The ASUW Office of Government Relations (OGR) has canceled its annual student lobbying day, Huskies on the Hill, due to poor weather conditions. The event was scheduled to take place Monday, Feb. 11 with more than 180 students meeting with 91 legislators in Olympia.
Each year the OGR organizes a day where UW students can go to the state Capitol in Olympia together to speak directly with lawmakers on the policies that would affect them most. This year’s Huskies on the Hill involved graduate and undergraduate students from each of the three UW campuses.
Priorities of the ASUW’s 12-item agenda include fully funding the State Need Grant, expanding mental health services for veterans, improving campus accessibility for students with disabilities, expanding support for student parents, and reducing barriers for sexual assault prevention and care.
The OGR’s approach to lobbying, which they feel is most effective, was to have students find an item on the agenda they could connect to a personal anecdote to share with lawmakers. Abby Talkington, legislative programming coordinator with OGR, explained this method makes the perspective of the students more memorable to legislators.
Now, with Huskies on the Hill canceled, the opportunity for students to lobby with their peers is in flux.
“It’s just weird, you know, everything is up in the air because of the snow,” Talkington said. “The main takeaway is we’re doing the best we can and trying to be creative during this long budgetary session.”
The Legislature meets each year beginning in January with longer sessions in alternating years to write the state’s two-year budget. Talkington and the OGR are considering rescheduling a smaller group later in the session or organizing to bring smaller groups of students down multiple times during the remainder of the session to testify on behalf of individual bills.
Finding the silver lining, Talkington said the cancellation “gives us a little bit of flexibility to be creative.” But, she said, as the quarter goes on, “It’s turned into a bigger and bigger ask for students to go all the way down to Olympia.”
The biggest barrier to simply rescheduling the day as planned is that the OGR had meetings between undergraduates and 91 legislators (out of 147) that would all need to be rescheduled. This does not include the meetings being taken by graduate students through the Graduate & Professional Student Senate, which puts the total number of meetings over 100.
The decision to cancel the lobby day was made Thursday night, despite the OGR hearing a willingness from some students to attend despite the conditions and the charter buses being equipped with snow tires, Talkington said.
Had the OGR waited beyond Thursday to cancel, it would have provided a significant financial impact, given Huskies on the Hill uses a majority of the office’s budget each year, according to Talkington.
“However, we did lose a lot of hours of labor,” she said, explaining the event had been in planning for three months.
Looking ahead, the OGR is unsure what form its student-involved lobbying will take this session, or when. But key to any approach they take, Talkington said, “is to put student voices at the forefront.”
Reach Legislative reporter Devon McBride at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @DevonM98
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