Options for legislative committee testimony away from Olympia would expand under legislation proposed today by Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Sen. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland. A companion bill will be sponsored in the House by Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane.
SB 5267 would develop a system for citizens to record video of themselves testifying using their phones, computers, webcams or any other video cameras and then upload the video to a legislative server where lawmakers could view the testimony.
“Every Washingtonian should be able to have their voice heard in our legislative process, no matter where they live, no matter if they have a disability, no matter if their work schedule allows it,” said Habib. “In the age of YouTube and selfies, you should be able to record your own video, at any time and place convenient for you, and get that video in front of your legislators as testimony on an issue or a bill, just like the lobbyists can testify before committees every day.”
Rep. Riccelli noted the challenges faced by constituents in areas distant from Olympia.
“Eastern Washington residents face a tough hurdle in having their voices heard in Olympia and for most, getting across the Cascades just isn’t an option,” said Riccelli. “With rapidly evolving technology, we can ensure robust participation in our legislative process everywhere in our state. I look forward to this becoming a reality for the people I represent.”
Legislative testimony over video from remote locations has been allowed in the past for legislative committees but only from specific locations with infrastructure set up to accommodate the recording and transmission of the testimony. The proposed program would allow citizens to record testimony from any location at any time. Once recorded and uploaded, the committee chair could show the testimony in a committee hearing or make it available for committee members to view at another time.
“I welcome this forward-thinking measure to give average citizens across the state a chance to give their two-cents – or two-minutes – worth of viewpoint on the important legislation of the day,” said Wyman. “Many people have strong opinions and ideas on the issues facing Washington, but often can’t take time off work and travel for hours, perhaps from hundreds of miles away, to Olympia give their brief testimony in person. But allowing people to upload a short YouTube video or written testimony from the comfort of their own home really gives people an opportunity to have their thoughts heard. It really is about empowering people and connecting them with their government.”
Wyman, who sits on the TVW Board, said the public affairs network would be an ideal organization to receive the information and route it to legislators and committees. She said she continues to support a parallel effort to encourage committees to allow remote teleconference testimony at locations that are equipped to handle it, free of charge.
The bill, which is co-sponsored by members of both parties, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Government Operations & Security Committee on Monday, Jan. 19th, at 10:00 AM in Senate Hearing Room 2.