Our Voice: Remote testimony would give more people a voice

Now that we can Skype with friends or business associates across the country and around the world, it only makes sense that we should be able to testify remotely in front of our legislators on the other side of the state, especially in a state with geography like Washingon’s.

This year, maybe we can.

We suspect the burden of driving the pass — especially in winter — and navigating the sometimessnarlsome traffic, all for just a couple of minutes at the microphone before lawmakers, keeps voices east of the Cascades set on low.

It’s time to turn up the volume.

Last month, the Senate Law and Justice Committee heard testimony from Spokane as part of a trial run.

At the mic were two Spokane Valley law enforcement officers and Washington Policy’s director for Center of Government Reform Jason Mercier, who is based in Pasco. Mercier has been a champion for remote testimony.

At times the audio was a little glitchy, but for the most part the experiment worked well.

It is worth the effort to expand remote testimony to legislative hearings in the upcoming session.

And it looks like that might be what happens, although legislative administrators still need to give their final approval.

We recommend they do so.

The plan for 2015 is to offer four remote sites during the upcoming legislative session: one in the Tri-Cities, the others in Spokane, Vancouver and Bellingham.

This will save miles, fuel and time for those interested in testifying. And it will encourage testimony from people who would like to speak up, but are strapped by time or travel resources.

It will encourage and enable more interaction from citizens.

If the state pursues this, we recommend people take advantage of the opportunity to be heard.

Tri-Citians would be wise to keep close tabs on bills that they know when public comments are being accepted and be prepared to engage more fully in the political process.

Often the people who will be affected by a law are the people who are tied to a job. They don’t have the means to hire someone to lobby for them.

At some point, it’s worth the effort to go to Olympia — you can stroll the capitol campus and shake some hands — but it should not be a requirement for getting your voice heard.