Legislative Update from Olympia – Week 1

 

Week at a glance

 

  • Getting started. Session officially kicked off on Monday, Jan. 13.
  • Governor’s address nods at priorities now and ahead. Governor Jay Inslee delivered his State of the State address and made brief but notable mentions of early learning including recognition of whole child needs (e.g., it is difficult to educate a homeless, hungry or sick child) and that what happens in the early years impacts a child’s experience down the line in K-12 education.
  • Hearings on governor’s budget proposal. In follow-up to the release of the governor’s 2014 supplemental budget proposal (released in December), this week there were hearings to brief legislators on what the proposal means for various areas of government, such as education.
  • Legislators educated on state agency work and topics of interest. In addition to hearings on the governor’s budget proposal, the first week of session is also typically a time to hear briefings from state agencies and on topics of interest to committee members. For instance, today the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee (S ELK12) received a briefing from the Department of Early Learning (DEL) regarding its work in general. The committee also held a “work session” on home visiting presented by Marcy Miller of Thrive by Five and Laura Alfani of DEL. A work session is a time to dig deeper into a specific topic, when legislators can ask questions or seek further information.

 

Key take-aways

 

    • Important, omnibus early learning bills introduced and receiving early, strong attention. The bills referred to as the Early Start bills – SB 6127 and HB 2377 – are the primary focus of the early learning conversation right now. They build upon work done by Rep. Ruth Kagi (D-Shoreline) in HB 1723, which passed in 2013.

      The bills contain a lot of big concepts, which is why they are referred to as omnibus. Overall, these bills take decisive action to ensure children receive high-quality care and show a clear move to increase dosage by prioritizing programs that offer a full-workday schedule (by layering the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP, and Working Connections Child Care, or WCCC). 

      SB 6127 received a public hearing today, and Kristin Wiggins, representing Thrive by Five Washington, offered testimony in support. Kristin will offer similar testimony on HB 2377 for the public hearing next Thursday.

 

  • Additional bills repeating parts of the omnibus bills are in play. Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) introduced SBs 6067 and 6068 which address adopting a single licensing standards (for child care and ECEAP) and establishing a true 12-month eligibility for WCCC. Both these components are included in SB 6127 and HB 2377. Having the redundancy between these bills is not an abnormal situation. Sen. Billig running these bills allows him to acknowledge and continue discussing the work his Child Care Improvements for the Future Task Force did over the interim.
  • Early Learning Regional Coalition advocacy is making great progress. The ELRCs are working on advancing HB 2282, which modifies the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) to give 10 regional advisors (one from each ELRC) a permanent voting seat on ELAC. HB 2282 has a public hearing in the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee on Jan. 20.

 

 

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