We Want to Build a Democracy Where Everyone Can Fully Participate
Washington’s legislative process is confusing and inaccessible on purpose. In every state, legislative processes were designed to make changing the status quo difficult. In their quest to maintain power, the wealthy white landowners that drafted state constitutions intentionally created obstacles to participation which is why it can feel so frustrating to engage with the legislative process – it’s not your fault.
Our goal is to make the process more accessible. That won’t happen overnight, so we are starting with an explanation of the process so you can feel prepared to participate — if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out at email@example.com!
The State Legislature
The state legislature is made up of 2 chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. Washington has 49 legislative districts, and each district has one Senator and two Representatives. You can use the legislative directory to find your district and legislators!
The legislative session is when legislators (also known as lawmakers) meet to change and create laws and write the budget for the state. The legislative session starts on the 2nd Monday in January, but has different durations year to year:
- Every odd-numbered year, it is a long session. Long sessions are 105 days long, so that lawmakers have time to write the 2-year budget.
- Every even-numbered year, it is a short session. Short sessions are 60 days long, and lawmakers can adjust the budget as needed.
- The Governor can call a special session at any time during the year.
During session, there are three major stages a bill must pass through to become a law: The House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Governor. Bills follow these steps on their path through the legislature:
Step 1: Bill gets introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate – bills can start in either chamber, but must pass through both.
Step 2: Bills must pass through three committees in each chamber: Policy, Fiscal, and Rules.
Step 3: Once the bill has passed through all three chamber committees it then goes to a floor vote by the full chamber.
- If the bill is passed, it moves on to the next chamber, where it then has to pass through that chamber’s Policy, Fiscal, and Rules committees.
- If the bill does not pass, it dies and will have to wait until the next legislative session to be introduced and try again.
Step 4: If the bill passes through both chambers (steps 1-3 x 2), it is then brought to the Governor. If the Governor signs the bill, it becomes a law!
How Can I Influence This Process?
At every step of the legislative process, there are opportunities for you to make your voice heard and influence lawmakers to pass legislation that you care about. Knowing the process is the first step to knowing when to take action!
When bills are in committee:
- Sign in pro or con to public hearings to show your support or opposition on the bill’s record
- Sign in to testify remotely or in person to share your lived experience and how a bill would impact your life
When bills are up for a floor vote in the House or the Senate:
- Email or call your lawmakers to urge them to vote yes or no on legislation and share your lived experience
At any time during session:
- Schedule a virtual or in person meeting with your lawmakers to share your lived experience and talk to them about policies that would impact your life
- Email or call your lawmakers to share your lived experience, talk to them about policies that would impact your life, and urge them to support issues you care about
This process can be confusing and overwhelming, but your voice matters. Remember – it’s lawmakers’ job to listen to you and represent your needs. By showing up and sharing our lived experience, we can not only influence lawmakers to pass policies we support, but we can also work together to build a system that works for all of us.