One thing that will likely be the same, whether the Legislature is online or in person, is that some days nothing much will happen and other days many things will happen at the same time. In the early weeks, there may be as many as nine committee hearings underway at the same time. Although TVW has only one cable channel, it can show all the committee hearings on its website.
To find out what’s happening on any given day, go to TVW.org and click on “Schedule” in the line of links across the top right. TVW also archives every hearing and floor session.
One advantage of the virtual hearing that some people experienced last year was the increased opportunity for people at home to testify. Some legislative committees allowed “remote” testimony for several years before 2021, but usually required a potential witness to go to a designated location with a special video link to the committee room in Olympia.
Virtual hearings did allow for a greater range of testimony from around the state last year. But it also expanded the number of people trying to have a say on certain issues.
How do you know what committees are hearing what pieces of legislation? The Legislature’s homepage at leg.wa.gov has a link to the committee schedules and you can get the lineup for that day or the week ahead.
Or you can subscribe to an email service that tells you what’s coming tomorrow or next week. Click on the email updates link on the schedule page and fill out the form.
Remember that schedules change. Check the daily schedule to make sure the bill you planned to address hasn’t been moved.
Also remember there are more than a thousand bills introduced in a typical session and few of them ever get a hearing. A fraction of those come to the floor in the first chamber before starting the winnowing process over in the other chamber.
It’s possible to keep track of a bill by its number, if you know it, by clicking on the bill information link on the Legislature’s homepage. If you don’t, you can usually find it by clicking on “search the text of a bill” and entering some information about the topic or the sponsor. It’s also possible to follow the actions of a particular legislator, or particular bills or topics, at washingtonvotes.org, which is put together by the Washington Policy Center.
Conservative and liberal groups, and environmental and business groups also keep track of legislation. If you’re a member, check their websites or newsletters for information on bills that might interest you and then follow their progress through the Legislature.