How receptive is a legislator likely to be to your ideas? To be most effective, you can check his or her records of sponsoring or voting, and the likely motive for proposing a specific bill. This can help you to appeal to their interests, or to encourage them to vote differently than they have in the past.
We're going to look at two bills as an experiment in reading your elected officials. HB 1715 would designate coffee as the State beverage; and SB 5621 would lower the voting age to 14 for school board elections. Our goals:
- find out why the bills are being proposed;
- see if the bills' sponsors are sponsoring/publicly supporting similar bills; and
- try to guess how strong their attachments to the bills are likely to be.
In both cases, you'd start by searching for the bill number at www.leg.wa.gov, bill search.
Let's focus on SB 5621, the voting age bill. Notice that it has only one sponsor, Sen. Scott White of Seattle. That's a good clue for you right there. A bill with one sponsor might be signaling that it's not to be taken seriously, or that it's been proposed as a favor to someone back home.
If you look at Sen. White's info page, you'll see his contact information, a list of bills he's sponsored or co-sponsored, and a link to his website. Check out the bills he's sponsored; do you detect any patterns? He's posted a statement about the bill we're researching, on his website.
Now do a Google search for something like, "Sen. Scott White" voting, and see what it turns up. Anything contradict his statement?
What do you think Sen. White's motivation was for sponsoring this bill? Do you think it's a good idea to propose something like this? If you feel strongly about it, write your senator.
Now I'd like you to do the same sort of search into HB 1715, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Bailey of Oak Harbor. I think you'll find that this started out as a friendly little non-controversial bill, but some interests groups aren't too happy about it. What do you think of it's chances? What does it tell you about elected officials' ability to guess at all the impacts of bills that they propose?
What do you think it says about the voting public when our elected officials feel compelled to take up issues like these? Is it a good thing or bad? Just some things to think about.