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Washington youth organize state lobby day

Washington youth organize state lobby day

By Flannery Winchester

Lindsey Desai has been part of CCL Washington since she was in 8th grade. As the leader of the CCL Youth Lobby Team for Washington state, she has been meeting with state legislators over the last few years, urging climate action. 

Pictured L-R: Veda Nayar, Bridget Yuri, Tessa Dunagan, Rep. Chris Corry’s legislative assistant Gale Sackman, Michelle Williams, Rose Min

Now, she’s graduating high school this spring and wanted to cap off her years of youth activism with — what else? — a little more lobbying!

On Jan. 15, 2024, CCL Washington youth volunteers held an impressive 21-meeting lobby day at the state’s capitol. Lindsey Desai and Jeremy Suzuki took the lead on planning this event.

The 16 students, ranging from 7th grade to 12th grade, began their lobby day at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the state capitol. The youth lobbyists and adult supporters set up a tent on the lawn to check folks in and serve as “home base” for the day. 

After a group photo (above), the youth lobbyists kicked things off with four separate meetings all happening at 10 a.m. They kept up this ambitious pace throughout the day, ultimately meeting with 22 total offices in 21 meetings by the time they wrapped up at 4:15 p.m.

Pictured L-R: Rep. Sam Low’s legislative assistant Mary Wysocki, Eleanor Peters, Jeremy Suzuki, Madeleine Middleton (group leader of CCL Kirkland chapter), and Rep. Sam Low’s office intern Jason

They lobbied on two particular issues: First, a bill proposed by Republican state representatives to partially rebate to Washingtonians funds raised by the Washington state cap and trade carbon emission permit auctions. The auctions raised about $1.3 billion more than expected in 2023, and this bill would rebate part of that excess while maintaining the program’s focus on using hundreds of millions to efforts across the state to reduce emissions. And second, the team informed state legislators about the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Making a big impression

As with any busy lobby day, an attitude of flexibility helped make it a success. Ellie Gittelman, CCL’s co-state coordinator for Washington, shares, “One of our meetings ran late, and so some of us had to rush to the next meeting and take over for some of the others stranded in the late meeting. I was so impressed by my high school partner, Quinn Harper, who led the meeting and rolled with the changes without missing a beat. And this was a meeting with State Senator Mark Mullet, candidate for governor!”

Pictured (L-R): Vihaan Tandon, Lekshmi Radhakrishnan, Ellie Gittelman, Quinn Harper, Veda Nayar

New opportunities arose in the course of the meetings, too. One of the Republican State Reps the students met with mentioned she had a hearing the next day for her bill on water quality. She even invited one of the students, Vihaan Tandon, to testify at the hearing the next day! He wasn’t able to, but the invitation speaks to what an impact these young lobbyists made on their lawmakers.

“I am constantly blown away by the youth — their initiative, their professionalism, their willingness,” says Michelle Williams, co-group leader of CCL Bellevue.  

“Gwen Hanson, who is the adult sponsor of this event and co-leads the state, did a fantastic job of stepping back and letting the youth leaders, especially Lindsey and Jeremy, take the lead,” says Mike Kelly, another co-state coordinator for CCL in Washington. “She was very supportive of them.” 

Pictured L-R: Jeremy Suzuki, Rep. Jenny Graham (R-6), Tessa Dunagan, Michelle Williams

And the lawmakers were impressed with the youth leadership, too! “I loved watching the legislators engage with the youth. They sit up and take notice when there are youth in the room,” Michelle adds. 

That’s in part because “young people will be living with the consequences of our choices far longer” than the older lawmakers they’re meeting with, Ellie points out. This gives young people “a lot of credibility with legislators on climate.”

Takeaways broadcast on TVW

Lindsey and other CCL youth shared their perspectives in this TVW video.

TVW, Washington state’s public access broadcasting arm, made a great video of the students talking about why they held these meetings and what they achieved.

“I was super excited to talk to my state representatives about climate policy and get to hear their thoughts and encourage some collaboration across the aisle,” Lindsey says in the video. 

“I came here to Olympia because I wanted our state to continue pursuing its goals of preventing more catastrophic effects of climate change,” Jeremy adds.

“I think we did change people’s perspectives at least a little bit today,” reflects Carolyn Davis, another one of the youth participants.

At the end of the day, Ellie shares, “I was proud of our democracy and our place in it. It was a great opportunity to lobby, but almost more important, it was an opportunity to empower our youth.”