Welcome to Week 12 of the 2015 Legislative Session!

Not surprisingly, the recently-released House and Senate Budgets have been the primary focus of the week. Fortunately, there are a number of items included in one or both of the budgets that relate directly to priorities we’ve highlighted this session, such as:

  • $1.25 million to begin implementation of Performance-Based Contracting (PBC)Legislation passed in 2012 requires the Children's Administration at DSHS to contract with a 'Network Administrator' that will administer, through Performance-Based Contracts, family support services to children and families involved in the child welfare system. Performance-Based Contracts should provide a better way to determine if these services are effective. The first Network Administrator is being implemented in Spokane.
  •  $75,000 for the Dependency Court Improvement planning process – The courts play a major role in the lives of child welfare-involved families. Judicial training, the length of time a judge is on the dependency court rotation, working as a team, and resolving cases early could lead to increased safe reunifications and better outcomes for children. This process will result in a plan to test these concepts, which will be brought back to the legislature.
  • Funding to implement extended foster care for the final group of youth aging out of foster care – It’s been several years of hard work by many advocates to implement a federal law addressing youth aging out of care, but this funding would allow youth with a medical condition to stay in foster care until 21 years old. This would be the 5th and final group of youth to be included.  (Note: the amounts differ in the budgets, but both include funding.)
  • The creation of the Office of Homeless Youth Programs within DSHS – This would create a dedicated office to address the persistent and growing problem of youth homelessness.  
  • Funding for Home Visiting Programs – These home-based programs are proven to improve outcomes for women with young children.  
  • Significant funding for quality early learning – Quality early learning is imperative to level the playing field for children.  
  • … And more!

Unfortunately, there are many critical services and supports that did not get funding in one or both of the budgets – there were some cuts to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) grants, and neither budget restored the 15% grant cut from 2011. But, with both bodies adopting a budget, the challenging discussions can truly get underway.

So how did the budget proposal process go? First, the House released their budget last Friday, but they waited until this past Monday to hear it. After accepting 43 amendments, it was passed out of Appropriations and eventually on the House floor along party lines – as in, the Democrats voted for it, and the Republicans voted against it.

On the Senate side, the Republicans released and heard their budget on Tuesday, passed it out of Ways and Means (along party lines) on Wednesday and had a very lengthy discussion of it into the wee hours this morning. In the end, roughly 60 amendments were brought up, primarily by the Democrats, but very few passed. Since the procedural move to allow the budget to be voted on didn’t get the necessary votes, the Senate will reconvene on Monday and likely pass the budget at that time.

What’s next? Budget negotiations! But there are many differences between the House, Senate, and Governor’s budgets that will need to be resolved – hopefully, but likely not realistically – by the end of the legislative session on April 26th.

In the meantime, you can track the latest updates to bills on our Bill Tracker.

Questions or feedback on our policy updates? Don’t hesitate to email us at info@partnersforourchildren.org. Also, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates on our work during the legislative session and throughout the year.

Have a good weekend!

Laurie Lippold

Public Policy Director

Please note:  A budget chart delineating what the House, Senate, and Governor’s budgets do with respect to a number of items related to children and families will be posted on the POC website soon.