Welcome to the 2016 Legislative Session!
It's hard to believe that the session has begun and the first week has flown by. Many new bills have been introduced, committees are also hearing bills from last session, the Governor's budget was heard in the Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees - the pomp and circumstance that accompany the first week have come and gone.
This is a short session, 60 days, as opposed to the odd-year sessions, which are 105 days (without special sessions!). 2016 is a big election year, and many are speculating that the session will end on time, or close to on time, as legislators who do have a race want to start campaigning sooner rather than later. There are, however, some major challenges facing the legislature this session: McCleary, Charter Schools, I-1366 (passed by the voters in November), paying for the wildfires, addressing Western State Hospital issues, and more. Additionally, there are a number of programs, services, and efforts that legislators want, which require resources. While the hope is we won't be looking at cuts to existing programs, there are budget constraints that make new investments difficult and highly competitive.
With respect to the session calendar, the first cut-off (for bills to be out of the policy committee of origin) is February 5th. That means that, between now and the 5th, bills need to be heard, possibly amended, and voted on by the committee. If it's a bill that has a fiscal impact, it will then go to the budget committee, where it has to be out by February 9th. Bills must be out of the house of origin by February 17th. That is a lot to have happen within roughly one month. So, ready or not, the session has begun, is in full swing, and will go by extremely quickly!
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