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Virtual Advocacy During the 2021 Legislative Session

Virtual Advocacy During the 2021 Legislative Session

The resources on this page can help you connect with your legislator's office during the 2021 Washington State Legislative Session to plan a virtual meeting that works with your schedule.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Washington State Legislative Session will be held largely remotely, with the Capitol closed to the public in deference to public health guidelines. While WSMA's government affairs team will continue to advocate for the house of medicine in this new virtual setting, there's still no substitute for physicians connecting directly with their local legislators. The experience and knowledge of physicians can provide critical context for lawmakers as they consider policy changes that impact the practice of medicine.

If you have questions, email Alex Wehinger at alex@wsma.org

FAQ on Meeting with Your Legislators

How do I know who my state legislators are?

Use the Legislature's District Finder to identify your state legislators. Be sure to enter your home address. Make sure the preferred district type is legislative (you can also use this feature to look up your congressional representatives). Once your district is located, the names of three state legislators will appear: one state senator and two state representatives.

Where can I find contact information for my state legislators?

The Legislature's website features a directory for Washington state senators and a directory for Washington state representatives. Legislators are listed in alphabetical order by last name. These directories also include links to the legislator's website, their contact information, party affiliation, leadership positions, and the committees the legislator serves on.

Alternatively, a roster of all House and Senate members is available, along with their contact information and their legislative assistants.

How should I reach out to my state legislators to request a meeting?

Email is the preferred method of communication during session. Send your meeting request to your legislator and be sure to ‘cc' their legislative assistant. These assistants keep legislators' schedules, so your odds of getting a meeting will be increased.

Make sure the subject line of the email can clearly be identified as a meeting request. If you are a constituent, include that too as legislators make every attempt to connect with folks in their legislative district. You may also include the topic of the meeting – if you are reaching out to discuss WSMA's 2021 legislative priorities simply put ‘WSMA priorities.' If you are reaching out on a specific issue, name it.

  • Example subject line: Physician constituent meeting request / WSMA priorities

The body of the email needs to include six things:

  • Your name/affiliation and contact information
  • Whether you are a constituent (you may want to include your address, so the office can confirm you are a constituent).
  • A request for a virtual meeting with your legislator
  • The topic of the meeting
  • A timeframe for the meeting (e.g., "in the next two weeks")
  • Your availability (legislators will have very strict schedules during session and while their offices will work with you to find a date/time that works for all parties, if you know you are widely available on Tuesdays or during lunch hours, it can be helpful to share that information).

If helpful, please review and/or use the following email template when contacting your legislators:

Subject line: Physician constituent meeting request / WSMA priorities

Dear Senator/Representative [NAME],

Hello! My name is [NAME]. I am a physician at [NAME OF ORGANIZATION] and your constituent. I am writing in the hopes of scheduling a virtual meeting with you in the next few weeks. As a member of the Washington State Medical Association, I would like the opportunity to share our 2021 legislative priorities including:

  • Medicaid primary care, pediatric, and behavioral health rate reimbursement adjustment
  • HB 1196: Telemedicine
  • SB 5229: Health equity continuing medical education
  • SB 5169: PPE reimbursement
  • Scope of practice

I know that schedules are very packed, and I will do my best to accommodate your schedule, but I am generally available on [DAYS/TIMES]. You can reach me at [EMAIL] or [PHONE NUMBER].

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

When should I reach out to my state legislators for a virtual meeting?

As soon as possible. Due to the nature of a virtual session, it may take longer to get a virtual meeting scheduled with legislators as their offices will be handling a high volume of requests. Ideally, your virtual meeting will take place during the legislative session, which runs from January to April.

In the meantime, you may let your legislator know your stance on pending legislation by emailing articles, responding to WSMA's calls to action, or sharing your related personal experiences. Please remember to be respectful to legislators and their staff during these interactions, particularly in terms of the number of inquiries or information sharing emails you share. No spamming!

When should I expect a reply?

Be patient. If you haven't received a response within one or two weeks, don't be afraid to follow up to inquire about the status of your meeting request. Email Alex Wehinger at alex@wsma.org for assistance.

What will the meeting format look like?

All legislator meetings with the public will be conducted virtually. Legislators will use Microsoft Teams and/or Zoom. The legislator's office will provide connection details, so you do not need access to your own account to meet with your legislators.

If you have concerns about broadband capabilities, legislative offices may also schedule a phone meeting if you let them know that is preferred.

Most meetings during session last 15 minutes, and legislators may have back-to-back virtual meetings, so they will need to stay on schedule.

If your legislator is unable to meet directly, they may request a member of their staff meet with you on their behalf. Their staff member will relay what was discussed to the legislator.

How can I prepare for this meeting?

Check out these resources:

  • Learn more about the top issues for physicians during the 2021 session by reviewing WSMA's issue briefs. We recommend reading the issue briefs before the meeting so you're versed in the subject matter. The issue briefs can also be shared with your legislator after the meeting as a follow up to your conversation. View WSMA’s 2021 legislative agenda.
  • Attend the 2021 WSMA Legislative Summit on Feb. 9 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. WSMA's government affairs and policy team will share information about our priority issues, as well as provide a general legislative update. Registration is free for all WSMA members.
  • The WSMA's Legislative and Regulatory page includes an archived webinar that provides an overview of WSMA priority issues, the state budget outlook, and pending legislative issues for the 2021 session.
  • The Washington State Legislature also has information on effective participation, how a bill becomes a law, and the legislative process.

What should I discuss?

  • Introduce yourself and share brief background information.
  • Explain the purpose of the meeting and your connection to WSMA.
  • Pick two or three of WSMA's priority issues to discuss (remember that you only have 15 minutes)
    • Share why those issues are important to you: how they will impact you, your patients, your practice, and/or your profession.
    • Personal anecdotes can be very effective.
  • Leave some time for your legislator to ask questions. Building a rapport with your legislator is important; think of the meeting more as a conversation than a presentation.
  • Offer to be a resource in the future to your legislator and thank them for their time.

What do I do after I have a virtual meeting with my state legislator(s)?

  • After you have met with your state legislators, share your experience with Alex Wehinger at alex@wsma.org. We'd love to hear about how your meetings went.
  • Follow up with your legislator with a "thank you." You are establishing a relationship, and a thank you note will go a long way. A thank you email is also an opportune time to share WSMA's issue briefs or other supporting material on the subjects you discussed with your legislator.

Other Advocacy Opportunities

In addition to meeting with your state legislators, you may consider other advocacy opportunities that are typically limited by your ability to travel to the Capitol. The Legislature has provided the below resources on how to provide testimony during a committee hearing and "sign-in" on a bill. These instructions may be subject to change as the Legislature navigates these processes in the virtual setting.

Committee hearings and floor debate will be broadcast live and archived for review on TVW.

Virtual testimony

  • You have the opportunity to provide written testimony, state your position on a bill, or register to testify remotely via videoconference by registering at the Legislature's committee sign-in page.
  • The Legislature provides instructions for remote testimony.
  • Be sure to review WSMA's tips for testifying at a public hearing.
  • Note that registering to testify does not guarantee you a chance to speak or speak at specific times. Time constraints, technical issues, changes to committee schedules, etc. could affect your ability to testify.

Bill sign-ins

  • Signing in on a bill being heard in a committee is a great opportunity to signal your support or opposition on pending legislation.
  • Sign in via the Legislature's committee sign-in page. Instructions are provided after you select the type of committee.

Learn more about participating in committee hearings.

Join or renew your membership today!