The Legislative Branch
The Legislative Branch is made up of elected representatives of the 49 Legislative Districts in the state. Each district has one senator and two representatives. The Senate and the House are the two chambers where these representatives meet. They only meet for a short time per year – session begins on the second Monday of January each year and runs 60 days during even numbered years and 105 days during odd numbered years.
You will find all information about the Legislative Branch in Article II of the WA State Constitution. We have what is called a “Citizen Legislature.” Many legislators have jobs outside of the Legislature. That was important to the writers of the Constitution. They wanted the representatives of the people to be people who are aware of what the citizens go through in life. There are Senators and Representatives who are business owners, teachers, nurses, firefighters, bankers, lawyers, and employees of many other industries, along with people who work in other areas of government. They take those first few months of the year to do their legislative work, and then work the rest of the year in their other jobs. Of course, there are also some who are retired or have other income and do not have another job. The Legislature is quite diverse, and the members usually try to work on bills in areas where they are most familiar, sitting on committees where they have expertise.
Legislators’ Power - Passing Laws
Legislators’ power comes from being able to pass laws. They do not have police power, and they cannot make agencies do their bidding if it is outside the law. They can work to change the law, or they can work to change or direct funding to force an agency to do something a certain way, but their power comes during the Legislative Session - during the interim between legislative sessions, no bills can be passed.
The Majority Party Controls the Legislature
One complaint commonly heard is conservatives feel like they are not represented in Olympia, because the majority of both Chambers is ruled by Democrats - they can override the will of the minority in many cases. They clearly have the ability to pass the bills they support and stop the ones they oppose. The truth is, if our representatives are Republicans, we are well represented as they go to Olympia and fight to pass policies that reflect their district’s principles. But they are only three people in a group of 147.
We need more legislators who will vote with us!
That’s why this course is so important. It will require we, the people – enough people – to influence Olympia to make them support the changes we need. There is one rule in Olympia: the ones with the most votes win. We need to work hard to flip districts and gain back the majority.