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Tue Dec 1, 2020, 08:24 AM

Washington Lawmakers Haven't Figured Out How to Conduct a Floor Debate on Zoom Yet

Washington Republicans and some Democrats who want to perform their willingness to "do something" keep pressuring Governor Jay Inslee to call a special session, ostensibly so lawmakers can hammer out some kind of woefully insufficient COVID-19 relief package.

This impulse sounds good and noble, but it's dumb for a couple reasons. First off, there is an outside chance Democrats will take control of the U.S. Senate in January, which would dramatically increase the chances of a federal bailout. If the legislature meets tomorrow, however, then lawmakers will have to assume no more money will come from the feds and then start filling budget holes by cutting programs people rely on. While making big cuts is a huge kink for Republicans, 2008 taught us that austerity budgeting will lead to a longer, slower, more painful economic recovery, and we should do everything we can to avoid making the same mistake again.

But a major mechanical issue also troubles the prospect of a special session: lawmakers haven't ironed out the process for passing bills remotely yet. So even if they could meet, the quality of the work they could even accomplish remains an open question.

At this point we've all come face-to-completely-frozen-face with the limitations of video conferencing in the workplace. And though the glitchy conferencing tools make remotely meeting in small groups and delivering presentations pretty painless, trying digitally to recreate a statehouse setting presents a big challenge. A lot of lawmaking is relational, and a lot of brisk business gets done in the hallways. And the actual business of debate and voting happens in a giant congregate setting. None of that easily translates to Zoom.

Read more: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2020/11/25/52109917/washington-lawmakers-havent-figured-out-how-to-conduct-a-floor-debate-on-zoom-yet

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