Editorial: State Senate makes right call to allow remote video testimony

Something exciting (and rare) occurred on Olympia recently: The Senate approved a bipartisan (the rare part) proposal making video testimony in legislative hearings permanent.

Approval of this proposal sponsored by two Eastern Washington lawmakers – Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, and Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley – is long overdue.

Allowing citizens to testify from every corner of the state rather than having to fly to Olympia or make a 10-hour or more drive (over an icy mountain pass in the winter) simply makes sense. This technology has been available for many years.

Six years ago, the Senate agreed to experiment with video testimony. It seemed to go well. Yet, it hasn’t been adopted until now. The use of this technology should spread beyond the state Senate.

“Technology offers us an opportunity to open up the doors of government to more people across the state,” Billig said. “Everyone should feel like they can have their voice heard in Olympia, regardless of where you live. Our democracy is stronger when more people are involved, and this offers another method to weigh in on pertinent issues without driving to Olympia.”

Sixteen sites throughout the state have been designated for use to broadcast remote testimony, including Walla Walla Community College. Remote testimony was used 28 times last year alone.

Of course, there are times when it makes more sense to testify in person. And when there is a need to lobby face-to-face it might be more effective.

Yet, there are times – such as when Snoqualmie Pass and White Pass are closed to traffic – that in-person testimony is not possible. Rather than postponing a hearing or moving on without the testimony, going to a remote site to provide testimony is the perfect solution.

The next step is for the House to follow the Senate’s lead and adopt this common-sense approach to good government.