Want to keep track of all the climate legislation being considered in Olympia? Thanks to longtime Carbon Washington supporter Thad Curtz, that’s now easy.
Curtz has created a blog called “Climate at the Legislature.” It includes a detailed page about each bill (easily found via search), calendars for hearings and other events, and a host of “push” features, including emails and calendar updates.
Curtz retired after 35 years on the faculty of Evergreen State College, where he taught literature and developmental psychology. In addition to Carbon Washington, he supports Audubon, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and other organizations.
Carbon Washington’s Bill Boyd talked with Curtz about how and why he set up the blog:
CarbonWA: Thad, how’d you get the idea for this?
Thad Curtz: One of my state representatives — Beth Doglio — invited constituents to come to a meeting about what was coming up in the session. She wanted to do more to keep people up to date about what’s going on in the legislature. CarbonWA’s Greg Rock was also saying we need something to help grassroots people track and summarize bills. I had done a lot of work on websites for political candidates and nonprofits, so I set up shop to make it happen. This seemed like a good way to be useful.
CarbonWA: How did you decide what to include?
TC: I’ve known how to use WordPress for quite a long time. I did administrative work for a local news blog here in Olympia. So I knew how to set up the infrastructure.
With regard to the content, I figured the audience would want to know what bills have been introduced, and what’s happening to those bills — are there hearings scheduled, what happened in the hearings, and what’s going to happen next? I also try to convey what each bill says, why it matters, what’s it really about, why someone who cares about climate issues should worry about this bill (or not), and what you might want to tell your legislator.
This is really intended for individual citizens who are concerned about the climate. It doesn’t include everything a professional lobbyist would want to know.
CarbonWA: How often do you update the blog?
TC: I have worked on it pretty much full time since a couple of weeks before the session started. I’ve now summarized about 50 bills on the site. I’ve signed up for all the various notifications the legislature offers to help lobbyists keep track of what’s going on. I get a lot of email from different committees – here’s our schedule, here’s what we did today.
There are two sides to the work. One involves a whole lot of little fiddly stuff. Such and such got scheduled for a hearing. Keeping track of when hearings are postponed and rescheduled. Making entries, correcting errors.
The other side involves deeper, more focused work. When a bill comes along, I read the bill, look up other bills that it references, and work to summarize the bill in an accurate and clear way. Sometimes I can do that in a couple of hours: sometimes it’s more complicated.
In a lot of ways, that involves skills that I used as a college teacher, like doing research and trying to explain things clearly. I trained as a literary critic, so I’m interested in what words on the page actually mean. Explaining the bills is the kind of work that I have a lot of practice at and enjoy doing.
CarbonWA: What kind of response are you getting?
TC: Something like 80 people have signed up to get the updates. I hope more people will sign up. I’ve gotten some compliments — people I know who are interested in climate issues here in Thurston County have told me it’s great.
CarbonWA: Do you plan any additional features?
TC: There are getting to be a lot of bills, so I just created a page that sorts them by what kind of progress they’re making. It shows which ones have had a hearing in the House or Senate. Pretty soon we’ll show which have been voted out of committee and which are moving forward — vs. those that aren’t going anywhere this session.
You can visit Curtz’ blog at waclimateleg.info. You’ll also find it under the “Legislature” menu at the top of the CarbonWA home page (carbonwa.org).