Huskies on the Hill: A day to lobby for student interests

Huskies on the Hill is a yearly event hosted by the Associated Students of the University of Washington, which gathers students from all three UW campuses to lobby legislators around not only general issues, but specific bills that affect UW students. This year it will take place on Jan. 31. The event is free, transportation will be provided for those that need it, and lunch is also provided. The bus will be leaving the UW Seattle campus at 7:00 a.m., picking up UW Tacoma students at 8:00 a.m, and arriving back into Seattle at around 6 p.m. Students who signed up for the event by Jan. 24 should be sure to attend one of the two scheduled lobby trainings on either Jan. 27 or Jan. 28, as these are mandatory to participate in lobbying.

Shelton Wright, the director of legislative affairs for ASUWT, discussed why the event is important for students to participate in.

“I just think that it’s a great opportunity,” Wright said. “I know a lot of students on campus are passionate about our local issues, so being able to actually make change on a state-wide level — I think that doesn’t really come around too often. And legislators are really moved when a large number of their constituents show up, especially to advocate for the same ideals, so if we got even 300 people or 100 people from all three of our campuses —  which is aiming pretty low — then that still makes a pretty good impact on the things that we care about.” 

The legislative priorities for this lobby day all have bills attached which are currently in the Washington Congress. The primary lobbying focus will be on health care, specifically concerning mental health, a comprehensive K–12 sexual education bill, undocumented student loans, and food and housing insecurity, which is House Bill 1893. 

Wright went into further detail regarding the Huskies’ priorities. 

“These priorities — this isn’t anything especially new — these are things that we’ve been working toward, but sometimes while things are in the house they die and don’t ever get the chance to become a bill,” Wright stated. “But this time around we are trying to take those that died from the last session and the session before and revitalize them.”  

Wright discussed the motion to thank our legislators for HB 2158, then going on to discuss the need for further improvement.  

“We want to increase funding for the Working Connections Childcare Program. Last session’s House Bill 2158 — that’s the Working Connections Childcare work requirement exemption — so basically it exempts those who are earning a bachelors in an advanced degree from the 20-hour workweek requirement and they will still receive the funding. Unfortunately, there is an RCW from last sessions bill that limited it to technical and two-year universities, so we are trying to get it to include four-year universities this year …  The reason that they did not want to include four-year colleges initially was because there wasn’t enough funding for it to do that.” 

Recognizing that this event may seem daunting to students who have never lobbied before, Wright assures students that the finalized legislative agenda will be disbursed at the trainings, and will be simple and easy to read.   Finally, Wright wanted to drive home the accessibility to all UW students to participate in this event. Transportation and food will be provided. “Students will be taken care of.” Wright assures. It will be an all-day event – the bus will be leaving at 8 in the morning.Students will have the option to leave early.  Mid-day there will be a bus that will arrive to take students back from Olympia. And if they need to leave prior then ASUWT has expressed that they are also open to getting U-cars, for students who need to go back. 

Wright concluded by reiterating “We don’t want it to seem like it isn’t something that wouldn’t be able to access.”

Students lobbying for their interests.