Environmental Lobbying Day

Friday, February 19, 2021

Meetings with legislators are virtual during COVID-19
By Dennis Heller

This year, February 8-10 was designated as “Environmental Lobbying Day,” facilitated by The Environmental Priorities Coalition of 28 separate environmental groups, including Sierra Club and Washington Conservation Voters. 

Many groups have a lobbying day to contact their legislators over the issues and bills before them. Education and Libraries have a lobbying day, for example. 

 In the past, people met with their legislators in Olympia on a specific day, but with Covid-19, Zoom was used and the “lobbying day” was expanded to three days.

The three day schedule was set up along the following guidelines: first was general preparation with issue training including specific bills now in committee. Everyone was then sent to their individual Zoom breakout rooms with the 49 rooms representing the 49 state congressional districts. 

Only two members came and stayed in the “32nd District Room.” Included in the original training were an old guy Dennis Heller from Shoreline (the author of this article!) and a very mature thirteen year old from North Seattle named Elizah.

The training focused on three priorities for 2021: 
  1. Conservation Works (HB 1080, HB 1094, SB 5093 and SB 5092); 
  2. Clean Fuel Standard (SHB 1091); 
  3. The Healthy Environment For All Act (SB 5141). 
Additionally the time was used for planning presentations and deciding on specific roles during the 15 minute Zoom meetings.

The second and third days were used for specific pre-arranged meetings

Tuesday afternoon the 32nd Legislative District met with Rep. Cindy Ryu and Rep. Lauren Davis. The brief focus was on the above mentioned bills, along with a short discussion of SB 5256/HB 1204, requiring the elimination of all internal combustion engines sold in the state by 2030, which was already out of the House Committee. 

Both Ryu and Davis were very supportive of the environmental agenda. At the same time, they recommended that all citizens have the chance to follow and input their comments on these bills by going online at https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary.

On Wednesday Dennis and Elizah met with Senator Jesse Salomon, for another fifteen minute meeting. Senator Salomon pointed out that while he was supportive in general of the full environmental agenda, he was not on the committees where the bills were being discussed. 

There are currently 1000 active bills in committee and it is very difficult to know the status of every one. At the current time, he has some questions about SB 5141, HEAL (Healthy Environment for All). 

He knows that, while well intended, the “devil is in the details” and it must be implemented in a straightforward way through the bureaucracy. Senator Salomon’s candor in describing the ins and outs of legislative development was greatly appreciated.

Hopefully next year the lobbying day will be back to in-person as in the past. But with much that has been experienced over the past year in the midst of the pandemic, we may end up with a hybrid system allowing for more remote input into the important state issues.


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