Get ready…Get set…go!

Published Jan. 21, 2008

Last Monday was the first day of the 2008 legislative session. Legislators have 60 days to try to remedy budget shortfalls and work on bills that need to be made law. This first week of session saw a lot of work happening by advocates for developmental disability issues. On Wednesday there was a Legislative Reception where many advocates and self-advocates spent time informally chatting with their Senators and Representatives. Just prior to the reception, The Developmental Disabilities Council sponsored a briefing session to help people understand the issues and The Arc of Washington State provided a special “Monopoly” board with corresponding talking points cards and one-page information sheets for each issue.

Bills started appearing right out of the starting gate. Some were bills advocates are proposing, others are for issues near and dear to a specific legislator. The Arc of Washington State is tracking each bill, who the sponsor is and where it is in the process.

Some of these bills have already had a hearing. Other bills are or will soon be scheduled. One of the focuses for the DD community this session is ensuring that families have access to help for children with severe behavioral issues. Senate Bill 6448 and House Bill 2863 propose a program to provide a behavioral support team to families in crisis so that the family can work on the issues at home and in their own community. Currently their only real option has been to place their child in one of the state’s Residential Habilitation Centers (RHC). These bills already have some support from the Governor in the budget she released last month. Her allowance for creating this program started with 20 children. Our bills ask for funding for 100 children to start with. Over 70 children have been admitted to an RHC over the last 18 months or so and many more families are in crisis now. A hearing for HB 2863 is scheduled for this Thursday at 1:30 in the House Human Services committee. Contact the Arc of Washington if you would like help learning how to testify in support of the bill at the hearing.

What can you do to help?

Phone calls, emails, letters and of course, personal visits all make a difference. Advocacy Day begins this Wednesday. This first week we will be meeting at The Governor Hotel in the Washington Room (621 South Capitol Way, Olympia, WA 98501) at 10:00 am. We’ll have a review of the issues and what is currently happening until 11:20. We will then break for lunch and head to legislators’ offices where you can drop off information (which you can pick up at the morning meeting). If you have made an appointment ahead of time, you could meet with your legislator personally and share the issues that are important to you.

Change is made by those who show up, so thanks for showing up!

Off and running in Olympia,

Diana Stadden
Arc of Washington State
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator