Quite the week in Olympia! Very rarely has the legislature shut down (for any reason) but that they did on Monday! All hearings were cancelled and very few people were around the capitol. On Tuesday things started picking up a bit, with 8:00 hearings cancelled but others proceeding, and by Wednesday, all was just about back to normal. By Thursday the rain had come, much of the snow was gone, and hearing rooms were once again filled with people interested in various bills. Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen all over again next week!
Feb. 22nd marks the first cut-off of the session —- the day bills must be out of the original policy committee or they die (again, remember while this is generally true, there are ways to keep ‘dead’ bills alive, including by amending them onto a living vehicle!). Prior to passage, many bills are amended in policy committees to clarify language, remove or reduce costs, address duplication with other bills, mitigate opposition, or other!
As of today, many, many, many bills are passing out of policy committees and many, many, many have fiscal implications. Sadly, we are hearing very loudly that there really isn’t any money. Sigh. So… unfortunately it is very likely that a number of bills will either die in the policy committee or in their respective fiscal committee.
With the economy doing well (for the time being!) it is hard to understand why there is ‘no money.’ The short answer is that to maintain what we are doing and fund some ‘must haves,’ we need more revenue coming into the state to pay for maintenance and what is determined essential. Hopefully the March revenue forecast will be extremely positive. Even if it is, it’s hard to know if revenue will be available for important bills we are following, such as funding for a supported model of parent child visitation, expanding Parents for Parents program, increasing the Behavioral Rehabilitation Services rate, children’s mental health, and more. A lot can happen in two plus months, but, at this point, the budget situation is a major challenge.
More on amendments….. as mentioned previously, many bills are amended before being voted out of the policy (or fiscal) committees OR off the floor of the House or Senate! On the tracker we have attempted to indicate if a bill has been amended. For bills Partners for Our Children is more involved with we will (eventually) indicate what the amendment(s) did and how the bill changed. Apologies that we have not been able to do that to date. If you have questions please let us know!
With next week being cut-off week, fewer new bills will be introduced and more bills will be amended prior to passage. There will also be a big push to have bills heard in the original house’s fiscal committee. The cut off for bills to be out of the fiscal committees is March 1st… one week later. So much to do in such a short period of time!
We hope you are using the Partners for Our Children bill tracker (updated on Fridays). Please let us know if you have questions, concerns, by contacting Nicole Sadow-Hasenberg, Communications Manager, Partners for Our Children.