Week at a glance
- Another cutoff! Today is the cutoff for bills to be off the floor of the opposite chamber. For instance, a House bill that has passed the House and continued to progress to the Senate floor must be voted off the Senate floor in order to be signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.
- Final budget being negotiated in earnest. The Senate approved its budget proposal (SB 6002) on Feb. 27 with a 41-8 vote. The House approved its budget proposal (the House budget proposal is an amended version of the Senate budget proposal) on March 3 with a 53-44 vote (one excused). The work is now in the hands of budget writers and negotiators to get final agreement on a compromise.
- Thrive’s efforts to support home visiting funding at the federal level continue. As reported earlier, there is a proposal currently under consideration by Congress that could re-authorize MIECHV funding for home visiting. This proposal is called the doc fix (as in “doctor fix”) because it modifies the way doctors are paid under Medicare. There is an “extenders package” attached to the doc fix that aims to reauthorize federal programs. MIECHV is among the programs included in the extenders package. National partners are saying this is the most promising option to reauthorize MIECHV funding before it sunsets in the fall. Thrive is working in coordination with national and state partners to help increase awareness.
- Opportunity for increased state funding for home visiting. In the House budget proposal, there is funding for home visiting in the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) budget. This funding is intended to enhance home visiting services for mainly families enrolled in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF (under DSHS’s purview). The funding would be concentrated in communities that are highly vulnerable and under-served. It is part of a list of programs the House is suggesting be funded with what is called TANF underspend. The TANF underspend is the amount of money the state underspends in planned expenditures. In the past, the Legislature has often put that money back in the general fund. This year we are seeing a move to try and keep that money targeted at the vulnerable populations.
- ELAC bill has not been revived. As I reported last time, SHB 2282, which seeks to add permanent voting representation for Early Learning Regional Coalition representatives to the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC), did not get voted out of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee by the Feb. 28 cutoff. There was no viable option for it to be amended onto an existing live bill, so it has not been revived.
- Early Start proposal still alive in a complicated state but is still sending an important message about the importance of high-quality early learning. Second Substitute House Bill 2377 is considered “NTIB,” or necessary to implement the budget. This means it is not subject to cutoffs. So potentially anything can happen with this bill until the end of session.
The omnibus Early Start package as conceptualized in 2SHB 2377 has been reconfigured. The elements of Early Start are now intertwined in three different bills: the policy bill; the revenue bill which seeks to help fund a portion of Early Start; and the budget bill where parts of Early Start have been added.
Early Start is a bold proposal that shines the spotlight on the importance of high-quality care for our youngest learners, especially those furthest from opportunity. Right now, advocates are focused on securing funding as the Legislature begins negotiations on the final budget.