What you need to know to be a citizen activist
|1/9/2005, 11:43 a.m. PT
The Associated Press
(AP) Making your voice heard in Olympia isn't as hard as you might think. Here's some practical advice for getting started:
GETTING THERE: From Interstate 5, take exit 105 (for southbound travelers, follow signs for exit 105A). Merge onto 14th street, which goes through a short tunnel and feeds directly onto the Capitol Campus. Take the first left and another immediate left into the visitors' center parking lot.
PARKING: At the vistors' center, limited parking is available for 50 cents an hour. More pay parking is located along North and South Diagonal streets on the Capitol Campus; in the General Administration garage (upper level) on the corner of 11th Avenue and Columbia street; in the Natural Resources parking lot off Washington Street; at the satellite visitor lot at Jefferson Street and 16th Avenue (served by a free shuttle on weekdays); and along Deschutes Parkway along Capitol Lake, served by Intercity Transit buses every half-hour. The fare is $.75 for a single ride and $1.50 for an all-day pass.
Free two-hour parking on the streets is possible but hard to find when the Legislature is in session, and the City of Olympia patrols aggressively.
FOOD: A full-service cafeteria serves breakfast and lunch in the Pritchard Building (formerly the state library), located just south of the Capitol Building. There's also a deli in the Capitol Building. Both can get quite crowded during session, so if you're in a hurry you might want to brown-bag it.
COMMITTEE HEARINGS: House hearings are held in the O'Brien Building and Senate hearings are in the Cherberg Building. Calendars are available online at www.leg.wa.gov.
For hot-button issues, arrive early because seating might be limited. When you sign in, indicate whether you want to testify. (Note that while it's called "testifying," speaking at a committee hearing is not the same as testifying in court although truthfulness is certainly appreciated.)
Be prepared to limit your testimony to three minutes. You might even want to prepare a 60-second version in case time gets tight. Maybe you'll get more time, but probably not. (Hearings are 90 minutes long, and sometimes hundreds of people want to speak.) If you have more to say, write it up and make enough copies for all the legislators on the committee. Always start by saying your name and where you're from.
MORE TIPS: Nancy Amidei directs the Civic Engagement Project at the University of Washington. Here are her tips for talking to legislators, whether one-on-one or at a hearing:
Tell them your name and where you live, and your legislative district if you know it.
If you are part of a group concerned about an issue, such as a church congregation or professional organization, tell them the group and about how many people are in it.
In one phrase or sentence, tell them what you're concerned about. (For example, "I want public schools to have smaller class sizes.")
Tell them directly what you want them to do about it. Do you want them to sponsor a bill? Vote for or against a bill? Be as specific as possible.
Give them something in writing with your name and contact information. It could be a piece of notepad paper, a brochure from your organization or a background paper. This gives them something concrete to file so that when your issue comes up again, they'll remember the conversation.
Legislative hot line: 800-562-6000.
Visitor information: 360-586-3460.
Legislature's Web site: http://www.leg.wa.gov
State Capitol Visitor Services: http://www.ga.wa.gov/visitor/index.html