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Always helpful: How a Bill Becomes a Law.

This includes a detailed Legislative Process Overview.

When you are lost in the vocabulary, be sure to check the Glossary.

And when otherwise in doubt on how to find what you need, send an email to support@leg.wa.gov. They send prompt answers.

May 17, 2023.  Well, the session is over, including the special session that convened yesterday to pass legislation on drug possession and use. Our five surviving bills have all been signed by the Governor and technically go into effect July 23, 90 days after the legislature adjourned. The Governor still has a few days to act on the budget, where he has line item veto authority. So there could still be changes in the implementation status of the bills that were passed. Our legislative advocate is providing implementation information to the working groups, who are considering what needs follow-up in the implementation phase.

The working groups are also looking at which bills that did not make it through the process this year they want to follow up on for next year, which is the second year of the session. All the bills introduced this year stay on the books and can become active again next year, from the last point at which they were approved. New bills can also be introduced. For the bills the working groups want to keep following, our legislative advocate is setting meetings over the summer and early fall with the sponsors of the bills and other key legislators.

If you want to get involved at this stage, contact the clerk of the relevant working group to see where things stand with that group and let the clerk know about your interests. You can find links to their emails on each working group site.

April 24, 2023.  It works! The budget-brave from last month are now being rewarded. The consolidated operating budget has been approved by the legislature on the very last day of its session. You can now find the text that went to the Governor under SB 5187. (Check under “available documents” for “Bill as Passed Legislature.”) You can then follow our tips from March 25 to find the place(s) where funding for your bill appears: hit the search symbol or Control-F for the find function and search for the bill number. You might come up with some section and page numbers, too, but you’ll recognize your bill by its name when you find it. Then, if the search function indicates there is more to come, keep looking. If the bill received funding in several agencies, it may be hard to see which agency you are looking at in the budget text, but you can check back to the fiscal note on the bill history page and match to what is listed there. 

March 25, 2023. For the budget-brave. Well, we now have the first budget submitted by our legislators, SB 5187. Working from the budget the governor submitted, this Senate operating budget includes new costs for any bills that started in the Senate (their numbers start with 5) that the Senate approved. The House is working on its parallel budget now and is scheduled to release it next Monday. Then they put the two pieces together, complete the jigsaw puzzle, and send it on to the Governor for approval or line-item vetoes.

If you want to know whether your favorite bill is included, you will want to go to fiscal.wa.gov, then “latest budget proposals,” and “Senate operating.” Remember, only bills with numbers that start with 5 will be found here; the others will be in the House budget next week.

The most straightforward way to find out whether your bill is there is to search for the bill number — just the number, since the preceding letters may appear in several forms. You can do this in the full bill text if you are super-brave, or in the “Statewide Summary and Agency Detail” if you are a little more cautious and want plainer English. When you open the document and put your bill number into the search function, some other combinations of the numbers may come up, but keep moving through the results until you see the name of your bill. Check the top of the page where it appears to see the agency that is getting money to implement it. Keep searching — there may be more than one implementing agency. You can compare what you find with the agencies that appear in the bill’s text and fiscal note to check to see if they are all there in the budget.

What if your bill does not appear? That’s bad news — it can’t get implemented without funding. If it is a bill Quaker Voice supports, you can check with your working group clerk to ask our lobbyist what’s going on. We may want to take action to get it in.

If you’re trying this out and it does not seem to be working for you, send us a note at info@quakervoicewa.org. We’ll do our best to answer your questions.

March 13, 2023.  What do split votes mean and what can you do about them? When you check the page with status of the Quaker Voice priority bills, you will see the votes that passed each bill out of its first chamber, House or Senate. You may not see many Action Alerts from us on the bills that passed unanimously; they appear to have a strong bipartisan consensus. The ones with split votes do not, and in all of our cases like that, the vote has not been strictly across party lines.

  • The bill champions in each working group are watching the hearings in the opposite house to find out who is skeptical about the bill, particularly in the majority party, so that we can concentrate on winning them over. The votes in the policy committees (called “executive action” in Washington legislature jargon) will give another indication. Quaker Voice may target actions over the next few weeks to the legislative districts those people represent.
  • If one of your legislators voted “nay” on any of our priority bills in the first chamber (see the March 5 entry for how to find them in the roll call vote), think about having a conversation about that bill with the legislators from your district in the opposite chamber. There’s a good chance the skepticism is shared and hearing from constituents could make a big difference at this point.

March 9, 2023. Six of our bills passed out of their first chambers before the cutoff time of 5 p.m. yesterday. They now have to go through the whole drill again: hearing and vote out of policy committee (or not), hearing and vote out of fiscal committee (or not), passed out of Rules (or not), then debate and vote in the full Senate or House if they survive that far.

