Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The past two weeks have seen a flurry of activity in legislative committees as the policy committee deadline has passed. Bills that have not been voted out of committee by now, and are not needed to implement the budget, will not be further considered this legislation session. Beginning this week, the Senate will be on the floor full-time until March 9th.
Reflecting upon the past month in this virtual session, we have been able to work out many remote testimony kinks from those testifying to those simply wanting to watch committee hearings. However, chairs do continue to be challenged with maximizing public participation together with the deliberative process that occurs in committee. At times, I wished that some bill hearings would have been continued to another day to fully accommodate public testimony.
With the advent of remote testimony in all committees, it has been amazing to see people from every corner of the state get an opportunity to make their voices heard. If you would like more information on how to watch a hearing or testify, click on the links below.
Watch a legislative hearing – https://www.tvw.org/
Testify in a committee – https://app.leg.wa.gov/csiremote
Comment on a bill – https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/
Broadband in rural areas
I wanted to highlight two bills that will specifically provide an opportunity to bring better broadband service to regions like ours to enhance educational, access to healthcare and economic opportunities for rural residents. This past year has shown us how critical access to this technology is. I am pleased that these bills offer critical state funding and help foster the creation of private public partnerships. These efforts should also allow our communities to better compete for federal funds, and they are foundational and complimentary to the work of local broadband groups and the State Broadband Office. Here is what these bills would do:
- Senate Bill 5357 would invest $200 million from the capital budget to create the capital broadband investment acceleration program to serve rural and unserved areas. This is a great way for us to match funds with the federal broadband infrastructure programs.
- Senate Bill 5383, which I am cosponsoring, would allow PUDs to provide retail telecommunications services in unserved areas where there isn’t an existing service provider.