Legislative Update from Olympia – Week 2

 

Week at a glance

 

  • Diverse groups visit Capitol campus. If you have ever been to visit our state Capitol during legislative session you know it is an exciting place. You are likely to see large groups of people walking around with a purpose. It is typical this time of year to see groups of people wearing buttons on their coats, carrying signs, or handing out flyers and information to legislative offices. This week I was in Olympia three days and saw the state physical therapists, bike clubs, and various other groups gathering for lobbying or advocacy days. It is exciting to see such diverse groups speaking up for what matters to them.
    Specific to children and families, the Children’s Alliance’s annual Have a Heart for Kids Day is Feb. 7. Representatives from the Early Learning Regional Coalitions (ELRCs) will participate and treat it as a joint advocacy day for the ELRCs. As a group they will meet with Gov. Inslee’s early learning policy advisor and executive policy director as well as Deptartment of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde to advocate for their issue (permanent, regional representation on the Early Learning Advisory Council, or ELAC) and bill (HB 2282).
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  • Policy merits are the focus of discussion. Policy committees are holding public hearings on a number of bills. A public hearing is when members of the committee are briefed by staff on the background, contents, and impacts of a bill. Then members of the public offer testimony to share their support, opposition, and/or ideas for improvement. Committee members can ask questions.
    During this time of session, legislators, staff, and advocates work to refine bills based on stakeholder input so that the bill can address conceptual elements (e.g., clarifying and/or affirming how significant pieces fit together) and be most effective in implementation (e.g., technical fixes).
    The focus will shift to discussion on fiscal impacts of bills when the first cutoff hits on Feb. 7. This is when bills must be voted out of their policy committees in order to keep advancing through the legislative process and will then go to a fiscal committee for debate and vote if they cost money to implement. Typically bills that will cost more than $50,000-$100,000 to implement will need a hearing and vote in a fiscal committee in order to keep advancing.

 
 

Key take-aways

 

  • Early Start proposal receives good attention in the House. The House version of the Early Start proposal, HB 2377, received a public hearing on Thursday and received strong support from advocates, including law enforcement, parents, DEL, and the Early Learning Action Alliance (our state’s early learning advocacy coalition coordinated by Children’s Alliance). Representing Thrive, I spoke in favor of the bill, emphasizing the high-level message that quality matters — particularly for our most vulnerable children who make big gains in high-quality early learning.
    Particularly noteworthy are the two parents the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP who offered compelling testimony on the importance of serving the most at-risk children in ECEAP and maintaining 12-month eligibility for child care subsidies.
    HB 2377 is scheduled for executive session (i.e., a vote) in the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee on Jan. 30.
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  • Early Learning Regional Coalition advocacy gains momentum – progresses out of the House policy committee. The ELRCs are working on advancing HB 2282, which modifies the ELAC to give 10 regional advisors (one from each ELRC) a permanent voting seat on ELAC. HB 2282 had a public hearing in the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee on Jan. 20. Three representatives from the ELRCs gave very good testimony in support of the bill. Additionally, I testified in favor of the bill on behalf of Thrive. See Molly O’Connor’s blog post about the hearing here.
    Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) introduced an amendment to include a representative from the school-aged care community. The bill (with amendment attached) received a strong, bipartisan affirmative vote (10 yes, 2 no, 1 excused) on Thursday, Jan. 23, which is a positive sign. The bill now goes to the Rules Committee where it will need to be “pulled” to be heard on the floor before the full House.

 
 

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