Welcome to the 2015 Legislative Session!
This is a 105-day session (at least!) with funding for K-12 education at the top of the agenda. There are differences of opinion about the need for additional revenue to fund K-12 (through requirements from both the McCleary decision and I-1351, the initiative passed by the voters in November to reduce class size), as well as cost of living adjustments (COLAs), early learning, mental health, foster care, and many other priorities of the Governor and legislators. There is also a big focus on the transportation budget as the legislature was not able to come to agreement on that last session.
In terms of what happened this week – many committees have spent a lot of time on work sessions (briefings on a variety of topics), but public hearings on bills have also started, and the House and Senate budget committees took public testimony on the Governor’s proposed 2015-2017 budget. A lot of bills have already been introduced and there are many, many more to come! The first cutoff for bills to be out of their original committee is February 20th (with the exception of fiscal bills); however, legislators are likely to ‘drop’ their bills as soon as they can, so there is more time to make it through committee. Before a bill is dropped (taken to the code reviser to get the formal version with the sponsors indicated), the bill has to be drafted, sent to the code reviser to get a sign-on sheet (pink for Senate bills, blue for House bills), taken around to get legislators to sign on, brought back to the code reviser to drop in the hopper, and finally, formally introduced in the House or Senate. At that time the bill can be scheduled for a hearing and begin the process of trying to make it through!
At Partners for Our Children, this year we will focus on policies that improve outcomes for children by effectively engaging parents and families, and by improving the systems that work with them. For example, we support funding for continued successful implementation of Family Assessment Response and Performance-Based Contracting, expansion and evaluation of programs that connect parents who have been involved in the child welfare system with those currently entering the system, and more! Check out all of our 2015 policy priorities.
We hope that these weekly updates are helpful. We will cover a number of issue areas, such as child welfare, public assistance, mental health, budget/revenue, and more. Our online Bill Tracker doesn’t include all bills that are introduced, but we try to capture those most relevant to children and families. All bills can be found on www.leg.wa.gov.
Here’s to a good session and thank you for your interest in what’s happening in Olympia!
Public Policy Director