There are many new ways of doing things in this time of COVID, including a virtual legislative session, and, all in all, it seems like we are adjusting! 

As is generally the case, last week flew by. All meetings, hearings, floor action, you name it, were conducted remotely. For the most part, all went well, with a few kinks to work out. Speaking of kinks, we’re sorry that we didn’t get this update out last Friday. Please look for them every Friday during session.

One piece of good news in 2021 is for people who were unable to come to Olympia to meet with their legislators or testify or attend an advocacy day now may be able to participate… without having to deal with traffic, parking, snow, taking time off from work and other barriers!  We want to share a blog article about how to participate during this unusual time.

The fact that session is virtual means that there will be an effort to limit the number of bills, likely the length of testimony, and the time allotted for committee meeting time. That said, a number of bills have already been introduced, heard, and scheduled for this week. The Governor’s budget was introduced in mid-December and heard in the fiscal committees last week. 

The first cut-off is the policy cut-off on February 15th and the fiscal cut-off is Feb. 22nd. These deadlines are followed by the cut-off for bills to be out of their house of origin. Reminders about the various cut-offs will be included in these updates as they approach!

The bill room is physically closed, but they continue to provide very valuable information; visit www.leg.wa.gov. It is a fabulous resource, as is TVW: www.tvw.org.

We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge what has been happening in our country and state since the end of the 2020 session. 2020 Sine Die coincided closely with the Washington state Stay Home Order. Since that time children, youth, and families have faced many additional challenges and continue to do so. 

As a country and in many of our institutions, the focus has belatedly turned to an examination of the role many of us have played in the perpetuation of racism, racist policies, and practices. At Partners for Our Children, we are committed to becoming an anti-racist organization and promoting policies that address long-standing issues such as racial disproportionality in child welfare and other systems. The connection between child welfare involvement and poverty is undeniable, which leads us to a greater focus on services and supports that address the basic needs of children and families. (By the way, Partners for Our Children has a new brief about the relationship between poverty and neglect and child welfare and you can read it here.)

Washingtonians are dealing with mental health issues and substance use disorder in greater and greater numbers, which also have an impact on child welfare involvement. We are working on multiple levels to address the behavioral health workforce and service system and will do our best to cover the bills/budget items that relate to children, youth, and families.

There is so much to do! The 2021 session is a long one (105 days). And, the focus on racial equity and anti-racism needs to stay front and center for this session and many sessions to come. 

Thank you for being part of the work. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you are looking for a bill and don’t see it in the weekly update or if you see an error. We welcome feedback. Just email Nicole.

 Here’s to a good session. Be safe and stay well!