Almost halfway through March and the legislative session is moving along quickly with bills being moved, heard, re-heard, and voted on. It has truly been amazing to see firsthand the step-by-step process of local politics and the different institutions that play a role in lawmaking. The bills on topics ranging from overall racial inequality to hearings on additional taxes for things like soda: a true reflection of Washingtonians’ values and hardships through these past few years.
Although many bills are were unique to Washington, some of the bills address weighty national-level issues like talks about police reform and discussions on the problematic functionality of protests. Overall, as bills get approved and others fall short, this is a system that will continue to thrive and form the discussion for the 2022 legislative session. Bills that did not make it past cutoff deadlines will stay where they are until they can be taken up again in the 2022 session. There are some incredible bills lying dormant until next session when there is renewed energy and interest in making life as accessible as possible for all Washingtonians.
This week I got the chance to start from the beginning of the public hearing process, this time in the Senate. I testified on the first bill that I had the opportunity to be a part of. On Wednesday, March 10 the Senate State Government and Elections Committee heard SHB 1016, the bill that would make Juneteenth a legal state holiday.
I spoke with emotion, and I spoke my truth as I know it.
Testifying on this historic piece of legislation this time led me to see the bigger picture of what a bill like this would mean to the Black community and the path it would pave for other minority groups to be seen, heard, and acknowledged in American history.
This week, I grew in my knowledge of the general legislative process, and I grew in my mindset regarding the overall power of testimonies and how they can impact representatives’ decisions. Testimony can bring humanity into politics.
This week, Sydney, my co-intern, testified once more on SHB 1166. This bill is an effort to expand the pilot program for students experiencing homelessness, and, as usual, she did an amazing job speaking her truth and advocating for those students who are experiencing these hardships.
Lastly, fellow intern from the 2020 legislative session, Deanna George, testified on Thursday March 11 in the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee. She testified on SB 5431, which is a bill that would create the Rosa Franklin Legislative Internship Program Scholarship. Bringing her experience as a past intern and her continuing leadership to her testimony made her the best speaker to advocate on behalf of student leaders who continue to excel in school and also take on the responsibility that comes with an internship.
This week, Sydney and I continued our journey of outreach to other student leaders at all community and technical colleges with our weekly Coffee Talk. Our Coffee Talks is a time for all who are in the space to learn about the community and technical college system and to learn about issues on other campuses. We hope that we can continue to grow and learn from each other in this process. While we had a low turnout this week, we know finals week is coming up, so we hope for better attendance once students’ get through the quarter. It seems like an impossible task to increase student engagement during a time of such limited contact, but Sydney and I continue to hold high hopes for the rest of our time at the State Board.
This week marked a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The State Board and the Legislature stayed busy with bills filling this session with impactful and historic hearings in what seems to be the world’s new normal.