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The end of January means we’re about to hit our first major legislative milestone: Committee Cutoff on February 15th. That’s the last day for any bill that’s still under consideration by a committee to be voted on and sent to Appropriations or Ways and Means in the House or Senate, respectively. If you need a quick refresher on what those words actually mean, check out last week’s newsletter where we go over how a bill becomes a law. You can also read an overview of our priority bills from the other week.

With cutoff right around the corner, the community’s work is to put pressure on committees and the key legislators to push our bills forward. That means calling, emailing, and testifying. Right now the community-based organizations and coalitions advancing these bills are gathering voices in support, so in addition to staying informed and taking the specific actions outlined below, reach out to the lead organizations for each priority and let them know you want to get more involved.

After this week’s update on Our Big Five, we introduce you to the Racial Equity Team and offer some tips to ensure your communications to legislators are the most effective they can be.

🖐️ Our Big Five

🗳️ Local Options to Strengthen Democracy (HB 1156)

  • News: Some legislators on the State Government & Tribal Relations Committee are concerned that sections 1 (ranked-choice voting) and 2 (even-year elections) don’t advance racial equity and are threatening to carve out these measures from the bill. These provisions are essential to making our democracy more equitable, and the committee only has until 2/15 to come to an agreement.
  • Action: Tell committee chair Rep. Javier Valdez that you support HB 1156 as is and demand: 1) to keep all four sections of the bill to advance racial justice, and 2) to schedule the bill for a hearing ASAP. And if you reside in the 46th Legislative District (N. Seattle, Bothell, and Kenmore), be sure to tell him if you’re a constituent.
Connect with Fair Vote Washington

⚖️ Community Oversight for Police Accountability (HB 1203)

  • News: HB 1203 had its first hearing on 1/26. Members of Washington for Black Lives (WA4BL) testified at the hearing where Rep. Graham (R, Spokane) suggested that Community Oversight isn’t necessary, and that community members are often to blame for being the victims of police violence. We feel confident that the bill will pass out of committee, but we need to make sure it’s not watered down.
  • Action: Add your name to the community endorsement form
Connect with WA4BL

💸Unemployment Insurance for Undocumented Workers

Connect with Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network

🌱Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act (SB 5489)

  • News: The Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee is scheduled to vote on this bill Thurs., 2/4. Community continues to work with state agencies, Senator Saldaña some minor amendments to the bill. There are no substantive changes proposed—most have to do with strengthening the role of the Environmental Justice council and clarifying their work with state agencies and community. This bill will likely pass out of committee, but we need as many yes votes as we can. The higher we can run up the score, the better chances we have at the next step: Senate Ways and Means.
  • Action: Tell your legislators to support and vote yes on the HEAL Act
Connect with Front & Centered

🔑Progressive Revenue

  • News: This week, Rep. Noel Frame introduced a wealth tax bill (HB 1406) on individuals who hold more than $1B in non-tangible, pure money assets. The House Finance committee will hold a hearing Tues., 2/2 @ 1:30pm on both the Working Families Tax Credit (HB 1297) and the wealth tax.
  • Action: Tell House Finance you formally support both bills (WA4BL has a handy How-To on this here and below)
    • Select “House”
    • Select “Committee” → “Finance” and “Meetings,” → “2/2/2021 1:30PM.”
    • Select “Agenda item,” select “HB 1297” and “HB 1406”.
    • Select “Type of testimony,” → “I would like my position noted for the legislative record.” (You don’t need to attend the hearing or provide written testimony to note your position.)
    • You will be taken to a page where you can note your position, “PRO,” and enter your information. (If you don’t want your address publicly disclosable, write “decline” in the address line, but enter your city and zip code if possible)
Connect with Balance Our Tax Code

🤜🤛 WCA Teams Up With The Racial Equity Team

About a decade ago, when the words “racial equity” were still fairly radical for the halls of Olympia, a small group of lobbyists of color began meeting regularly to share what they were working on, compile what they’d learned, and determine how their work could have the greatest impact for communities of color across our state. Even as legislators and staff underestimated this scrappy group, they continued to meet and called themselves the Racial Equity Team. Some original members have gone on to become directors of organizations or legislators themselves. Many remain, still meeting every week to go over legislation that affects our communities.

At WCA, we’re excited to team up with the Racial Equity Team to bring the power of our community-based infrastructure to the halls of Olympia. You’ll hear more about this partnership soon. So keep an eye out for an upcoming links, actions, and events with legislators and lobbyists of color discussing one or more of Our Big Five.

🗣️ How to Make Legislators Do What You Want

These first few weeks of session are a crucial time to be reaching out to legislators. Things are still taking shape and community voice has an opportunity to set the stakes before legislators get stuck in their positions. A few coordinated phone calls here, a few emails there can make all the difference in advancing a bill past cutoff.

0️⃣ Connect with the community organizations working on the bill you’re interested in. Behind each of Our Big Five is a coalition or organization meeting with legislators, organizing support, and coordinating testimony. They should be your first stop to ensure your time is best spent—that you’re armed with the most persuasive talking points available and you’re adding to the momentum that’s already been built. It’s hard for any one voice to be heard: but together, we can’t be ignored.

1️⃣ Claim your constituent power. For the most part, legislators only care about their constituents, so narrow your focus to your legislators. If you need to move a legislator outside of your district, organizing friends, organizations, voters and media in their district is your next best bet. If you’re not sure what district you reside in, use the District Finder to figure out.

2️⃣ Call AND email. It’s fairly easy since their contact info is available publicly (see: House and Senate). If you reach out, you will likely get a hold of an aide. Let them know clearly why you called or emailed and what specific action you want your legislator to do. If you’ve connected with the community organization doing the work, they’ll have provided this information as a one-pager to you already. We strongly recommend connecting with an organization to make the best use of your time.

3️⃣ Take control of the local narrative. Since legislators only care about what their constituents think, influencing them is an incredibly powerful and underrated tool. One of the best studies in the field found nearly 1 in 10 readers of a well-written op-ed are persuaded by the argument. The effects last for as long as a month—over a quarter of session! Legislative offices also keep close tabs on their local papers. If you can get published by local outlets, you can scale up the advocacy of your calls and emails in a big way

4️⃣ Comment on a bill. One step between connecting with a legislator and providing testimony is commenting on a bill directly. This is another way to hammer home your case on an issue. To do so, follow the step-by-step process outlined here.

5️⃣ Testify in writing or in a virtual hearing. A week before a hearing is scheduled, you can provide written testimony or register to testify virtually. To do so, though, you’ll need to know which committee is holding the hearing and when. The community group you’ve connected with will be the best source of this information and should be able to provide you with persuasive talking points that should serve as a starting point for your testimony.

6️⃣ Report back to the group. However far you’ve gone in your advocacy, let the community group you’re working with know, so they can plan accordingly. And sleep well knowing that you’ve done your part—for now, because we’re only in phase one of session.

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