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Resources

Searching for more information on political issues, legislative events, or how to participate effectively in the legislative process? Here's KAP's resources section. We're adding more news and research services all the time, so if we're missing one of your favorites, let us know. contactus@knowledgeaspower.org

  • Research Sources
  • Sending Email
  • Calling Legislators
  • The Legislative Process

Washington State House and Senate Caucus Press Releases

Each partisan caucus in Washington's House and Senate issue press releases on behalf of their members (representatives and senators), as well as the caucus. They provide an interesting look into the positions that the parties or their members are taking on certain prominent bills or upcming issues.

TV and Online Video Resources

TVW.org: Non-partisan and non-profit, TVW is the CSPAN of Washington State, broadcasting tens of thousands of hours of Washington's legislative process. TVW's website streams all of the video online and is easily searchable by keyword or bill number. You'll find video of your bill's committee hearing, the debate about it on the floor of the House or Senate, and many other interesting video clips related to your issue. As the most comprehensive source for Washington State news, civic events, and legislative video, they're a great way to see what's going on in our state.

Major Washington News Sources

Washington State Agencies' Research and Reports

It can be difficult to find unbiased political information online, but good (and accountable) resources can be found within the web pages of Washington's State Agencies. From agriculture to workforce training information, you can find reports that give great background information as well as projections based on good research.

Search through the state's listing of agencies here. Search the appropriate agency's site for their reports tab, where you'll find a wealth of information.

Washington's Public Records

Washington's Secretary of State's office maintains regional archives full of public documents on a range of issues through the Washington State Archives. Find them here.

Sending an Effective E-Mail

  • It is very important to remember to avoid form letters, petitions, etc. when writing to your legislator. Impersonal messages like these will not be taken as seriously as a unique, individual, well thought out letter.
  • Personal stories are the best way to make an impact on your legislator. A personal story makes your message hit home with your lawmaker.
  • Use an advocacy headline that makes it clear what your message is about. For example, "Pros of SB 313".
  • One of the first things you want to do is identify yourself as a constituent. Your name and address should appear at the top of the message.
  • Remember to be brief. You should be clear and to the point.
  • Make a specific request in your message. Let your legislator know you want a specific action taken on a specific issue, do this at the beginning and end of your message.
  • Proofread your e-mail (spelling, grammar) so that it reaches your lawmaker and doesn't end up in the spam file.

Example Message

SUBJECT: Pros of SB 313

My name is John Smith. I live at 1234 Main Street in Seattle, WA, 99999. I am writing as a constituent because I would like you to sign the bill that bans people from using MP3 players when they drive. A couple of weeks ago, while driving home I was rear ended by a pick-up truck. The man driving the truck had been changing the music on his iPod and hit my car when I was stopped at a red light. I was lucky to not be injured because he was not going very fast.

I believe that personal MP3s allow people to lose their focus while driving. It also makes it harder for them to hear sirens or warnings of other vehicles. I wrote this e-mail hoping that you would realize how dangerous driving with personal MP3s is and how it takes away from concentration on the road. Please sign the bill so we can all be safer when we drive.

Thank you,

John Smith

How To Make an Effective Phone Call

  • Just like with a letter, it is very important to say your name and address when you make a phone call so the office identifies you as a constituent.
  • Be clear about your position and refer to any bill by its official number.
  • Phone calls must be brief. There may not be time for a personal story like with an e-mail.
  • Request a response so the legislator or her staffers know you really care about this issue. The office knows you will be watching when it comes time to vote.
  • Always be polite and courteous. You most likely will not speak to the legislator herself, but her staffers can relay your message so it is important that you treat them with respect.

When To Make A Phone Call

  • Phone calls are good for instant communication. If a bill is being debated on the floor and you need to reach your lawmaker immediately, a phone call may be the best source of communication.
  • Phone calls work best when they act as follow-ups to written messages. It shows you really care about an issue and your call may be taken more seriously if you have a previous relationship with your legislator's office.
  • If you want to schedule an in person meeting with your legislator, a call is the best way to do that.
  • Calls can be used out of session when your lawmaker will likely have more time to sit down and meet with you.

What To Expect On The Phone

  • A call made during business hours has the best chance of being taken by a person and not a machine. It also shows a level of professionalism.
  • If you do reach a person, they will likely be polite but succinct. Get to the point quickly.
  • It is quite likely you will not reach your legislator personally. Staffers often take phone calls but they relay messages to their boss. Be as polite and courteous with staff as you would be with your lawmaker.

How A Bill Becomes A Law

What you can do: As an activist, writing a letter or sending an e-mail is a great way to let your lawmaker know there is an issue you care about that you would like to see introduced in a bill.

1. Introduction
The bill is introduced in the House of Representatives.
What you can do: After a bill has been introduced, track its progress. Make it known to your legislator whether you support or oppose the bill.

2. House Process
A member of Congress submits the bill to the Clerk of the House, who submits it for processing. The Speaker of the House then sends it to the appropriate committee.
What you can do: It is important to know what committees your legislator is on. If they are on a committee that deals with a bill that you care about then they have a great deal of power and influence over the bill and where it goes.

3. Committee Action (House)
The House committee studies the bill. The committee may hold hearings, which ultimately results in the bill being approved, amended, or not approved. If the bill is approved, it is placed on the House calendar.
What you can do: It is important to track any amendments or changes made to your bill because those updates could cause you to change your position. Even if your legislator is not on the committee related to your bill, you can ask them to speak to legislators that are on your behalf.

4. Advancement (House)
The Rules Committee has the power to push specific bills ahead that it views as more important. It can also block bills it disapproves of.
What you can do: If you are part of an interest group, it really helps to get like-minded people to contact their legislators to make your bill a priority. It is important for the group to stay on message when they make contact.

5. Floor Debate
The bill is read and debated on the floor of the House. After any changes or approval the House sends it to the Senate.
What you can do: Even if your lawmaker is not on a committee that deals with your bill, you can ask them to speak to the floor on behalf of his constituents. They can voice support and concerns over the bill that you have voiced to them.

6. To The Senate
The Clerk of the Senate sends the bill to the presiding officer of the Senate (usually the Vice-President), who sends it to the appropriate committee.
What you can do: The process that the bill takes through the Senate is virtually the same as through the house. Follow the same steps and get in contact with your Senator and let them know your position.

7. Committee Action (Senate)
The Senate committee studies the bill. The committee may hold hearings, which ultimately results in the bill being approved, amended, or not approved. If the bill is approved, it is placed on the Senate calendar.

8. Advancement (Senate)
The Rules Committee has the power to push specific bills ahead that it views as more important. It can also block bills it disapproves of.

9. Senate Action
The bill is read and debated on the Senate floor. If the Senate approves the same version as the House it is sent to the President for signature. If the Senate approves a different version, the bill must go to a joint committee for the House and Senate to reach an agreement. It must pass both houses again and then it goes to the President.
What you can do: If your bill has made it to this point, you may want to make a call to your Senator and let them know your position. It is almost always better to write a powerful letter or e-mail however, they may not reach your lawmaker in time if a bill is already being debated on the floor. In this case, a phone call may work better. A follow up phone call (if you have written a previous letter) is also a good idea.

10. Action by the Governor
The Governor signs or vetoes the bill or allows it to become law without signing it. the state legislature can overrule a veto by a two-thirds vote of both houses.

11. New Law
The Secretary of State affixes the Great Seal of the Washington State and the bill becomes a law.