This is a lengthy post, but I wanted to tell the complete story of my experience in calling Senator Ericksen’s office on March 17th, and March 20th. My story is below:
As a constituent, I contacted Senator Doug Ericksen’s office at about 12:00 noon on Friday, March 17th, to ask about an amendment I heard that Senator Ericksen had proposed to HB 1001, which was scheduled for a Senate Energy, Environment, and Telecommunications Committee meeting on March 21st.
I spoke to a female (I chose not give her name here for the purposes of this post) staff member in Senator Ericksen’s office, explaining that I heard that Senator Ericksen proposed an amendment to HB 1001 that related to state aquatic lands and the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.
She responded, “I don’t have any access, I’m learning this from you.” She added that all she knew was that it is scheduled for a hearing on March 21st, and she added that it’s common practice to have striking Amendments or to amend bills while those are in committee, so it was possible, but it’s “usually not things they [legislators] share with the public.”
So, then I started to say to her “as a constituent, how can I find out if…” and she interrupted my question and said:
“If the striker passes then it will part of the bill language.”
I told her, yes, I understood that, but asked how can I find out from my Senator, or through her, if there is, in fact, an Amendment, and what the Amendment states.
Her response was to say “again they don’t always share that stuff with the public.” She explained that it might be “being worked-on” (at that time when I called) and there’s not a copy online, so she didn’t know. She said she could try to see/check.
I asked her if I could give her a message for Senator Ericksen about that Amendment. She said “of course.”
I started to relay my question to her which was “I wanted to find out on HB 1001, if Senator Ericksen has offered an amendment relating to the Cherry Point…she interrupted me and said, “I would look into that for you.” I said, “pardon” and she responded, “I just told you I would look into that for you.” She said she would talk to staff and see if there was anything written up or that can be shared. She said “I don’t know but I’d be happy to look into it.”
I said okay and asked if she could still give the senator the comment I had been trying to tell her. She said “sure.”
So, I started again and said “On bill HB 1001…she interrupted me to say “I know what the bill number is,” and that she was looking right at it. I apologized, saying I was just trying to be detailed for the message.
I resumed relaying my message to her saying, that as she and staff are checking on the Amendment, if my understanding is correct that Senator Ericksen has proposed an amendment relating to the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, impacting the Lands Commissioner decision on the 45-acre cutout, that I am strongly opposed to him doing that. I said I would like to give her my phone number so she could let me know what she finds out from staff on the Amendment in question, and she let me know she had my number. That was the end of our call. I did not hear back from her that day.
Yesterday, March 20th, after still not hearing anything back since speaking with Senator Ericksen’s staff person last Friday, I contacted Ericksen’s office around midday. The same female staff person I spoke with on Friday answered. I told her I was following up to see if she had found out anything about the Amendment to HB 1001, that I had heard that Senator Ericksen proposed. She said, “I still haven’t seen anything,” and then put me on hold to check with staff. She came back on and started looking on the legislature website for it, and I told her that I had looked on the website earlier and did not see anything about the Amendment. She said she talked with staff and they said that’s where it would be.
I asked her if it would be normal protocol to simply ask Senator Ericksen about the Amendment since he proposed it. Her response: “Senator Ericksen doesn’t know more about poking through the website than staff does.” I guess she didn’t understand that my question was asking if she could simply ask Senator Ericksen for information about the Amendment, not asking the senator about the website.
She put me on hold again.
She came back on to say she had looked all through the website and the Amendment was not online. She added that she would check with the Committee Clerk to see what’s going on with that. She asked my phone number. I said I would give my number to her, and I asked her if she would help me get the Committee Clerk’s name and number, too.
She answered, “No, just give me your number and your name and I’ll call her.”
I gave her my name and number.
Then I asked again if she could please give me the Committee Clerk’s number. Her response: “I’ll call her for you. You don’t need to be calling her…I’ll call you right back.”
I told her that I was asking her that question for future reference. She responded, “There’s no reason you need to be calling the Committee Clerk. You can work through this office. If she wants to call you I’ll have her call you.” She told me she would call the Committee Clerk right then and see if she can find where the copy is, and she added that the Committee Clerk’s information is online so I could find it somewhere there. I explained to her that I was not trying to be rude, but that I thought…she interrupted, saying, “I’m not trying to be rude either, I’m trying to take care of this for you.”
I said that I understood that, and she said, “Let me put you on hold.” She came back on after about what seemed like about 10 seconds and said something I couldn’t quite hear, but it sounded as though she had called the Committee Clerk who didn’t answer. She told me she would keep trying and she would figure it out and would call me back. She never called me back the rest of the day.
Shortly after that conversation, I decided to call a senator’s office who was a member of the Senate Energy, Environment, and Telecommunications Committee, to ask them for the Committee Clerk’s number. I called Republican Senator Shelly Short’s office since she is on the committee. I asked her office staff person who answered, if they could help me find the Committee Clerk’s phone number and a possible name. Immediately, I was told sure, and after about 1 minute they found it, and gave me the name and number.
I waited 2 to 3 hours, to see if I would hear back from Senator Ericksen’s office since the staff person had told me she would get “right back to me.”
Not wanting to wait any longer since it was getting closer to the end of the work day, I called the Committee Clerk and asked about the Amendment. She did not know anything about it, and suggested I might also try contacting the Committee Coordinator, as that person may know. I asked her if it was too late to send in an email comment to be considered in the meeting materials (by the Senate Committee members) as my official testimony regarding HB 1001 scheduled on the committee’s March 21st Agenda, since I could not attend the committee hearing on March 21st, at 10:00 AM. She said “yes,” I could send that, and she suggested I send a copy also to the Committee Coordinator. She gave me the Coordinator’s name, phone, and email address.
After I finished my call with the Committee Clerk, I checked again on the legislature website, under HB 1001, and saw that finally, the Striking Amendment numbered, S-2118, had been added under the bill information. Then, I added that to my written comment and sent that email comment to be considered by the senate committee members as testimony on HB 1001 and the Amendment attached to that bill. I was able to reference the specific amendment number (S-2118) in my comment to the committee members.
In the comment I had emailed to Senator Ericksen about an hour prior to sending my comment to the committee members, I was not able to include that Amendment number and specific language. I had to describe it generally, according to what I had learned from some people who first brought it to my attention.
As I write this post, it is now nearly two hours after today’s scheduled 10:00 AM Senate Energy, Environment, and Telecommunications Committee meeting, and I have still not received a call back from Senator Doug Ericksen’s office. I can only conclude that the treatment I received by Senator Ericksen’s staff both on Friday, and yesterday, to be obstructive to a constituent trying to find out more about a piece of legislation (the Amendment) proposed by the senator himself.