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Washington’s Congressional Delegation. Top row: Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, and Democratic Reps. Suzan DelBene, 1st District; Rick Larsen, 2nd; Derek Kilmer, 6th; and Pramila Jayapal, 7th. Second row: Democratic Reps. Kim Schrier, 8th; Adam Smith, 9th; Denny Heck, 10th; and Republican Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, 3rd; Dan Newhouse, 4th; and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 5th.

‘Days on the Hill’ will go online this year, widening audience for Puget Sound talks

Folks who care about salmon, killer whales and the Puget Sound ecosystem will get a chance to participate in the annual discussion known as Puget Sound Day on the Hill. But this year the event will be called “2020 Virtual Puget Sound Days on the Hill,” as the talks go online.

Online meetings with Washington’s congressional lawmakers will be held each Friday in June. Putting the meetings online will allow anyone interested to listen to the discussion, which generally focuses on upcoming legislation and funding for Puget Sound. Loved by some and hated by others, the annual trip to Washington, D.C., won’t happen this year.

“For me, the greatest advantage of doing this online is that it opens up the meetings to hundreds if not thousands of people,” said Laura Blackmore, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “The cost of traveling to Washington, D.C, and staying in hotels is expensive.”

The meetings will be trimmed down substantially, to be sure, and they won’t include small-group meetings in which delegates from state and county governments, Indian tribes, environmental groups and others explain their programs and seek specific support. Also missing will be meetings with members of Congress and their staffs from other states as well as separate meetings with top officials from federal agencies focused on natural resources.

The main focus of these upcoming meetings, which require 24-hour-advance registration, will involve discussions with the senators and representatives elected to Congress. Besides the normal funding issues, a major topic of discussion will be anticipated recovery and jobs programs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Denise Ross, executive assistant for the Partnership.

“We want to emphasize how important Puget Sound recovery is and how natural resources can play a role in jobs recovery,” she told me.

Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and Denny Heck, D-Olympia, have agreed to kick off the meetings next Friday at 1 p.m. As of today, participants in the other meetings have not been scheduled, but organizers hope to get three officials for each successive meeting, which will continue at least until the end of the month.

Last year, I joined a delegation of more than 70 people who traveled to Washington, D.C., to share information about Puget Sound. The Democratic lawmakers, most of whom have connections to Puget Sound, met with the Puget Sound delegation as well as a separate group focused on salmon. The Eastern Washington Republicans were not involved, but I would like to hear their positions on Puget Sound.

I don’t know that this year’s meeting will be as effective when it comes to lobbying, but it will be a chance for more people to understand the inner workings of Congress when it comes to funding and legislation.

Here are the blog posts I wrote from last year’s Day on the Hill:

Jon Bridgman, communications manager for the Partnership, said this year’s meeting was pulled together quickly over the past two weeks after the normal meeting was canceled because of the pandemic.

“We are sort of figuring this out as we go, and we can adjust things as needed,” he said.

If the “Day on the Hill” returns to Washington, D.C., next year, considerable thought will be given about how to provide online access, perhaps with a live Facebook feed, Jon told me.

For those interested, a key to the meetings will be to make sure to register 24 hours in advance. For next Friday’s meeting, that means signing up by 1 p.m. Thursday by going to the registration page.

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