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Policy Change Toolkit

Washington Breathes works on policy, systems, and environmental changes to eliminate inequities and counter the negative effects on our communities from commercial tobacco use, sales and marketing.

We do this work through 3 key strategies:

Building Our Capacity

Increasing Awareness

Amplifying Our Voices for Policy & Systems Change

This toolkit gathers some resources to assist our members and partners with their work on policy change, including many resources developed by our partners in other organizations and coalitions.

About Policy Change Education

We focus on educating about the harmful impacts of commercial tobacco use and industry tactics on our communities and policy solutions that will increase equity and improve community health.

As a coalition, Washington Breathes works on policy change education. We educate about issues and challenges and advocate for effective and equitable policy solutions. Together we raise awareness.

When we advocate, we link our education to a policy solution – like how ending the sale of flavored tobacco products would protect communities and save lives. We do advocacy cautiously to avoid crossing over into lobbying.

As a coalition, Washington Breathes does not lobby because we currently receive fiscal support from a state agency that includes a federal funding source, which prohibits the coalition from lobbying. Lobbying includes a specific request for action from a policymaker on a piece of legislation or on a budget item.

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Tools for Engaging in State Policymaking

Policymaker Engagement Guide: Communicating with your Legislator
This 7-page step-by-step guide from the Foundation for Healthy Generations is a great planning tool for planning and holding a meeting with a state legislator.

Tips for Emailing Your WA State Legislator
A 1-page primer from Washington Breathes on how to use email communication to educate your state legislator.

WA Legislature 101 Video Mini-Series from Prevention Voices WA:

Public Town Hall Meetings with Legislators

Legislators hold "town hall" sessions in their districts at various times near and during the legislative session to explain their priorities, listen to community input, and answer questions. Providing information or asking a question about an issue is education. Sessions may be in-person, virtual, or hybrid.

To find out about Town Halls and other local events with legislators, sign up for e-newsletters from legislators. Look for information on their home page on leg.wa.gov.

Some caucuses have calendars online and more information will be added here as it becomes available:

Information about the Washington State Legislature

The website of the Washington State Legislature is a central hub of information.
It provides access to information about state legislators, legislation, committee meetings, and much more.

Recommended Overviews of the State Legislative Process

Understanding the Legislative Process 12-minute video from the Legislative Information Center that starts with how government is organized, then explains how a bill becomes a law.

Written summary of how a bill moves through the Legislature:
online version in English overview in English (PDF) overview in Spanish (PDF)

Glossary of Legislative Terms

Finding Bill Information

Main Bill Information Page Search by bill number or by text or through a variety of reporting tool. When searching for a bill from a previous year, be sure to select the correct session year, e.g. 2021-2022.

Guide to Reading a Bill History Page each bill page provides a lot of information and this guide helps you understand the meaning of commonly used terms

Bill Tracking Tools:

  • Sign-up for Email Notifications on Specific Bills.
    Take 2 simple steps to receive email notices of all actions on a bill:
    (1) enter the bill number on the bill information page to navigate to the bill's page, then
    (2) use the Email Notifications button on the right side of the bill page to sign up for email notices.
  • Sign-up for Email Notifications from WA Legislature - subscribe to updates from House and Senate committees and more. Committee updates will include agendas for hearings and executive sessions on bills.
  • Legislative Reports on bill status and more
  • Bill Tracking Tutorial 14 minute video from the Legislative Information Center on how to create and use a Bill Tracker account.

Guide to Reading a Legislative Measure 2-page annotated guide to understand the components and effects of state bills.

Laws & Agency Rules Page Bills are introduced to make changes to existing state laws in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). Washington Administration Code (WAC) rules are often created to implement the RCWs.

Learn more about Washington's Commercial Tobacco Laws on our Laws & Regulations page.

Legislative Committees

At the start of each biennium (in odd-numbered years), the House and the Senate form legislative committees. Appointments to committees are made by the leadership of each party in the chamber. The majority party in each chamber determines who chairs each committee.

Legislative Committees page provides links to each committee where you can find member roster, agendas, calendars, archived videos, and committee documents. The committee documents page for each meeting is very important because it provides information that is not linked to the bill pages, including any proposed amendments or substitute bills.

All committees of the legislature hold hearings on bills, with the exception of the Rules Committees in the House and Senate that function differently. During bill hearings, testimony is heard and stakeholders may also "sign in" with a position on a bill. Committees hold an executive session to vote on a bill, where the discussion is only among legislators. All hearings and executive sessions are broadcast live on TVW, and recordings are archived. Find links to live and archived committee videos at the bottom of each bill page.

Use the Committee Sign In page to see who has asked to testify at a bill hearing, and how people are recording positions on a bill. You need to know the bill number, the committee name, and the hearing date (find these on the bill information page).

The Rules Committees operate very differently. These committees determine which bills will move to the floor for a potential vote of the House or the Senate. There are no hearings or public testimony in Rules The Rules Committees meeting times are at the discretion of the Speaker for the House and the Lieutenant Governor for the Senate. The House and Senate have slightly different processes for advancing bills towards a floor vote.

State Budget Information

Citizen's Guide to the Operating Budget

FY 2023-2025 Supplemental Budget to be considered during 2024 Legislative Session

  • Governor Inslee will hold a media event on Wednesday Dec. 13th to announce his supplemental budget proposal. When released, the Governor’s budget will be posted here: https://ofm.wa.gov/budget/state-budgets

WA State Fiscal Info https://fiscal.wa.gov/ provides links to current budget proposals, historical info on past budgets, revenues, and more. Also has budget guides and basics.

LEAP https://leap.leg.wa.gov/index.html has interactive tools that allow review of past and current details, and comparisons

Find Your State Legislative District & State Legislators

Washington State has 49 state legislative districts. Each district is represented by 1 State Senator (four-year term) and 2 State Representatives (two-year terms). That adds up to 49 Senators, 98 House members, and 147 state legislators in total.

Legislative Calendar

Washington State has a part-time Legislature that meets in two-year cycles during the first part of each year. The first day of every state legislative session is the 2nd Monday in January.

In odd numbered years, there is a 105-day session. Also called the long session, this is the start of each biennium budget. The biennial budget is created during long sessions.

In even numbered years, there is a 60-day session - called the short session. A supplemental budget is developed.

Special Sessions - the Governor can also convene a special session for a 30-day period.

  • Agendas, Schedules, Calendars central page listing all meetings of the Legislature
  • Session Cutoff Calendar key deadlines for bills and budgets to move through the legislative process. Please note that the 2024 cutoff calendar is draft until formally adopted at the start of the 2024 session.

Legislative Information Center

The LIC is your resource for information about the Legislature. They provide free classes, online tutorial recordings, and a variety explanatory documents. You can also call them to ask a specific question and they are happy to help you.

Main page with contact information

Classes and Tutorials

Explanatory Documents in alphabetical order

Visiting the State Capitol

TVW For Live Videos and Recordings of State Legislative Meetings

Follow legislative proceedings on TVW.

Videos of bill hearings are linked from the bottom of each bill’s page and from the committee's pages.

News Services for Legislative Developments & Analysis

News Sources to Follow Developments in Olympia

  • Legislative analysis shows on TVW WA’s Public Affairs Network in addition to providing live coverage and archives of all legislative meetings, TVW has shows that go deeper on key issues. Check out Legislative Review for daily and weekly reviews of hot topics, Inside Olympia, and The Impact.
  • Washington State Standard nonprofit, nonpartisan news service.
  • Washington State Wire independent, nonpartisan news service based in Olympia