(Editor: Peter Zimmerman is a citizen advocate on housing, GAU and other issues affecting people living on low incomes. He took six lobbying trips to Olympia this session and continues to work on critical issues. This is his latest legislative report.)
I’ve been working on trying to get people who are low-income, below poverty level, enthusiastic about calling officials and getting involved in the legislative process. Because, you know, the axe is coming down pretty quick. Another week or so in the session, so we’ll see how much gets cut. It doesn’t look good right now.
The feel from Olympia that I got, and this is my own personal opinion, was it’s almost like two kids on either side of a ditch throwing rocks at each other, and they forget, they almost get so engrossed in the rock fight, that they forget what they are fighting about.
Unfortunately the (anti-revenue) Tea Party has been getting all kinds of airplay in the media. That is a shame, because that is just one side of the issue.
I am trying to think positive, but my deep-seated sense of reality is not doing so well.
There is still time to weigh in on critical legislation. Everyone should call their state reps and senators at 1-800-562-6000 and tell them to support adding revenues to the budget to fund GAU. There’s more than 21,000 people in the state who will be left with nothing without it!
The tenant screening laws did not make it through the session but we got further this year than ever before. So, I am already thinking about next year! We’ve located a few chinks in the armor and we are going to work on those. We actually got farther than ever this year, pulling members of the House and the Senate out of session to talk to them. We got a lot more dialogue going out of committee.
Down the road, I think we will achieve our goal of limiting tenant screening fees, removing this barrier for folks looking for rentals. It might take two-three years, but I think it is finally starting to sink in. Even members of the legislature, a lot of them had no idea what this tenant screening issue is about. Then we had Rep. Santos. She had to rent an apartment down in Olympia. She goes, “Oh my God! I could not believe it, I had to get a criminal background check, and I’m a representative!”
So I think this year was good and it was bad. The bad part was it is a short session. At a certain point the legislators are getting deluged with every group coming out of the woodwork down there. I don’t envy the environment, they have all this work to do, and they have all these interruptions, all these groups coming to them.
I think next year will be better. I’m naturally optimistic. Anything worth getting takes effort. It’s not like there is one-stop shopping. It takes phone call after phone call after phone call, or you write letters and write letters and write letters.