The End of the 2016 Legislative Session?

Published Mar. 15, 2016

The End of the 2016 Legislative Session?

What is happening?

The Supplemental budget year is supposed to be a short legislative session (it is supposed to finish in 60 days). March 10th should have been “Sine Die” (from the Latin "without day", meaning "without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing") to end this year’s session and begin the time for re-election campaigns. All of the House members (they have two year terms) and about half of the Senate (who have four year terms) have to run for re-election this year. State law says they cannot campaign during session, which leaves them at a disadvantage against others running for their seat. Because of this, supplemental sessions almost always end on time, but not this year.

Senate and House budget writers are still millions of dollars apart from reaching a final budget agreement. Because they did not have a final budget, the Governor immediately called a thirty day Special Session. How long it takes for them to reach agreement is anyone’s guess. Governor Inslee threatened to veto legislation that has been delivered to his desk until they reach a budget agreement. On March 10th he vetoed 27 bills, including SB 6466, a bill about student services for students with disabilities. Unfortunately, legislators were not hurt by this action as much as the public was. The Legislature can override the Governor’s veto, but this would just take up more time that should be spent on finalizing the budget.

To see the current budget proposals from the Governor, House and Senate, go to:
http://arcwa.org/index.php/takeaction/washingtonstate/issue_papers

Have we accomplished any policy changes?

We began by monitoring more than 40 bills. 22 of those bills were still alive at the halfway point in session. At the end of the regular session, 9 of our bills had been delivered to the Governor’s desk. 4 other bills did not quite pass the process, but are considered NTIB (Necessary To Implement the Budget) and will be considered to have passed, if included in the final budget agreement.

One unusual occurrence we have not seen before is the passage of two bills that are the same bill, having begun as “companion bills”. Commonly, a bill idea will start with a legislator in one chamber, then it will be sponsored by a legislator in the other chamber too. This gives the bill twice as much chance of making it all the way through the process. Along the way, committees may make changes to the bill (amendments), so need both chambers to agree to those amendments at the end. Typically, one bill dies before making it through the process. There was both a House and Senate version of a bill to put the Parent to Parent program into state statute as well as provide a small amount of money to expand the program. Both bills passed though both chambers and had concurrence (agreement) to the amendments made. We have never seen companion bills both make it all the way through. There is one difference between the bills. The Senate version has a “null and void” clause, meaning if the funding for it is not provided in the budget, the bill dies. We believe this may be why both made it through the process, the bill will pass either way, whether included in the budget or not, IF the Governor doesn’t veto it.

Other companion bills we have worked on include creating the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) program (HB 2323/SB 6210). The House version is the one that has been delivered to the Governor for signature. Creating a workgroup to look at the difficulties students have with core services provided when they transfer from a previously attended college (HB 2825/SB 6466). We saw the Senate version delivered to the Governor, but then he vetoed it to punish the legislature.

There were two versions of the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act (HB 2545/SB 6440), the House version of this bill passed. This was a huge milestone on this issue as it has taken five years to pass this legislation! This bill bans five of the worst flame retardants in kids’ products and furniture, including the first ban ever on TBBPA – a flame retardant that can be found in children’s car seats. It also establishes a process for addressing another six harmful flame retardants in consumer products.

To see which bills survived this year’s session, visit our web site at:
http://arcwa.org/index.php/takeaction/washingtonstate/issue_papers

Advocacy Day Superheroes

Our Advocacy Days theme “Will you be a Superhero?” was a huge hit with legislators, their staff and Advocacy Day attendees. Each week we gave legislators a new Superhero button for their blue scarves. You see many of the scarves and their buttons hanging with pride in legislators’ offices. There was great attendance every week and the presence of those who attended, signed in or testified at hearings, met with legislators or watched floor action up in the gallery really impacted all that we accomplished this year. We can’t do this without you!

What can you do now?

You can still have a say on the final budget. Contact your legislators and ask them to speak up to the budget committee about which items you want to see stay in the final budget.

Go to http://capwiz.com/arcwa/state/main/?state=WA where you can respond to the email and phone Action Alerts to ask the Governor NOT to veto any more bills and to start scheduling bill signings. You can also attend a bill signing in the Governor’s office if/when he signs them. Let us know how we can help YOU be involved!

 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.
 Subscribe to the Olympia Insider YouTube channel during session for video updates.
 Sign up for The Arc of Washington State’s Action Alerts.
 Be sure to follow TheArcofWA on Twitter for quick updates texted to your cell phone.
 Become a fan of The Arc - Washington State on Facebook.
 Get the Advocacy Partnership Project “News to Know” email newsletter. Email Diana@arcwa.org.
 Write Letters to the Editor of your local newspaper. The Arc makes this easy for you to do. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/arcwa/home and click on the “Media Guide” tab. Choose five newspapers to send to, then write your message and click send.

Questions? Need more information? Email me at Diana@arcwa.org.

Remember, change is being made by those who show up!