2016 Legislative Session Ends!
Published Apr. 6, 2016
The 2016 1st Special Session adjourned sine die (from the Latin "without day", meaning "without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing") on March 29, 2016. It has been an unusual legislative session, partly because they went into special session before they could agree on a supplemental budget, not a usual occurrence for a supplemental session. The budget they finally agreed on held lots of good news for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Below are some budget items and the General Funds – State (GFS) and any federal matching dollars (General Funds – Federal or GFF):
• Individual provider overtime per recent rule from US Department of Labor (HB 1725)
$7.3 million GFS - $9.0 million GFF
• New case managers to increase number of visits, do fatality reviews (SB 6564)
$901,000 GFS - $601,000 GFF
• 31.2 Full Time Employees (FTEs) to comply with caseload growth
$6.2 million GFS - $4.2 million GFF
• 3.3 FTEs for financial eligibility for increased caseloads in Community First Choice
$140,000 GFS - $414,000 GFF
• Funding for greater utilization of DD residential services, acuity changes in clients
$17.5 million GFS - $17.2 million GFF
• Fund existing Parent to Parent program (HB 2394/SB 6329)
• Fund Individual & Family Services Health Care Costs (DDA clients)
$11.2 million GFS - $13.5 million GFF
• Increase reimbursement rate by $10 hr. for RNs & LPNs in the Medically Intensive Care Program
$3.1 million GFS - $3.0 million GFF
• Increase spending authority for DD Endowment Trust Fund
• Create the Office of the DD Ombuds (SB 6564)
• Create the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings program (HB 2323)
• Professional development for classroom paraeducators
$1.75 million GFS
One budget item we were not so happy about was respite funding for families. Although families testified repeatedly, met with their legislators and also sent emails saying they want respite in their community close to home, the final budget only contained respite in Yakima at the state institution there.
• Fund 15 staff and 8 additional planned respite beds at Yakima Valley (RHC)
$834,000 GFS - $833,000 GFF
To see all the budget proposals from the Governor, House and Senate, go to:
Lots of good budget items, how about bills?
The session got off to a running start with more than 40 bills for DD issues, also unusual for a supplemental session. Another rare occurrence was the fact that two bills for the same issue, almost identical except for a “null and void” clause (meaning it dies if no funding is in the budget for it) made it to the Governor’s desk for signature. The Governor signed the House version of the Parent to Parent bill. In Washington State, if a bill is on the Governor’s desk for more than 20 days after the session ends without being vetoed, it automatically becomes law. Thus, both House and Senate versions of the bill became law.
SB 6466, which creates a workgroup to look at the difficulties students have with core services provided when they transfer from a previously attended college, was vetoed by the Governor with 26 other bills, because he feared the legislature would adjourn with no budget. In the last days of the special session, a budget was finally agreed upon and the Governor spent the last few days of it signing bills. The Senate and House both did overrides of the Governor’s vetoes on all 27 bills, so they did become law, just without his signature on them.
HB 2545, the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act passed after five years of trying. This bill bans five of the worst flame retardants (TDCPP; TCEP; Decabromodiphenyl ether; HBCD; Additive TBBPA) in children’s products and furniture, including the first ban in the nation on TBBPA.
The most significant legislation passed this session is SB 6465 which helps protect some of the most vulnerable individuals who have a developmental disability from abuse. The DD Administration (DDA) will identify about 500 clients who are at risk of abuse and neglect. Those people identified will get a case manager with a small caseload of 1 to 40 and they will be visited more than once a year, sometimes with unannounced visits. It will also create a DD Ombuds office to look at allegations of abuse and neglect. Near-fatality reviews will also be a part of their oversight. With this legislation we hope to see fewer abuse cases such as happened to Laura Gohlston and Heather Curtis (see links below).
Important legislation that passed this session includes:
• HB 6564 Do unannounced home visits for vulnerable DDA clients, add near-fatality reviews and create a DD Ombuds (Senator O’Ban)
• HB 2323 Creates the Achieving a Better Life Experience savings program for people with disabilities (Representative Kilduff)
• HB 2394/SB 6329 Puts the Parent to Parent program into statute (Representative Walsh/Senator O’Ban)
• HB 2403 Creates evidence-based information about Down Syndrome to give parents/pre-parents who receive a positive diagnosis (Representative Kochmar)
• SB 6466 Creates a workgroup about transfer students’ core services provided at previously attended colleges (Senator Habib)
• SB 5879 Clarifies what is already in practice, makes technical corrections to the statute (Senator Litzow)
• HB 2908 Creates a joint legislative task force on the use of deadly force in community policing (Representative Ryu)
• HB 1725 Establishes criteria for the number of hours per week DSHS may pay any single provider (Representative Cody)
• HB 2545 Toxic Free Kids & Family Act restricts use of harmful flame retardants in certain products (Representative Van De Wege)
There is one critical bill that did not pass. SB 6483 (Senator Hill) would have clarified state statute to include closed RHCs. In 2005, the legislature passed the Dan Thompson Act which placed in state statute the establishment of a DD Community Trust account in the state treasury that said the net proceeds from the use of excess property at all the RHCs should be deposited into the account. It was to be only used for family support and employment services for people with developmental disabilities. After Frances Haddon Morgan Center closed in 2014, DSHS decided it should not be considered to be in the account because it was no longer an RHC and made plans to sell the property. This was not the legislature’s original intent and this bill would have ensured that even when an RHC closes, it is still part of the Trust.
Unfortunately, at the end of session, some legislators decided they wanted to take the money for the State General Fund and killed the bill. After years of telling DD advocates to find a dedicated funding source for DD services, we did. But as soon as that dedicated source appeared to have some significant funds coming to it, they took it away. We will be back on this issue next session!
Our theme this session focused on Superheroes and we had quite a few! More than 1,200 people attended seven Advocacy Days during the session. We can’t do this without you!
What can you do now?
During the interim, before the next session starts in January 2017, is a good time to meet with your legislators, especially since many are running for re-election. Also attend candidate forums to meet the people who might be representing you next year. In October and November, check with your local chapter of The Arc, with self-advocacy organizations and with parent coalitions to find out when the legislative forums will be held in your area.
Check out our web site at www.arcwa.org and click on the “Take Action” tab.
Read the Olympia Reporter for in-depth news happening in Olympia during legislative session.
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