Virtual Advocacy: Making a Difference in Olympia This Year
This year, due to the COVID quarantine, the Washington State Legislature’s open public meetings will be held online. That means that everybody—legislators, lobbyists, advocates, and constituents—will meet the same way: via Zoom.
Zoom advocacy represents an opportunity for Aging Network advocates, both those who have made annual treks to Olympia on special lobby days and those who have not. Now everyone, regardless of distance and access to transportation, can participate as often as they wish. In many ways, it’s never been easier to advocate on behalf of our issues in Olympia.
The legislative session will convene on January 11, 2021. So, how will it work?
First of all, please know that some things haven’t changed:
- TV Washington—House and Senate floor sessions will continue to be recorded and livestreamed by TVW, the state’s public affairs network. In King County, TVW is broadcast on Comcast Xfinity Channel 23. Elsewhere, check with your cable TV provider for information.
- Legislative Hotline—The toll-free Legislative Hotline continues to operate at 1-800-562-6000 (TTY for Hearing Impaired 800.833.6388). Hours are 8 a.m.–12 noon and 1–4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday now through January 8, and 8 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday through Friday when in session. You can leave your name, street address, and a brief message about an issue for your district legislators or as a question about legislation or laws. Messages are forwarded electronically. (Note: Interpreter services are available for non-English speaking callers.)
- Specific legislation: If you know the House or Senate bill number, see How to Create and Send a Comment on a Bill.
The main differences between the 2021 legislative session and previous sessions is that all meetings will be held online or by phone using the Zoom platform, or televised (see TVW, above). Also, meetings with individual legislators may be difficult to schedule. If you get a meeting, it is likely to be a short, precise window of time in which you can talk via Zoom or in a conference call.
Following is currently our best advice:
- Committee hearings: Visit Committee Schedules, Agendas, and Documents for meeting times, agendas, and live video information.
- Meetings with individual legislators: E-mail is the fastest way to get a response from a legislator’s office. Allow plenty of time for response. Generally, meetings are held via Zoom and may be scheduled for 15 minutes or less. Include the legislator and legislative aide in your e-mail when possible. Find contact information here.
A lot of resources about Aging Network issues and effective advocacy are available online, including:
- Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services—Advocacy
- AARP Washington
- Alzheimer’s Association—Washington State Advocacy Day
- Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging–Advocacy
- Washington State Senior Lobby
Contributor Cathy Knight directs Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County and chairs the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging, a key partner in the Washington State Senior Lobby.