2021 Washington State Legislative Advocacy
The 2021 state legislative session is in full swing, and fully virtual. The Coalition on Homelessness joins in with our statewide partners to advocate for bills and budget items that prevent homelessness, preserve and strengthen public benefits, and support our Washington neighbors.
Click here to view a list of our legislative priorities for the 2021 state legislative session. NOTE: due to the swift pace of the legislative session, priorities and bill numbers are subject to change. Budget priorities will become clearer as the legislature begins budgeting process. (Last updated: 03/03/2021)
Join Us In Speaking Up!
Sign up for Coalition Action Alerts and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for timely notifications about when your voice is needed. You can also use our State Advocacy Toolkit down below to get started on your own.
Register for our Speak Up Pop Ups! Each Tuesday evening during the session, the Coalition on Homelessness is hosting virtual Speak Up Pop Up workshops, where participants help us build a community of housing justice advocates, receive timely information about key proposals, and practice their advocacy skills alongside others. These workshops run throughout the entirety of the legislative session to help sustain momentum for housing justice.
Speak Up Pop Ups
If you missed a workshop, we’ll send out a brief email recap of each workshop to all registrants and upload the presentations from the workshops to this page. Use the State Advocacy Toolkit below for tips on how to take action on key items.
Please note that things move very quickly in the legislative session, and things may shift faster than this page is updated. If you would like to see the most up-to-date information about where certain bills are in the journey to become law, we recommend you navigate to the WA State Legislature’s Bill Tracker.
Last updated: 4/20/2021
4/20 Speak Up Pop Up
4/13 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop.
4/6 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop.
3/30 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop.
3/23 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop.
3/16 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop.
3/9 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop.
3/2 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop.
2/23 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop.
2/16 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop.
2/9 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop
2/2 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view the slides from this workshop.
1/26 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view slides from this workshop.
1/19/2021 Speak Up Pop Up – Click here to view slides from this workshop.
Coalition on Homelessness
State Advocacy Toolkit
We believe that everyone can be effective advocates for themselves and their communities. We’re here to help empower you to speak up, keep you informed, and provide tips on how best to let lawmakers know what policies and budget priorities would benefit you and your community.
We are currently in the process of compiling a state advocacy toolkit– a hub of resources to help you get started with state legislative advocacy and tips for communicating to your lawmakers. We cover these items in depth and can answer your questions each week at our Speak Up Pop Ups. This toolkit will be updated frequently throughout the 2021 legislative session.
Last updated: 1/29/2021
FIND YOUR LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT AND STATE LAWMAKERS
The best place to start is by understanding which lawmakers represent you at the state legislature. Click here for detailed instructions on how to look up your state lawmakers, including tips for looking this up if you do not have a residential address. Use the WA state Find My District tool to find out your legislative district number, what lawmakers represents you, and your lawmakers’ contact information.
GET ON A GOOD EMAIL LIST
- Follow Statewide Poverty Action Network for information and to take action on public benefits, dental care access, higher education access, and more.
- Follow the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance for information and to take action on eviction prevention, affordable housing, progressive revenue, and more.
- Follow Washington Voting Rights Restoration Coalition for information about Voting Rights Restoration.
WRITE MESSAGES TO LAWMAKERS USING A TEMPLATE
The Coalition on Homelessness, as well as key statewide partners such as the WA Low Income Housing Alliance and the Statewide Poverty Action Network, will sometimes help you to contact your lawmakers by sending you template letters. These are very easy ways to get involved with state advocacy. Typically, you will enter your home address to determine which lawmakers the message will go to, then be taken to a sample email where you can customize the template. ALWAYS, ALWAYS personalize or customize the first sentence of your email to your lawmaker!
TELL YOUR STORY
Data can be an important tool to help inform lawmakers, but it is personal stories that humanize issues and get lawmakers to do something about problems in their communities. Incorporate stories into your advocacy efforts, back it up with data, and ask lawmakers to vote YES on bills that allow them to be part of the policy solution. Maybe that story is an experience you had with a client, a concern you have about a friend, or your own direct experience with housing instability or homelessness—your personal experience is a form of knowledge. You can add your stories to email templates; tell them to lawmakers and assistants in a phone calls before presenting data and asking them to vote YES on a bill; or record a video to tag your lawmaker in on Facebook & Twitter.
If you know your stance on a key proposal and want to learn how to take action on your own, here are some simple ways to communicate your views to your lawmakers.
REMOTELY SIGN IN TO A COMMITTEE HEARING WITH YOUR STANCE ON A BILL
Committees are groups of lawmakers with certain expertise that decide whether a bill is a good idea. Committee hearings are a chance for the public to tell lawmakers their perspective on the bill. At committee hearings, some advocates provide live testimony, others provide written testimony. This year, WA residents have the option to remotely sign in to a committee hearing with their stance (PRO = support; CON = oppose; OTHER = neither support nor oppose). You don’t have to attend the hearing or testify to provide your stance.
