Making Democracy Work®
Local News and Democracy

Recognizing the vital role of local news in our democracyincluding to provide accurate information that enables us to govern ourselvesthe League of Women Voters of Washington believes it is the responsibility of the government to provide support for conditions under which credible local journalism can survive and thrive.

Issue Team Chair: Dee Anne Finken,
 DOWNLOAD the Local News and Democracy Issue Paper
Interested in getting involved with this topic? Contact Dee Anne Finken

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Overview of the 2024 Legislative Session

In 2023, lawmakers passed SB 5199, an important but small step to begin addressing the alarming newspaper crisis that is rocking Washington and the rest of the country. The measure expands a tax preference for newspapers by exempting qualifying publishers from the annual Business & Occupations tax through Jan. 1, 2034.

The impact of the exemption will be minimal: Estimates are The Seattle Times will see savings equivalent to the salaries of three full-time reporters, while smaller dailies, like The Columbian in Southwest Washington, might see savings equivalent to the salary of one reporter. Weeklies might save the equivalent of the salary of a half-time reporter. But it is a start. Moreover, the measure passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support, and looking down the road, lawmakers have indicated they are interested in additional efforts.

Also in 2023, the legislature appropriated  $2.4 million for a new fellowship for early career journalists. The program, operating out of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University, will place eight reporters in newsrooms in underserved communities around the state beginning in 2024 and another eight in 2025. To date, the newspaper crisis has cut newsroom staffing by two-thirds.

For 2024, two measures addressing media literacy and digital citizenship in K-12 education will return. The Senate passed SB 5626 and 5102 last year, but the bills were left in House Appropriations. Both bills align with a key provision of the League’s position on Local News and Democracy: “Media literacy and news education, including support for journalism students, is essential. These opportunities should be expanded in schools and throughout communities.

Below are reports the Issue Chair wrote throughout the 2024 Legislative session. There will be no further reports or action alerts this year.

2024 Local News and Democracy Legislation

Priority Bills

Bills in green are supported. Bills in red are opposed by the League. Bills in black the League is watching.

These bills are not moving forward this session:

SSB 5102
Concerning School Library Information and Technology Programs.
This bill would require each district to have a policy that every student has access to school library information and technology programs via a trained teacher/librarian. Would also require school boards to provide resources to operate such programs. It also would allow smaller districts to employ noncertificated staff if attempts to recruit certificated staff are unsuccessful.Professional medical societies may oppose the bill citing concerns about training. However, psychologists with special training successfully prescribe in five other states and in the military.

SSB 5626 Expanding and Enhancing Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship. This bill would require the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish a program to expand and integrate media literacy and digital citizenship in subject areas in K-12. It also would require the program to support a cadre of teacher trainers within their subject areas to provide professional development to other educators. It also would require OSPI to create a grant program to support curriculum development and integration in media literacy and digital citizenship into subject areas.

Other Bills
Bills in green are supported. Bills in red are opposed by the League. Bills in black the League is watching.

No other bills at this time.

How To Be Involved

  • If you are interested in a particular bill, use the links above to go to the webpage for that bill. These pages include staff summaries and reports including who testified PRO versus CON on the bill. There is also information about how to access videos of hearings that have been held. 
  • Read and take action through the LWVWA Legislative Action Newsletter, distributed each Sunday during the legislative session.
  • You may also express your opinion on legislation with the LWVWA issue chairs. We will take your perspectives under consideration as we determine our support for legislation and prepare testimony. Contact Dee Anne Finken, Local News and Democracy Issue Chair.
  • Another way to be involved is to join the LWVWA Local News and Democracy Committee. Contact Dee Anne Finken for more information or to join.

The League of Women Voters of Washington is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization.
The League of Women Voters of Washington Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. LWVWA Education Fund contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. The League of Women Voters Education Fund does not endorse the contents of any web pages to which it links.

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