Week six: Cut-off week

Today, February 22nd, is the first cut-off of the 2019 session. Today is the day that bills must be out of their original policy committee or they die.

Committees have been spending a lot of time this week hearing and passing (primarily, passing) bills. Fiscal committees are now bracing for what is coming their way! Many, many, many policy bills have a fiscal impact that will need to be decided upon.
While this was a very busy week, it also seems a bit less so than previous years. Many (most?!) committee chairs have been doing executive action along the way so that the last few days before cut-off haven't been as frenzied as is often the case.  Usually legislators and staff are working around the clock to be ready for long days and sometimes nights of exec'ing.
The big focus now, however, is on getting bills heard in the fiscal committees...  
So, what are the chances a bill will get a hearing and then exec'd out of House Appropriations or Senate Ways and Means? There are always a number of bills that make it through the policy committee and then die in the fiscal committee. But this year may be a year we see a higher percentage of bills dying after the policy committee passage. Why? Well, there were A LOT of bills introduced, heard and passed. There just isn't enough time to hear and exec all of the bills that came out of a policy committee. 
Even more challenging this year is the budget situation. There isn't money to pay for much at all and sooo many bills have a fiscal impact. Simply put, while we have a good revenue stream, we just don't have enough to address the cost of doing what we have been doing, plus adjusting for caseload growth, plus paying for 'must haves' such as the collective bargaining agreement(s), school employees benefits, and behavioral health services required as a result of a court case, plus taking care of other priorities of legislators and the Governor. In order to address the shortfall, the legislature will either need to make cuts or raise revenue... and possibly some of both. (We don't want to be alarmists and definitely don't have a crystal ball but the outlook isn't great budget-wise).
The upcoming week will be a tense one as everyone will be vying to have their bill(s) heard and passed by the house of origin fiscal committee. The fiscal committee cut-off is March 1. And, not to pour salt into the wound, but in addition to all of the bills with a fiscal impact, many items are solely budgetary.  They don't need a bill, they just need to be included in the budget. An example of this is funding for Strive, a supported parent child visitation program (for families involved in the child welfare system). Efforts are underway to get money for the expansion of the Strive model through a 'proviso' in the budget. Passing a bill related to Strive isn't necessary, but getting funding for its expansion is!  It can feel like budget-only items are more susceptible to getting lost as there isn't a bill to rally around, and nothing to track through the process. 


Budget provisos can be done up to the final agreement on the budget, which means there is a lot more time for decisions about budget-only items. And that's the good news! A revenue forecast will happen on March 20th, so keep your fingers crossed that our economy continues to do well and we have a very positive forecast!
Just a reminder, the tracker will indicate if amendments were made prior to a bill coming out of committee, but, to date, we have not written up the details of the substitute version of the bills.  Once we get through cut-off we hope to do this... We will also indicate which bills are still alive and which are not.


We hope you are using the Partners for Our Children bill tracker (updated on Fridays). And as always, even more information can be found by going to leg.gov.wa
Please let us know if you have questions, concerns, by contacting Nicole Sadow-Hasenberg, Communications Manager, Partners for Our Children.