Click here for a pdf with detailed instructions on how to remotely sign into a committee hearing and note your stance on a bill. NOTE: The information you enter on this electronic form (name, address, email) becomes part of the public record, and as such is subject to public disclosure requests. You may write “decline” in the address line or use another address in your district instead. You can also choose simply to include your city and zip code.
PARTICIPATE IN A COMMITTEE HEARING
One of our statewide partner advocacy organizations, the Statewide Poverty Action Network, has compiled a wonderful document explaining the different ways you can participate in a committee hearing. Click here to learn about the ways you can participate (remotely) in a bill hearing.
WRITING EFFECTIVE EMAILS TO YOUR LAWMAKERS
Sending a direct email to your lawmakers (without a template) is a powerful way to communicate about certain proposals. Providing your insights or stories can be a powerful tool to help sway lawmakers or inform their decisions about certain items that might not be covered by broader coalitions or statewide advocacy action alerts.
Here are some tips to help you craft an effective email message to your lawmaker.
- Put bill number in subject line. You can have words in the subject line, but make sure to include the bill number to make it easier for legislative assistants to sort the information.
- State that you are their constituent. Lawmakers prioritize messages from the people they represent. State that you live in their district to ensure your message gets heard.
- Be authentic. In a few sentences, write about why the item is important to you or your community. Storytelling not only helps lawmakers gain perspective on certain things, it also can help move them by humanizing issues.
- Make sure to have a clear, specific call to action. Be as specific as possible when you include a call to action. For example, don’t just ask for their support for a bill if what you really need their YES vote on an item, or for them to try to talk to their colleagues to vote YES alongside them. Example sentences: “Can I count on you to vote yes on HB 1078?” or “Can I count on you to encourage your colleagues to vote yes on SB 5214?”
CALLING YOUR LAWMAKERS ON THE PHONE
There are a few ways you can call your lawmakers’ offices and let them know what your stance on a bill is:
- Direct: find lawmaker contact information at the WA Legislature’s Member Roster List. If you don’t know who your lawmakers are, take a look at this handy guide.
- Legislative Hotline: 1-800-562-6000; Hours 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. It’s always a person answering, so it takes away the awkwardness of leaving a voicemail.
Here’s a helpful script that you can use for phone calls: “Hello, my name is [NAME] and I am a [OCCUPATION/RELEVANT IDENTITY] that lives in [NEIGHBORHOOD/CITY], Washington. I am calling to ask my lawmakers to vote YES on [BILL] because…” Then, sum up and restate your call to action (ex. “Please ask my lawmakers to restore the right to vote in Washington by voting YES on HB 1078.”)
SOCIAL MEDIA ADVOCACY
Social media can be an interesting tool for advocacy, although we highly recommend 1) making sure to ALWAYS have a clear call to action and 2) being strategic about what you share on social media.
Twitter is a good way to share multimedia with your lawmakers. For example, you can share a video telling your story, selfies of you holding up a sign stating your stance on a bill, etc. If your lawmaker doesn’t have a Twitter, you can use the hashtag #waleg to share with the WA Legislature. Make sure you always include a call to action. For example: “Please vote YES on HB 1078.”
Facebook is a good way to share with friends, family members, coworkers, congregants. If you’re sharing with a general audience on social media on certain bills, make sure you include an action that someone can take – be it an action alert link, instructions on how to contact their lawmakers, etc.
MID-SESSION TOWN HALL MEETINGS
Town halls are an important opportunity for us to ask our lawmakers questions directly, and for lawmakers to hear from the people they represent (you!). Lawmakers are conducting all town hall sessions virtually via Facebook/YouTube/Twitter Live and taking questions in advance. This means that you don’t even need to attend the town hall meetings if they don’t work with your schedule—you can just simply submit your questions and listen to the recorded meeting in your own time! Tip: Although you can ask your questions live via the comments sections of most streaming sites, it is highly recommended to submit your questions in advance.
The League of Women Voters has compiled a list of upcoming Town Hall sessions here. If you plan to submit questions for your legislator town halls, please let us know what questions you ask and what the responses of your lawmakers are in this Google document. Fill out columns G through I in the row for your Legislative District (LD).
I’ve written out some sample questions for key bills down below to help you. If you’d like further examples, WLIHA has compiled a list of sample questions related to housing, homelessness, and budgets here.
General Sample Question: What bills are you working on that help prevent people from experiencing the trauma of homelessness and ensure that people who are experiencing homelessness get the housing and supports they need?