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Legislative Resources

We have chosen representatives to carry out the difficult task of determining which laws and policies will best serve our interests. However, to effectively perform their job, legislators rely heavily on input from many different sources; including us

Contact your legislators early and often; if they don't hear from you they don't know what's important to you.

Congress Overview

  • 535 people serve in Congress.100 in the Senate. 435 in the House of Representatives.
  • Members in the House of Representatives serve two-year terms. Senators serve six-year terms.
  • Everyone in the U.S. is represented by two Senators and one Representative (also called Congresswomen/Congressmen).
  • Every state has two Senators. The number of Representatives in a state are based on the population distribution. For example, Wyoming only has one Representative while New York has 27. Representatives serve approximately 700,000 people per district.
  • When it comes to advocacy, legislators only want to hear from people they represent (people living in their district). If you live in Washington and send an advocacy email to a Senator in Idaho, they will either ignore it or forward it to your Washington Senators. If you send the same email to your leader, their staff will log it and it will be tallied in constituent reports sent to the leader and key staffers.


State Legislator Overview

Washington State is made up of 49 districts with 147 legislators to represent all 7,901,429 of us. This consists of 49 Senators and 98 Representative. District boundaries change based on census results. The Legislature meets annually on the second Monday in January, in the Capitol building, in Olympia. In odd-numbered years -- the budget year -- the Legislature meets for 105 days, and in even-numbered years for 60 days. If necessary, the Governor can call legislators in for a special session for a 30-day period. Legislators can call themselves into special session with a two-thirds vote of the two bodies. Use the Capitol schedule as a tool to help you know what's going on.

WA State members of the Senate are elected to four-year terms, and House members are elected to two-year terms.



Why should you learn how to contact your legislator? 

96% of congressional aides have reported that personalized letters & calls would influence their position if a legislator was undecided on an issue. With thousands of bills going through their offices, making contact is an effective tool for getting a bill noticed by the leader and staff. 


Contacting your legislator:

  1. Find your legislator.
  2. Email or call; HOTLINE at 1-800-562-6000 (TTY for Hearing Impaired 800.833.6388). Callers to the Hotline can leave a brief message for their district legislators on issues of concern or on questions they may have about bills or laws.
    1. Who are you? Start by introducing yourself, indicating that you are a constituent and a member of the WSSCSW, which has over 300 members (leaders like to know how many people likely agree with you). Include any other organizations you are a member of.
    2. What are your points of concern? Use a “hook” and then explain the “issue.” Have an engaging statement that engages the reader, usually featuring a statistic.
    3. Why does this issue/bill matter to you? Give the legislator reasons to support the issue. Looking beyond the obvious reasons, eliminating homelessness (for example) alone might not be a persuasive argument. Discussing the effect of poverty reduction on employment rates can be an alternative motivation for the same action.
    4. What is your request for action? Ask for something specific, usually in the form of a proposal to support a particular bill. If possible, refer to any legislation by name and number and summarize what it stands for.
    5. Say Thank you. You’re engaging with real humans who hear all kinds of things—follow up with a thank you. If you met them in person, email or mail a thank you within a week of the meeting. The thank you will keep the issue in mind while also reminding them how amazing social workers are.

    Frequently Asked Legislative Questions:

    • How long does it take for a bill to pass? Any legislation that doesn't pass in a cycle 'dies' and must be reintroduced in the next cycle. This speaks to the importance of active and ongoing engagement.
    • What is a cosponsor? When a leader 'cosponsors' a bill, they essentially endorse it. To get a bill scheduled for a committee vote, our job is to pressure and mobilize Members of Congress to cosponsor the legislation.
    • How does my 30-second phone call or email to my leaders help pass legislation? Offices tally every issue that people in their district contact them. It's not uncommon for a leader to support a bill after as few as 7-10 people reach them in support of it.


    Key phrases to understand:

    • S. vs. H.R.  When a bill is introduced in the Senate, the bill number begins with an 'S'.

        Bill Number – The bill number represents the order in which it was introduced in that two-year session of Congress. For example, the first bill introduced in the Senate would be S.1, the second S.2, etc. Staffers often ask you for the bill number when you lobby, so it's good to be prepared with this information.

       CBO Score – The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a tremendous resource. The nonpartisan government agency is tasked with determining how much various pieces of legislation could cost if enacted as law. Not all bills have CBO scores, but for those that do, this information is beneficial when advocating with your legislator.

    Additional Resources – Use the Library of Congress website and GovTrack to learn glossary terms and track key legislation on a National level. Click here to follow legislation coming out of Olympia.

    Please make sure you are registered to vote. It's easy and secure. Make sure you vote in every election, not just the presidential election.

    To register to vote in the state of Washington, you must be:

    • A citizen of the United States
    • A legal resident of Washington state for at least 30 days prior to election day
    • At least 18 years old
      • If your clients are 16 or 17, they can sign up as a Future Voter and be automatically registered to vote when they qualify
    • Not disqualified from voting due to a court order
    • Not currently serving a sentence of total confinement in prison under the jurisdiction of the department of corrections for a Washington felony conviction
    • Not currently incarcerated for a federal or out-of-state felony conviction
    • Effective January 1st, 2022, if someone was convicted of a felony in Washington State, another state, or in federal court, their right to vote will be restored automatically as long as they are not currently serving a sentence of total confinement in prison.

    Any other options for expanding my lens and to learn more about how the Macro impacts the Micro?

    Yes. Thank you for asking such a wonderful question and for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. There are loads more than what is listed here, but this is a great starting point.

    Documentaries/Films

    • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Netflix)
      • “Inspired by a science book, 13-year-old William Kamkwamba builds a wind turbine to save his Malawian village from famine. Based on a true story.”
    • Poverty, Inc. (Amazon, iTunes, Netflix)
      • “Drawing from over 200 interviews filmed in 20 countries, Poverty, Inc. unearths an uncomfortable side of charity we can no longer ignore.”
    • Girl Rising (Amazon Prime)
      • “Girl Rising travels the globe to meet nine unforgettable girls, striving beyond circumstance and overcoming nearly insurmountable odds to achieve their dreams.
    • Global Citizen Film List 2016

    Books

    • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
    • Half the Sky by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof
    • To Repair the World by Paul Farmer
    • The Mosquito by Timothy Winegard
    • The Making of a Tropical Disease by Randall Packard
    • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
    • Hunger by Mohamed El-Basatie

      Questions about how to get involved or looking for more information? Reach out to your legislative chair.

      Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work
      PO Box 252 • Everett, WA  98206 • admin@wsscsw.org


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