Even if you’ve seen Schoolhouse Rock, there’s a lot more to our state legislative process. Unlike this video, the Senate Judiciary hearing had an open door for the many supporters who travelled to Olympia. Thankfully, our bill isn’t stuck like it was last year- but there are more hurdles to clear.
Our state representatives and senators are barred from raising any campaign cash while the legislature is in session, so the calendar for passing a bill is compressed. Odd-year sessions in the state legislature are 90 days long. And since even years are election years, the 2010 session lasts only 60 days. With such a short timeline, the legislature operates with tightly-defined deadlines for each step of the process to occur.
When we say that SB 5838 “squeaked” through committee last week, it wasn’t just because of the 5-3 majority, but that Feb. 5 was the deadline for bills to pass through “policy” committees.
From their initial commmittees, bills travel to fiscal committees, either Rules (for procedural bills like ours) or Ways & Means (for bills that cost $$$). SB 5838 must be “pulled” by members of the leadership so that it rises to the top of the priority list in Rules, and again to reach the floor of the Senate. This must happen in the next week to make the deadline for bills to clear the “house of origin,” and pass to the opposite house. Since hundreds of bills don’t make the cut every year, “died in committee” is a common phrase.
We also need leaders to know that a majority of senators support the bill even before it goes to the floor. This way, leadership can prevent delays on the floor and avoid wasting time with lengthy debates, when there are worthy bills that can be passed with little resistance.
Some of the work of the whip falls to the advocates for various bill, so we are collecting the names of senators who have said they will support the Vulnerable User Bill. What’s your senator saying? Use our revamped online tool to send a message and email us or leave a comment with your inside scoop.
Thanks to the 2,400 people who have sent messages so far! Ironically, Sen. Adam Kline, the Chair of the Judiciary, has been very helpful in passing SB 5838 but is still getting a lot of our attention. Others like Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (a sponsor of the bill) and Sen. Joe McDermott (the lead sponsor) are also getting hundreds of messages, while those senators who need the most education on this issue are not hearing from us enough.
We need to keep spreading the word outside the Puget Sound region, Cascade’s traditional service area. With any luck and your help, the bill will reach a floor vote by Feb. 16 and then travel to the House to repeat this process.