I observed the March 27, 2007 meeting of the Washington State House Committee on State Government and Tribal Affairs. Because of my tight work schedule I could not personally attend the meeting, but watched its video archive at TVW.org . As a matter of fact I chose the Washington State House as my target, because I found this excellent archive, going back ten years. My first choice was Seattle City Council meetings, but those are not available on the web. The streaming video, the streaming audio (in two formats) and the downloadable audio was all made available on the website the day after the meeting.
The meeting was chaired by Sam Hunt (D). The other eight representatives of the committee was also present: Sherry Appleton (Vice Chair, D), Bruce Chandler (Ranking Minority Member, R), Mike Armstrong (Asst Ranking Minority Member, R), Tami Green (D), Joel Kretz (R), Joe McDermott (D), Mark Miloscia (D), and Timm Ormsby (D). The four staff members were also there: Marsha Reilly (Research Analyst), Colleen Kerr (Counsel), Alison Hellberg (Legal Fellow), and Cindy Cobb (Legislative Assistant). Besides Mr. Hunt Ms. Kerr worked the hardest in the meeting, because she had to read and summarize the various bills to be discussed. I admire not just the speed and accuracy she introduced those bills but also her preparedness she could answer clarifying questions.
The meeting started at 10 AM. Its first part lasted 67 minutes and consisted of discussions and public hearings on five bills. After a five minute break the committee reconvened for another forty minutes and did a quick executive session, where they voted on three previously discussed bills (They were supposed to vote on a fourth one but ran out of time.) Just for the record, these are the bills they voted on and passed with a majority:
All three went to a different Committee of the House next day and later to the floor. By now two of them became laws, the governor signed them off. The third one (ESB5508) also passed and has been delivered to the governor to be signed.
The majority of the time was spent on discussing and hearing pro and con testimonies on the following five bills (actually voting on them was scheduled for later meeting):
Legend: SB stands for Senate Bill. The "E" signifies Engrossed bills, and the "S" is for Substitute bills.
I found the style of the chair, Sam Hunt, charming. He had a great sense of humor and kept the meeting going. I was also presently surprised at the jovial atmosphere, between Democrats and Republicans. It made me reinforce what I already knew: the media reports only "newsworthy" items, and for them conflict is more interesting than the everyday friendly cooperation of the Senators.
My other observation is about how hard work being a legislator is. They had to be prepared on 5-10 bills, ask relevant questions, formulate their own opinion and vote accordingly. It requires a tremendous effort to do good and conscientious work. I look up to them more now.
It was interesting to hear the pro and con arguments for the EDR (Election Day Registration) bill. On their own they all sounded reasonable. Yet they conflicted with each other. It was a case where everybody was right, but decision one way or another had to be made, which would make half of the people unhappy. I am glad I had the opportunity to learn about the process.
P.s. More details are available at the "History" links of the five bills discussed at length, including what happened after the hearing I watched.