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Short Session’s No Excuse

By February 15, 2024March 21st, 2024Blog
Graphic for WCA blog titled "Short Session's No Excuse" with a stock photo of six people waiting in chairs in the background.

My dear —

We’re over halfway through session now. Two committee cutoffs are behind us and legislators’ hands are 🩸blooooody🩸from all the bills they have killed (nvm the starving children that will die bc they weren’t fed at school bc Timm Ormsby would rather tell his friends he balanced the budget than feed them).

Before we get into bill updates, we have a featured bill and some important community and partner updates for you all:

Featured bill: Front and Centered’s Cumulative Risk Burden (CURB) Pollution Act

We know that our communities continue to experience the worst health effects of pollution due to historic environmental racism. The CURB Pollution Act would require the permitting of businesses to, for the first time, consider added pollution impacts on specific communities and include frontline community members in the permitting process. This would be big. Unfortunately, Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Chair Joe Nguyen (D-34) put the CURB Pollution Act failed to bring the bill up for a vote and the companion HB 2070 died in House Appropriations for the same reason.

3 Partner & Community Updates


1️⃣ Aneelah Afzali celebrated at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS)

Over the weekend community members gathered at MAPS to celebrate the work of Aneelah Afzali as she steps down from Executive Director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS-AMEN). Spotted at the celebration were leaders of color like Congresswoman Pramila Japayal, Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu, State Senator Manka Dhingra, State Representative Bill Ramos, King County Councilmembers Girmay Zahilay, Jorge Barón, Teresa Mosqueda, Lynnwood City Councilmember and Congressional candidate Josh Binda, and more. Cheers to Aneelah, her leadership, and the legacy she leaves us with to continue the work. 💝

2️⃣ 2022 Primary Election Data on the Dashboard

We now have data from the 2022 Primary Election up on our Primary Elections Dashboard! Now you can see precinct analysis for primaries across Washington state from 2016, 2018, 2020, 2022, and 2023! Go check it out 🌟

3️⃣ Raise the Wage Renton, babyyyy

Renton voters, vote YES on Initiative 23-02 by February 13th to raise the minimum wage and support working families! Working families in Renton are struggling to pay for basic necessities like health care, child care, and groceries, and Renton is lagging behind not only neighboring King County cities like Tukwila and Seattle but several dozen other cities, counties, and states in the country. You can fix that. Join Raise the Wage Renton any day between now and Feb. 13th to help turn folks out to vote. It’s time to Raise the Wage! 🙌

💃 How to Lose a Good Policy in 60 days 💃

If you or a loved one has recently heard the phrase “nothing gets done in short session” or something like it being bandied about by a lazy legislator, feckless advocates, or insipid lackey, you may be entitled to financial compensation. During each even-year session the notion gets tossed around by lawmakers and advocates alike to preemptively justify our collective disappointment in the legislative process laid out before us. As if we all, together, couldn’t decide something else.

Between overinflated accusations that no materially impactful policy will pass and the prevailing sentiment that the session has already been determined by majority leadership, it’s easy to be convinced you should give up your agency. We get it. It’s alluring, tempting even, being the lotus-eaters of the legislature. But if you’re here, dear reader, you’re not sitting down to brunch while the protestors march by. You’ve already gotten the spider-sense tingle that tells you this vapid narrative is a smoke screen that protects the upholders of the status quo from having to risk any political capital during an election year.

Here are 3 important truths about short session that they want you to forget.

1️⃣ In 2024 there are competing priorities

Elections: In case you haven’t heard, 2024 is a huge election year. Not just because we’re voting for President but because many of our legislative and statewide candidates are on our ballots, too. Folks in Olympia are convinced they feel the seats underneath them shifting as election season approaches (or has already begun for some), and that influences their decisions. It shouldn’t, to be clear. Democrat seats and majority are the safest they have been in perhaps ever. But anxiety sure is a great fundraising tool.

The Right-wing Specter: Meanwhile, six citizen initiatives to the legislature backed by ne’er-do-well megamillionaire Brian Heywood are threatening to roll back several sources of progressive revenue. The threat is enough to make legislators think twice about their priorities this session.

Biennium budgets are hard: It’s a supplemental budget year. Biennial cycles, like how we do our budgets, are supposed to focus on major programmatic and budget decisions in the first year, and then in-depth evaluation of agencies and departments in the second. That means there are fewer opportunities to pass budget-related policies and provisos this year. Basically, legislators have tied their hands with their own purse strings.

2️⃣ There are other states that do this (better!)

Washington is not alone in our part-time legislative model. In fact, a majority of state legislatures are not full-time, meaning they are only in session for a few weeks or months out of the year. For example, New Mexico also has a short session this year and theirs is only 30 days long. Meanwhile, NM’s LONG session is 60 days and they still passed universal free school meals last year. Somehow, Washington can’t even pass universal free school meals across a biennium (Thanks, Timm). It’s pathetic, honestly. There were 260 days of interim last year in which legislators could have worked with advocates to find a pathway to feeding hungry kids. We should be looking to other states for shared resources and knowledge that allow us to follow their lead in progressive policymaking.

3️⃣ Your agency is your power

Session outcomes are not predetermined no matter how much upholders of the status quo want you to believe it. What is going to get done in a given session is actually determined by everyday people and organizations’ actions. If you use our Community Whip Count tool and follow our action items every week, you can have a say in legislative outcomes.

We can pass good policy in 60 days and should not be deterred, even in a messy short session like 2024. Relinquishing our agency, accepting the framework of scarcity, and refusing to learn from others will only keep us trapped in an ineffective biennial policymaking system. Keep smashing those action buttons every week, stay on top of your legislators, and remember we are stronger together.


What do you think? Have any questions? Tweet us your thoughts @WACommAlliance.
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