In Part I of this series on Influencing Olympia, I gave you some resources for finding information, but what do you do when you find a bill number? Or what if you are curious to find out how your legislators vote? In Parts II & III, I’m going to show you how to dig deeper to find out more about a particular bill, so you know what it does and where it is in the process. There are two websites I use to really drill down for information. and In Part II, I will show you how to use the first one – WashingtonVotes.

One of the bills that triggered an Advisory Votes on your ballot last month was HB 1087, a bill concerning long-term services and supports. If you get a paycheck in Washington State, you will now have another payroll tax. If you ever need long term care, this program will provide you with money to use for that purpose, but the catch is that it only provide a maximum of $36,500 over your entire lifetime. Anyone who has dealt with long-term care for a loved one knows that this is just a drop in the bucket. That is why Republicans opposed this legislation. It will provide a false sense that the state will take care of all your long-term care needs, and it just isn’t true – even though you will pay for this new government bureaucracy out of every single paycheck. Everyone understands that when people find out how little it helps, they will be clamoring for more, so the percentage they take from your paycheck will only increase even further as time goes on.

The WashingtonVotes site is a great way to see clearly what happened with this bill. It has similar information to the legislative site but spells it out in a way that even someone like me – a non-attorney mom from out in the sticks – can understand. Click on the link to and enter the number 1087 in the search engine for bill number. You will come to a page that tells you everything about the bill.

The main bill page tells you who introduced the bill, the committees it went through, and it tells about any changes made to the original document. For instance, you can see 5 entries down that Rep. Drew Stokesbary tried to amend the bill to allow for a vote of the people. The amendment failed. Below that entry, you will see the entry that indicates passage in the House. If you click on “Who voted “yes” and who voted “no,” you will see how your legislator voted. This is one of those bills that passed pretty much on a party-line vote with all Democrats voting yes and almost all Republicans voting no. Down a little further, you will see information about what happened to the bill in the Senate.

When you click on the link to see how your legislator voted on this bill, you will see them listed two different ways. First, you will see all the votes in favor vs the no votes, separated by Republican vs Democrat. Below that, there is a list of all legislators in order by name. You can look up either the House vote or the Senate vote – they are listed separately.

This is an example of one bill. But there is so much more information that you can get from Washington Votes. If you go back to the home page, you will see that you can focus just on one legislator. Click on the legislator of your choice. At the beginning, you will see every single bill he/she voted on – over 700 bills for the 2019 session. There is a line near the top of the page that has a link to the bills introduced by that legislator and the amendments offered, as well. That gives you an idea of how legislators vote and the bills they’ve sponsored. Bear in mind that you will never agree with any legislator 100% of the time, so try to get an overall picture of who is representing you, and send them a note to let them know how you feel about their particular votes – even when you agree.

Let’s say you have no idea what bill number you are looking for, but you are interested in gun issues, gas taxes, education, or any of a dozen other subjects. Go back to the home page and enter the keyword “tax” in the search box. At the top, you will see a bill that was just dropped by Senator Braun, dedicating all the sales tax that we currently collect on motor vehicles to the transportation fund. The next bill is by Senator Fortunato – it would codify the $30 car tab fees. Both of these bills address some of the issues surrounding I-976, because the Republicans believe the legislature should honor the vote of the people. All the following bills are ones that were introduced last year. Each one lists the related bill number, so you can look into that specific bill from this page. Note: Bills are being introduced all the time, so by the time you click on this link, other tax bills may have been added. Also note that some bills, like the two above, do not raise taxes – they may either change what the taxes pay for or reduce them altogether.

Anywhere on the Washingtonvotes site that you click on the words “Official Text and Analysis”, you will be taken to and you can get even more information. This is important, because it will tell you when a bill is in committee, so you can get to Olympia to testify or write to your legislator in a timely manner. I will cover the site in more detail in Part III of this series. In the meantime, I would suggest that you play with the Washingtonvotes site now, before session begins.

If you want to be kept up to date on current legislation, you can subscribe to their email notifications. At the top of their web page, you will see that you can subscribe to get notices when something changes in the process. Sign up using the email address you want your notices to go to and then update your list. If you are interested in only taxes or firearms, for instance, click the “all” box to remove the checkmark and then click on the boxes beside the word tax and firearms and update your preferences. Now you will get an email notice every time the bill on this topic moves. There are many subjects listed, so sign up for as many as you are interested in – you can always go back in and change it later, if you decide you are getting too many emails.

This is a lot of information, but if you stepped through the Washingtonvotes site along with the narrative above, you can see that after just a short time, you could easily utilize this site to become more fully informed. Following the legislature takes time, but better to find out early in the process what bills are being introduced than to wait and find out after the bill has already passed. If you have a group of friends who are interested, you could even split the work – one person takes the taxes issue and one takes firearms – many hands make light work. The times when a bill has been successfully stopped in Olympia are the times when people get organized and work together to get out information to the general public. Form a group to take that on within your sphere of influence. If enough people do that, we can make a difference!

I hope this is helpful. If you have any specific questions, be sure to drop me a line at And stay tuned for Part III where we will look closer at the legislative website,