Public Broadband, Worker Protections, and Remote Session

The legislative session has begun and it has already been one for the history books. Despite the fact our country faced armed insurrectionists raiding the capitol building in D.C., and protesters bypassed the gates at the Governor’s mansion in Olympia, our first and only day in Olympia went fine. There were a lot of National Guard members and Washington State Patrol there, but things went very smooth. Lawmakers socially distanced, we elected our speaker and a few other officers, adopted our rules, and went home. Then, the real work began.

One thing all of us are getting used to is holding committee hearings remotely. Unfortunately, I opened up my first meeting as chair of the Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee with a bit of a black eye and it stuck with me throughout the week. Like I said, one for the history books.

Infographic offering various ways Washingtonians can be involved with their legislature during the 2021 remote session. please refer to options on the Legislature’s Americans with Disabilities Act Information page.What’s great about the remote committee hearings is how many people can participate. It used to be you had to drive down to Olympia, sign in, wait around, and then hope you get called up to speak for 1-2 minutes before turning around and driving home. For folks in our district, or on the east side of the Cascades, that is a huge time commitment. Now, with Zoom and a decent internet connection, you can sign up online, click the link to login, wait for your turn, then log off and go about your day.

Speaking of decent internet connections, let me tell you about a bill I’m working on. It’s the Public Broadband Act and if it passes, it removes all state restrictions on public utilities offering broadband access directly to consumers. Many people in our district struggle with inadequate broadband access and the same is true for Washington residents all over the state. Hopefully, with your support, this bill will pass the Legislature and provide a lot more quality, high-speed internet. The bill has a hearing in the Community & Economic Development Committee THIS WEDNESDAY and if you want to testify on the bill or submit written testimony, click here and select the committee and day and fill out the form.

Another bill I’m working on is called the Worker Protection Act. To explain this, I will give you a quick history lesson. Back around the Civil War, Congress passed the Federal False Claims Act. This bill let whistleblowers sue when a contractor or other person was committing fraud, essentially letting the whistleblower step into the role of the federal government to recover losses. The Worker Protection Act does something very similar for labor and workplace standard laws. If a worker knows a business is violating the workplace standard laws, they should be able to blow the whistle and similarly prosecute the case on behalf of the government. I testified on the Worker Protection Act in the Labor & Workplace Standards Committee and am looking forward to updating you more on the bill as it moves through the legislature.

Next month, I hope to be able to share with you more about the COVID-19 Relief bill that was proposed in the House and Senate last week. In the meantime, please continue to socially distance, wear your mask, wash your hands, and take care.

Representative Drew D. Hansen