Jodie is a Spokane Valley resident and a victim of a break-in (which is why we’re going without her last name in this space). When testifying on Senate Bill 5503, which would increase sanctions for habitual property offenders, she did so not in Olympia but from our campus via a video feed.
The Senate Remote Testimony Pilot Project is looking at whether remote testimony works and is an efficient way to work through the democratic process. Our campus is one site that the State is using to try out remote testimony.
Getting to and from Olympia can be troublesome for many people. The hearing on SB 5503 was at 8:00 a.m. this morning. For Jodie to be in Olympia for the hearing, she’d have to drive over the day before and find some place to stay. This is difficult and costly for a lot of people. For those with jobs, families, kids, and other commitments, taking time off to testify for a few minutes in-person in Olympia isn’t efficient. Some folks that testify are only notified that they’re needed shortly before the hearing. If they can’t get to Olympia, they’re out of luck, and that’s one voice that won’t be heard.
All testimony is important – whether it is five minutes or five hours. We’ve been testifying this legislative session on two bills that would allow WSU to operate a medical school. While we have the means to get to and from Olympia without too much trouble, many others do not. Remote testimony allows for more people to be involved in the democratic process.
Sure, there will inevitably be some hiccups. Technology seems to have a chronic case of the hiccups, right? But those testifying remotely need to be aware that if the technology breaks, they may left to write a letter, or comment on the bill online. Legislators have acknowledged that the technology can fail, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if or when it does.
We’re proud to have our campus be a location for remote testimony, and help citizens reach their legislators in an efficient way. Making it easy to communicate with elected officials is vital for our state government to operate for the people.