Legislature goes digital as pandemic continues

Sep 3, 2020
Written by Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs

The Washington State Legislature has gone digital as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

September is usually the month the State House and Senate gather at the Capitol for the pre-session Committee Assembly Days. These days are devoted to hearing reports from agencies, stakeholders and other interested parties on legislation that passed during the last session and potential legislation for the upcoming session.

All these committee meetings will be held virtually this year. It is not entirely clear how well this will work – but legislators are going to make the most of it. Fortunately, the Legislature has been experimenting the last few sessions with allowing remote testimony. Expert witnesses from around the state and country have been able to beam in electronically for a committee hearing or work session. I believe these experiences will help with our new virtual committee assembly days this month.

The big question on many people’s minds is how will the full session look starting in January? Will Legislators, citizens, staff and lobbyists be allowed on the Capitol Campus for in-person hearings, meetings, floor debate and voting? Hard to say.

Until a readily available vaccine comes about, it’s difficult to envision large gatherings at the Capitol. However, on the federal level, Congress is making a go of it with limited floor sessions and meetings that require facial coverings and social distancing.

Interesting times we are living in.