  • On the bill information page, as you scroll down to the bottom of the bill history, you can see whether your favorite bill has been scheduled for a hearing yet.
  • If you haven’t caught up with what’s in the latest version of your favorite bill, you may also want to check for substitutes on the bill information page [leg.wa.gov/bill information in the menu on the left-hand side]. If there is a substitute, there is probably also a substitute bill report [in “Available Documents” after the bill history] which puts the changes in plain English.
  • And if you would like to see an example of death-by-amendment, check the “amendments” section of the page for the Traffic Safety for All Bill, HB 1513 — 30 amendments proposed, all by Republicans. This appears below the Bill History. These would all have to have been debated on the House floor, thus taking up time from other bills that had not attracted so much attention from opponents. The bill never made it to the House floor for a vote and is now not moving forward this year.

March 5, 2023. Five bills passed now out of their first chambers. Our fun skill for the day is looking at who voted which way in the Roll Call votes. Go to the history in the bill information page and find the place where the tally of the floor vote is given. Then look for “View Roll Calls” in the little green options to the right. The Right to Repair bill also indicates there that it is “engrossed” — I had to look this up in the Glossary linked at the top of the Tips. It just means “A bill which reflects all amendments made in the house of its origin.” And amendments are “engrossed” when the amendments are amended. And on and on…

March 3, 2023. Make that four of our bills have passed in their original chambers. They are starting to be assigned to committees in the opposite chamber and one has a hearing scheduled already. You can track these developments on the bill information page for each or check on our priority bill status table.

March 2, 2023

Moving to the next chamber. Two of our priority bills are already passed the Senate and one is passed the House. You can see which ones and where they stand in our priority bill status table. Two are eligible to be scheduled for floor action and votes (see the February 27 tip below for what this means). It is easy to watch the action live. Go to leg.wa.gov. If either chamber is actively working a link to the TWV coverage will appear below the line with links to the House or Senate calendar. (Which chamber is your bill in? Easy. House bills start with 1 and Senate bills start with 5.) Even if there is nothing happening, you can check the floor calendar for your bill (click the chamber, then choose “floor” under current working calendars). It’s easy to find bill numbers if you click on “bill number” in the dark green horizontal bar; that puts them in order. If there are amendments proposed, there will be a drop-down menu in the second column from the left. All that is good news. The bad news is that you can’t tell from that “calendar” when the bill will actually be debated. To be alerted to that, you need to subscribe to emails for the bill (from the right-hand column on the bill information page) and watch your email or stay glued to the Order of Consideration calendar right on the Current Floor Activity screen.

February 27, 2023

Going to the floor. Six of our top priority bills have made it to their chambers for a possible floor vote. (See the list here.) The majority leadership of each chamber determines whether the bills “go to the floor” and in what order. A “first reading” in the chamber is just the formal introduction of the bill to the full chamber. A “second reading” is a time for floor debate and amendments. A “third reading” is when the final vote on the bill is taken — in that chamber. (Remember, if it passes, it is sent to the other chamber to go through the whole process again — policy committee, fiscal committee, full chamber vote.) You can still follow where your favorite bill is in the process on the bill history page (leg.wa.gov/ bill information/ bill number). But you can also see it come up on the schedule. On the main page at leg.wa.gov, right at the top under “what’s happening today,” you will find links to the House floor calendar and the Senate floor calendar. Take note of whether your bill is at “second reading” (debate and amendment) or “third reading” (chamber vote). The “order of consideration” will show you the queue where your bill is waiting. Whether it is up next or currently being debated, amended, or voted on will appear in the block next to the chamber display board. You can find out whether amendments are being introduced by looking up the bill number in the “amendments” tool and see a link to them in the queue next to the bill number. And of course, you can subscribe to email updates specific to your bill on the right-hand side of the bill history page.

January 24, 2023

Amendment alert! As you follow your one favorite bill, you will see that after it has d a public hearing, it may be scheduled for “executive action” — the vote in the policy committee on whether they are going to send it forward in the process. (What process? See the links at the top of the tips.) If there are amendments that are being proposed you need to read them, to find out whether someone is proposing to gut the bill, make it impossible to implement, or (more dramatic still), introduce a “striker” — a whole new text that replaces the one you lovingly worked through before. If you see anything alarming in the amendments, please alert the relevant working group clerk and send an individual note about your concerns to all the members of the committee individually. (They are listed on the committee information page [see Legislative Committees in the left-hand column] and their email addresses are firstname.lastname@leg.wa.gov.) The working group clerk may want to propose an Action Alert to the whole working group or whole QV list about the amendments.

January 18, 2023

More information from the Committee Sign-In pages described on January 10 — you can see who else has signed in at the bottom of the sign-in form by clicking on the green button that reads “See who has signed in for this agenda item.” Here’s a graphic that leads you through the steps, thanks to Terry Thorsos. These listings stay up for 24 hours after the hearing start time and you can print them from the “print” button at the upper right-hand corner.

January 10, 2023

Signing in Pro or Con

Once you have a bill number, you can check to see which committee your bill is going through by looking at its page (leg.wa.gov, then Bill Information from the left-hand column, then go down to the bill history). If your bill is scheduled for a hearing this will be indicated in the bill history. If you want to sign in with your position on the bill, pro or con, go to app.leg.wa.gov/csi/ (for Committee Sign In). Using the drop-down menus, you can find the committee hearing and choose your bill. You will have to register your position at least one hour before the hearing starts.

