most in-person participation for both lawmakers and others.
Added to these COVID-related restrictions, the state also adopted a series of extreme security measures, including an 8-foot-high fence around the Capitol and the stationing of state troopers and members of the National Guard around the Capitol campus.
During these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever that you stay informed and involved. One way to stay involved is to testify on legislation that is important to you, your family and your neighbors.
Since 2014, I have been working with good-government advocates and the Senate administration to expand access to the Legislature by allowing remote testimony in Senate committees.
We didn’t know it at the time, but we were preparing the Legislature for this unique session and the need for broader remote public access during the COVID-19 restrictions on in-person hearings. Now, you no longer need to go to a special site to testify; you can testify easily from the safety of your own home.
The first week of session saw a number of people take advantage of this opportunity. My bill to increase affordable housing and reduce barriers to condominium construction, for example, was the subject of a hearing in the Law and Justice Committee, and saw many citizens testify about how the bill would address needless regulations and free up capital for investing in condo construction.
Washingtonians also flocked to Zoom to testify against the governor’s proposal to create a new income tax on capital gains.
This week, there will be another opportunity for the public to weigh in when a bipartisan bill to reopen our economy and save our restaurants and gyms receives a committee hearing.
In the more than 300 days Washingtonians have lived under Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency proclamations, I have heard from many of you that Washington must reopen.
Senate Bill 5114 would allow for all businesses affected by the governor’s current shutdowns to reopen safely and immediately under the standards of Phase 2. After our strong push on the floor last week to bring up the issue, Sen. Hunt, D-Olympia, agreed to hold a hearing on the bill this Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Now is your chance to make sure your voice is heard on this and other important issues.
Here are some helpful links to keep you connected:
• http://www.senatormikepadden.com — Here you will find my contact information, biography, news releases, email updates, news clips, bills, and other information.
• http://www.tvw.org — The state’s own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live
• online.www.leg.wa.gov — Bill reports, committee agendas, and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature can be found here.
• http://www.access.wa.gov/agency.html — On this site, you can find a list of all state agencies, boards, and commissions.
If you would like to share your views, you may sign up to testify so that you can tell your story directly to legislators. To testify on a bill, visit https://app.leg.wa.gov/csiremote/.
This session will be more difficult than usual, but it is still your government and you have a right to help guide it. Stay informed and connected.
Let your voice be heard.
— Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, represents the Fourth Legislative District. He can be reached by calling his district office at 509-921-2460.