During the legislative session, all the legislators across the state are in Olympia five days a week for the entire session duration working on new bills. FCRU has been busy at the capitol lobbying for shared parenting and other family law issues — doing one-on-one meetings with legislators, catching hallway meetings between sessions, sitting in hearings and testifying in committee and floor hearings. Various folks from FCRU and our general community have also come out and joined us on a variety of these activities. This year we got to meet with about 45 legislators to talk about our shared parenting bill and other related issues.
What are these meetings with the legislators about?
Many of the legislators we meet spend time helping review our bill, and move it along the approval process. House Representative Larry Haler is the primary sponsor for our Parental Equality bill HB 1554. House Reps. Brad Klippert and Melanie Stambaugh both have contributed greatly by reviewing and revising line details. A lot of the work we do is simply getting the voice of Washington parents heard, making our issues known, and canvassing for political support.
What were some of the most meaningful moments from the meetings?
The greatest experiences come from meeting the legislators who have either had personal experience or knew someone close who has experienced some of the issues surrounding family law. We were able to connect to them and not only share our stories but to recognize and generate ideas on some of the changes that need to take place. It is relieving to see that there are lawmakers who have lived our lives and can represent our work. On the other hand, there were also those who weren’t keen on the issues or who voiced strong push back as well – and so we see some of the challenges and work ahead of us.
How did these folks all come together to these events?
Many of the folks here are part of various organizations – either professionally in the field or as volunteers in a nonprofit. Kyle, the principal organizer, has reached out through social networks and referrals. A lot of these organizations are focused on a specific issue in family law, or are tangentially related (e.g. social work), and all are loosely affiliated and geographically dispersed. We are just getting started, and see a lot of opportunity to collaborate and work together down the road.
What’s next after this legislative session?
We plan to spend more one-on-one time with individual legislators to work on the issues, set up working groups, and to see whether we can integrate some of the current bills in the pipeline. We’re aiming to push for another bill early in the process, while working on developing our community of volunteers and advocates.