Remember, you can also send a comment on the bill using the option at the top of the right-hand side of the bill information page.

January 6, 2023

Looking for your One Favorite Bill

Welcome to January. Staff are coming back from the holidays, the new legislators are officially in office, and session activity is getting underway. Websites are being updated and committee hearings are starting to be set. Here are some things you might want to check now on leg.wa.gov.

Choose a committee to follow

If you don’t have a specific bill yet that you eagerly want to follow, you might want to choose a policy committee to follow instead and just see what they are up to. The committees that handle most of our bills are listed at the bottom of this tip sheet.

The up-to-date committee names and members are now linked through the left-hand column of leg.wa.gov. You can sign up for emails from any (or all) of these by clicking through to their websites. The subscription for emails is at the bottom of the right-hand column once you get to the committee page. That will give you notice by email about their hearings. Their hearings schedules also appear on their websites and the overall schedule is here (be sure to set the date range for a few days ahead).

The committees generally schedule hearings on bills that they think have a chance, although they may schedule a few just to give the other side a voice. Even those “not-a-chance” bills will be super interesting to explore for those of us who want to bridge polarities in Washington politics.

Watch hearings

When you “attend” a hearing (which you can do by watching TVW; the link to specific hearings will be posted with the hearing announcement and videos posted later), we would love to have you take some notes on the positions indicated in the testimony on the bills we are interested in. Who loves the bill? Who hates it? Why in each case? What members of the committee take the most interest and what questions do they ask? If you share a report on these aspects of the hearing (especially by email) with your working group, we will all be better informed on the prospects for the bill passing this year and what kinds of amendments might be introduced. (Yes – ugh– we have to read the amendments. But nasty things can sneak in …)

Find a specific bill by topic

If you have a general area you are interested in but want to shop for one specific bill that you want to follow, another option is to check the topical index here. The topics are pre-set – you don’t even have to develop much of your own search strategy! But at this point in time, you would need to read the bills (not easy). Bill summaries (plainer English) might not be available for a while (check back at the bill link to see whether they have been produced). You can also get a hint of whether you really like this bill by checking who the sponsors are and what else they are interested in.

Join a Quaker Voice working group

The list below gives links to committees where the priority bills for the working groups are most likely to appear. If you want more specific guidance, please join the working group list through its clerk (contact links are in each working group section of quakervoicewa.org).

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Find the links to each committee through the left-hand column on leg.wa.gov, then Legislative Committees – House listed first, then Senate.

Criminal Justice

  • House — Civil Rights and Judiciary
  • House — Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry
  • Senate — Law & Justice
  • Senate — Human Services

Economic Justice

  • House — Health Care & Wellness
  • House — Housing
  • House — Human Services, Youth, & Early Learning
  • Senate — Housing
  • Senate – Human Services

Environmental Stewardship

  • House – Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • House – Environment & Energy
  • House – Transportation
  • Senate – Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks
  • Senate – Environment, Energy, and Technology

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December 10, 2022

Various areas of leg.wa.gov are starting to reflect the structures and actions of the upcoming session, while many are still showing information from the previous one. The opening date for the 2023-24 session appears at the top of Legislature Home (leg.wa.gov).

Leadership and Committees. The majority party, currently Democrats, have elected new leadership and re-organized committees. The old committees are still in operation until January 1, when the terms of incoming members start, so the old ones are still showing on Legislature Home.

But the decisions about new committees are appearing in the caucus sites, which are available from each chamber’s home page. Look for the relevant news item in the Senate Democratic Caucus page and click through to the full list of committees and assignments. Republican Senate committee assignments can be found through the parallel route.

The House versions of these lists should be appearing early next week. You can find them by going to the House home page and looking for the links to the caucuses.

Pre-filing of Bills. Starting December 5, legislators were able to “pre-file” bills and get numbers for them. All these bills will be introduced for action on the first day of the legislative session. To find the list, go to the left-hand column of leg.wa.gov and clink on “Bill Information.” “Pre-filed Bills” is one of the standard reports. There are lots already! They come up ordered by bill number. If you want to check for new ones each day, you can sort them by the date they were introduced by going to the “Date Filed” column and clicking in the gray bar at the top. This will give you a little arrow pointer, which let’s you sort the pre-filed bills in either ascending or descending order. Here’s the link.

Getting to know your new legislators. If retirements, redistricting, or elections gave your district new representatives or senators, it would be good for you to send greetings now and ask for an introductory visit to get to know their priorities better. Please report on your visit with the form at quakervoicewa.org: Legislative Visit Report — Quaker Voice (quakervoicewa.org)

Your current legislators and your district number can be found through the “Find Your District” page on leg.wa.gov. You can reach it through the left-hand column (always your best friend on Legislature Home). Once you enter your address, the map will show you your district and list your two current representatives and one current senator.

If you have new state senators or representatives, an easy way to find them is in news coverage introducing people joining (or moving from House to Senate in) the state legislature:

To do some background research, you might want to check their campaign websites, which you can find with a web search for “NAME campaign” or something similar.

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