This session is weird!

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Can your voice be heard in this very different session?


Dear Friends,

Greetings from Olympia! The 2021 legislative session is under way, but it doesn’t look anything like any session we have had before. Due to the rule changes made by the Legislature’s majority party because of COVID-19, this session will be conducted primarily online, with only a few select lawmakers and staff actually working from Olympia. The remainder have been forced to work virtually, with state buildings being completely closed off to the public.

To make matters even…well, weirder…the Legislature has used recent security concerns as a reason to fence off the Capitol and most legislative buildings, and state troopers and armed National Guard troops are stationed in large numbers around the entire campus. In fact, on the first day of the session, military and police presence outnumbered private citizens by nearly 10 to 1 on campus.

With this unprecedented environment and lack of public access, you may be asking yourself: Can my voice still be heard?

While the majority has undoubtedly made it harder for average Washingtonians to have access to state government, my number-one job is to guarantee that your concerns, your needs and your interests are never forgotten. It is my job to be your advocate, and to make sure your voice is heard.

Below is more about steps I have taken to defend your right to access your government, as well as information crucial to helping you participate in the 2021 session firsthand.

Thank you for the honor of serving as your state senator. If you have questions about anything in this report, or anything else related to the Legislature, please give me a call at (360) 786-7614 or send me an email at I always appreciate hearing from you. 


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Sharon Brown
State Senator
8th District

This Week's Video Updates:

Fighting for the public’s right to access; separation of powers

On the opening day of the session, I joined my colleagues in fighting to give the public access to democracy and their Legislature. In the video below, I argued for an amendment to the new Senate rules that now block the public’s traditional level of access to watching in-person debate and participation in hearings. You can watch my comments by clicking here or on the image below.


Click here to watch this video!

On Wednesday, we debated a surprise measure – Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402. After more than 300 days of Washingtonians living under Governor Inslee’s emergency proclamations, one of the first measures the majority brought to the Senate floor was a resolution to permit many of the governor’s proclamations to go on indefinitely, until he decides the emergency is over. Many of these proclamations are actually helpful for our communities, but the Legislature has ceded its authority to the governor long enough. We should be passing legislation to enact the worthwhile measures and maintain our oversight over the rest, instead of giving the governor a blank check to do whatever he pleases. You may click here or on the video below for my speech prior to the vote.

Video 2

Click here to watch this video!

Legislative Update:

Priorities for the new session


My Senate Republican colleagues recently reelected me to be their Deputy Leader. This is not only a tremendous honor, but also great news for the Tri-Cities and our priorities.

In addition to this role, I will also maintain my leadership role on the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee as well as returning to the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee. I will also take on new responsibilities as a member of the Senate Business, Financial Services and Trade Committee.

My top priorities for this legislative session include:

  1. Reopening Washington – adopting policies to help provide relief for our business owners and their employees affected by the COVID-19 shutdown and help get Washingtonians back to work. This means having a plan for the efficient and effective distribution of vaccines by state health officials.
  2. Mental Health – adopting policies to ensure some of our most vulnerable get the treatment they need, providing sufficient funding to meet the state’s mental health system needs, as well as providing support for those with developmental disabilities, senior citizens and our disabled veterans. The isolation of this pandemic has resulted in an increase in cases of depression, rage, domestic violence, suicide and abuse. These issues must be addressed head on, with policies that protect the vulnerable and get help for those in need.
  3. Supporting an all-of-the-above approach to energy, that includes looking at new technologies in nuclear, geothermal, hydro and other abundant, carbon-free sources of affordable power.
  4. Passing a responsible and sustainable budget that takes care of our most vulnerable and funds our priorities, while still living within our means and not raising taxes on already-struggling families and small businesses.
  5. Making sure you have a government that is transparent, accountable and responsive
    to the people. I will work to expand your access to government and defend your right to be heard.

2021 Session:
What you need to know

This session is weird. There’s no other way to put it.

Earlier this month, the majority party formally adopted rules to allow for a primarily virtual session, including the closure of Senate buildings to the public. In addition, the first move made after the start of the session this week was a change to the rules to eliminate in-person participation at the capitol – for both lawmakers and citizens.

Debates and votes on legislation that would normally occur on the floor of the Senate Chamber are instead being conducted remotely. The same is true of hearings and work sessions. 

Helping you stay connected, informed and active despite these limitations is important to me. In the weeks to come, I will do my utmost to ensure your state government remains accountable and works transparently, and that you have every opportunity to participate.

Here are some helpful links to keep you connected:

  • My legislative website | Here you will find my contact information, biography, news releases, email updates, news clips, bills, and other information. 
  • The Capitol Buzz | A weekday roundup of online news stories. Click on the link to subscribe. 
  • TVW | The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
  • Legislature's website | Bill reports, committee agendas, and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature are here.
  • State agencies | Find a list of all state agencies, boards, and commissions here.

Bill tracking instructions

  • Go to
  • On the left-hand panel, click “Bill Information.”
  • If you know the bill number, enter it in the search field and hit enter.
  • Don't have a bill number? Under the section “Standard Reports,” you'll find alternative tracking tools. You may search based on topic, legislative digests, cross-references and or within a specific biennium.

Years of work lay the ground for expansion of remote testimony


Sen. Brown with Columbia Basin College President Rich Cummins (left) and Washington Policy Center’s Jason Mercier (right) at the opening of the CBC remote testimony center in 2015.

Since 2014, I have been working with other leaders like Sen. Mike Padden of Spokane Valley, CBC President Rich Cummins and Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center to increase transparency and citizen participation by allowing more Washingtonians to testify before legislative committees remotely.

Thanks to our efforts and support from the public and media, we were able to establish a successful remote testimony pilot program, and eventually broaden usage among Senate committee chairs.

That work has positioned the Legislature well to adopt broad remote testimony during the COVID-19 restrictions on in-person hearings.

You no longer need to go to a special site to testify. You may now do it from the safety of your own home. You may read more about accessing committees remotely by clicking here.

Here are the links you will need to take part in a hearing:

In closing...

As always, I value hearing directly from you. I am here to be your voice, and your feedback on bills before the Senate is very important to me. If you would like to contact me please write, phone or email.

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PLEASE NOTE: Any email or documents you provide to this office may be subject to disclosure under RCW 42.56. If you would prefer to communicate by phone, please contact Sen. Brown's office at (360) 786-7614.

Jan. 15, 2021

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202 Newhouse Building
P.O. Box 40408
Olympia, WA 98504-0408