As lawmakers deal with a $4.6 billion budget deficit, there has never been a more important time for citizens to make their voices heard in Olympia. In this episode, KCTS 9 Connects launches a new initiative – My Olympia! – helping our viewers engage with lawmakers and the Governor. This week, “Legislature 101.” We follow some everyday citizens as they travel to Olympia to testify on a bill.
Here’s a question for you: Have you ever visited the state capitol in Olympia? I’m not talking about on a third grade field trip -- I mean as an adult. Have you ever gone to Olympia to meet your state lawmakers? Do you even know who they are off the top of your head? Have you ever been to a rally? Or listened to a public hearing on a bill? Or testified at a hearing?
Let me ask you this: Did you even know that you can do all these things? Visit, rally, testify? The simple answer is -- you can. And it’s not as difficult as you might imagine.
It’s so easy for us to feel disconnected from our government, especially at the federal level. Our senators and representatives aren’t very accessible to the average Joe or Jane, and they’re in “the other Washington” most of the time anyway.
But we don’t have the luxury of that excuse here in Washington state. The fact is our lawmakers are extremely accessible. They will meet with you, take your calls, letters and e-mails, or hear from you at a town hall event. Maybe it’s because they’re citizen legislators. Most aren’t professional politicians. They’re teachers, business owners, police officers, pharmacists, real-estate agents... regular people serving regular people.
The legislature is facing a host of budget problems. After having to slash $500 million from the current budget, they’re now staring at a $4.6 billion deficit in the next two-year budget. The cuts are going to be huge and painful. Nearly everyone in the state will feel it – students, low income families, small business owners, the disabled, teachers, state employees… you name it. There has never been a more important time for you to make your voice heard in Olympia. To tell your lawmakers what your priorities are. To fight for the programs and jobs you want to save.
That’s why we’re starting a new series on “KCTS 9 Connects,” called My Olympia! Our goals are simple: To keep you informed of what’s going on, especially related to the budget; to help you understand complicated issues or decipher the often incomprehensible language of bills and measures; to show you exactly how to engage with your lawmakers and have a say.
We’ll have stories every week or so throughout the legislative session, starting with some basics about how to find your lawmakers, schedule a visit, and go see what’s going on first hand. The third grade was a long time ago for some us. Time for another visit, don’t you think?