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Government Nerds, Man

By March 18, 2024March 21st, 2024Blog
Graphic for The Tally blog titled "Government Nerds, Man" with a stock photo of people clapping and smiling in the background.

Hi my friend—

Thank you for accompanying us on yet another journey through leg session. The legislature called Sine Die yesterday and adjourned for the year. Legislators will slither away from Olympia and return to their lives while we all deal with the consequences of their policy decisions and inaction.

We aren’t quite done here, yet. Our bills may have left this earthly plane but they’re still at the forefront of our minds and we’ve already begun pivoting to interim planning.

Take one more scroll through the bill graveyard before we get into some leg staffer insights to take with you into interim and beyond.


💼 Staff & Sensibilities 💼


Last year we started talking about the unspoken power players in Olympia, legislative staff. Staffers play an important role in Olympia scheduling meetings, reading bills, meeting community members, and generally keeping the trains running. It’s a good bet that the staffer knows more than the legislator about the issue you’re working on. While they aren’t decision makers, they often have a lot of influence over the decision makers and process itself.

Session is filled with weird quirks that—if you haven’t been in the crucible of it all—can be easy to overlook. Much of it—the life and death stakes of many policies, especially—is, of course, very serious. But the legislature is also still a workplace, and if you’ve ever seen Abbott ElementaryParks and Rec, or even The West Wing, you know there has to be room for levity. To that end, we checked in with some of our favorite current and former staffers to see how they thought about session and what they are paying attention to.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Who do you think is the best-dressed person at the capital?

    • 1️⃣: My first thought was me, but I vote Ashley Jackson from Dhingra’s office for staff. For members, Sen. Linda Wilson and Kuderer.
    • 2️⃣: Louis Lindstrom – Deputy Civic Education Director and Representative Mena.
    • 3️⃣: Best dressed is Alex Alston.

2. Most wholesome constituent interaction you’ve had?

    • 1️⃣: I had a difficult ESD case back in 2021 and we were able to help her. Anytime her community members have issues with a state agency, she reaches out and connects them to our office! It’s been years and it’s always so sweet to connect.
    • 2️⃣: Futurewise sent an AMAZING constituent named Philip V. who was extremely passionate and enthusiastic when I met with him on behalf of the office I worked for. All session there was no one as genuinely interested in the goals their group was pursuing as he was.
    • 3️⃣: Most wholesome constituent interaction was helping someone navigate the site on their first lobby day!

3. Who do you think is really behind the WA Leg Balloonicorn account?

    • 1️⃣: I don’t use that platform anymore so it doesn’t really matter.
    • 2️⃣: They say who they are right in the name: they’re a Balloonicorn. I can’t expose the magic of ballonicorns.
    • 3️⃣: I think that Denny Heck is behind the Balloonicorn account.

4. What are your pet peeves about lobbyist interactions?

    • 1️⃣: Acting too friendly too fast, then acting cold when seeing them outside of the office.
    • 2️⃣: My pet peeve is actually that there are rules to separate staff and lobbyists. Lobbyists are awesome and I’ve become longtime friends with many of them but it almost feels like that shouldn’t be allowed. If anything, I wish the rules and stigma got out of the way to foster better connections.
    • 3️⃣: Biggest pet peeve is when lobbyists forget their fiscal note amount.

5. Which is your favorite food-related lobbying day on the hill?

    • 1️⃣: I finally understand the joy of potato day. Seafood day always.
    • 2️⃣: POTATO DAY! 🥔
    • 3️⃣: Dairy day! But if they brought back potatoes after dark, that would be my favorite by far.

6. What is a super niche thing you’re obsessed with that only people who work in the legislature pay attention to during session?

    • 1️⃣: ​​Jokes during Rules meetings, Sen. Linda Wilson and Sen. Kuderer’s outfits, how fast everyone rolls their eyes at Fortunato’s speeches in committee and on the floor.
    • 2️⃣: There is always so much DRAMA and yet it all goes under the radar not just to the public/press but often most of the staff doesn’t even know. But it’s so fun to be in the know whether it’s about politics or just the people working there. I’m a big lover of the drama and I’ll continue to get into everyone’s business.
    • 3️⃣: My favorite niche thing is Em Stone’s daily fit pics! Or Sen. Hunt’s sine die outfits.

Engaging legislative staff is a really important part of advancing your priorities at the legislature. Our communities depend on our advocacy in Olympia to materially change the conditions that foster inequality and injustice across the state.

Staffers and interns are often the lowest ranking folks in the room, but they usually know the most about why any given room is the way it is. If we want a more equitable world, your advocacy approach should reflect that.

Don’t be a Karen, remember your fiscal note, and collaborate with staff in the rooms you do work in—you’ll likely find an invaluable partner in the work.


What do you think? Have any questions? Tweet us your thoughts @WACommAlliance.
Keep up on the action and opportunities to get involved through our legislative newsletter, The Tally.