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Welcome to In an Auscape! What's an auscape? It's a word my friend Katie came up with that means "The sensation of a second stretching into a minute, a mile, or a year." Is that fresh or what? This newsletter is where I'll describe my (bi)weekly minutes, miles, and years. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
What I'm About
New year, new legislative session! You know what that means: it's time for me to explain the incredible failings of state government. 

In Washington, Virginia, and many other states around the country, our citizen legislature is back in session. In Virginia, this means that over the next 30-46 days (sometimes there's a 15 day "extension" (my head is exploding over the word extension, but okay, that's what they call it)), legislators will hear about thousands of potential new laws, pass a few hundred, fail to hold hearings on about a thousand, and decide that several hundred more are not going to pass this year. This week, I'll write about citizen legislature, and next time, I'll write about why the result of the citizen legislature is a deeply confusing process for actual citizens to be involved in, especially during this unique virtual session.

The initial reasoning behind a citizen legislature, back when our state constitutions were written, was to ensure that "regular people" were able to legislate on behalf of their communities across the state. In Washington, and probably Virginia, though my state history is still murky here, that meant farmers could go to the capital, make laws, and then be back home in time for the main event during farming season. 

Unfortunately, what our citizen legislatures mean today is that you have to be able to have a job that allows you 30-120 days off—or to have no job at all. Do I need to spell out who can make this happen? Or rather, who *can't* make this happen? 

Citizen legislatures almost promise to uphold the status quo because they are, by design at this point, positions held by people who can afford the flexibility of the role. They are paid for their work, but . . . what would your boss say if you said you needed 120 days off? 

In order to change how our state legislature works, we'd have to amend the constitution. As you know, especially if you've been part of the fight for an income tax in Washington, amending the constitution is not easy (to say the least). 
Who I Followed
Amanda Boston
"What kind of economic anxiety is this?" –Amanda Boston, 1/6
Yellow background with text box and words "Outlier Media"
"Our job on election day (and every other day) is to help fill the critical info and accountability gaps in your life." 11/3
Take Action! 
In spite of how difficult our citizen legislature makes it to be active in government, you can get involved! And actually, I really, really, REALLY need your help.

Virginia Domestic Worker Bill of Rights: It's time to make sure that domestic workers can't get fired for being pregnant, and to promise them access to PPE, or recourse if they work for an anti-masker. In order to really get the attention of lawmakers, broad community support, often expressed through petition signers, makes a HUGE difference. I'm working to get hundreds of people to sign this petition, especially if you are an employer of a house cleaner, nanny, or home attendant, and especially especially if you live in Virginia. Don't live in VA? Can you send it to five people who do? Please? 

Reach Out to Reps regarding HB 2152: Some dingus Republican is trying to regulate cash bail out of existence. Hopefully this bill will die in committee, but just in case it doesn't, please reach out to your representatives and tell them this bill needs to die. Find your reps here, and use my email as a sample or copy it completely.

"I’m writing to express my strong opposition to HB2512, a bill that makes posting bail on behalf of others difficult, if not impossible. As I’m sure you’re aware, the cash bail system in the US fundamentally criminalizes poverty and impacts people of color disproportionately.

Ensuring that community bail funds can support the practice of keeping people out of jail as they await trial is crucial—especially during a pandemic. Getting people reunited with their family and community, back to work, and safe from COVID transmission should take priority over how bail is being paid.

As we continue to fight toward abolishing cash bail, I strongly oppose HB2152 and I urge you to do the same."
Pleasure Fix
After quarantining myself for a week, I drove to North Carolina to visit Chrissy and Nathan! Before I arrived, we exchanged long emails about COVID safety and exposure, and now I'm here, and it's so perfect!! We'll make bagels, have backyard hangs with other dear friends, practice yoga, play board games, drink gallons of coffee, gossip about people we know and don't know in common, and do all the other things we've both been missing these past 10 months. 
As you read this: It's warm and sunny, and we're off to go visit the Atlantic.
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Big ups to Ana Alvarez—writer, designer, cat enthusiast, and coffee whisperer—for my logo. Hire her!

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