Olympia Reporter 5/31/17
Published May. 31, 2017
What is happening in the legislature?
The last scheduled day of the 2017 Washington State Legislature was April 23rd, but the budget still was not finalized. Governor Inslee called for a 30 day special session that started on April 24th. That special session ended on May 23rd and there is still no budget agreement. On May 24th Governor Inslee called a second special session but little movement has been seen. The Senate continues to hold the position that they cannot negotiate when the House has not passed the tax package that would pay for what is in their budget. The House has not brought their tax package (including the capital gains tax) up for a vote because they do not have enough members who would vote to pass it. The Senate also has a property tax plan that also does not have enough support.
This second special session will end on June 22nd. If the budget still has not been finalized, Governor Inslee would have to call for a 3rd special session. The current budget expires on June 30. If the Governor does not sign a budget by then, on July 1st the state would have to shut down much of state government, including putting 50,000 state employees on furlough and shutting down non-essential services that the state funds (including some DDA services). Notices for shutting down the government are already being prepared (at tax-payer expense) because the law requires they be sent out prior to the shutdown.
There is a Supreme Court ruling against Washington State that has said the state has until September 1, 2018 to comply with the McCleary decision to fully fund education. The state is currently in contempt of court and we are being fined $100,000 per day. If the legislature goes past September 1st, our state will face even more fines.
Has this happened before?
In the 2015 legislative session, legislators waited until June 29th to pass the budget, leaving only one day before government shutdown would happen. Shutdown notices had already gone out to state employees and government agencies were preparing to shut down. In 2015, special sessions cost taxpayers more than $440,000.The first 15 days of the first special session cost $87,500 and has continued to increase with every day. Legislators can claim $120 each per day, even though most of them are not in Olympia working.
What is happening with bills?
All the bills that passed the regular session have been signed by the Governor. Each time a special session is called, all the bills that were still in play at the end of the regular session are reintroduced into whatever committee they were in at the end of the regular session. Although back in play, nothing can happen with them, as no committees are meeting to hear bills and the only legislators who are even in Olympia right now are those working on the budget. Once they finally pass a budget they will likely have votes on bills that are NTIB (Necessary to Implement the Budget). This means that for all the bills reintroduced at the beginning of each special session, only those considered NTIB will likely see any action.
You can find the updated list at http://arcwa.org/takeaction, just click on Legislative Issue Papers where you can access the Bills of Interest.
2018 Advocacy Days
We are already preparing for the next legislative session in 2018. Each week of Advocacy Day will have a specific topic that we provide information to every legislator about. Our theme this year was “Don’t Le-go of Our Services” with each button having Lego characters and a message about the topic of the week. Next year we are looking to help legislators work “In Harmony” where each of our buttons will have a musical theme.
You can find the 2018 Advocacy Days weekly topic and button information on our web site at www.arcwa.org. Click the “Take Action” tab, then click on Advocacy Days.
What can you do now?
Continue to let your legislators hear from you about which budget items you want funded at what funding level. Check our budget side-by-side at the link listed above. Legislators also need to hear THANK YOU from you on bills they have passed that were important to you. Contact them let them know that you appreciate that they funded DD services in their budget proposal and ask that they ensure those services stay funded in the final conference budget.
Make sure you are signed up on our Action Network so you can stay informed and respond if action is needed. When legislative session finally reaches “sine die”, the interim before the next session in 2018 is a great time to talk about concerns you may have with your legislators. Call them and ask them to meet you for coffee, get to know them and help them get to know you.
We all need to keep informed about Medicaid Services at the Federal level. Congressional Republicans in the House want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which includes Medicaid. Apple Health as well as most DDA services in our state are all paid for with Medicaid dollars. The American Health Care Act (AHCA), HR 1628, was passed by the House before a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report could evaluate the effect on services. The CBO is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis of proposed legislation. According to the CBO:
“Community-rated premiums would rise over time, and people who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive nongroup health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all—despite the additional funding that would be available under H.R. 1628 to help reduce premiums. As a result, the nongroup markets in those states would become unstable for people with higher-than-average expected health care costs. That instability would cause some people who would have been insured in the nongroup market under current law to be uninsured.”
We need to remain vigilant! Learn more on our web site by clicking on the “Take Action” tab, then Medicaid - Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!
The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding is set to expire at the Federal level on September 30, 2017. The CHIP program has provided low-cost health coverage for 20 years to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In Washington State, our CHIP program is called Apple Health for Kids. Be sure you are signed up on our Action Network at http://capwiz.com/arcwa/state/main/?state=WA and respond to the calls for action!
DON’T FORGET TO KEEP YOUR BLUE SCARF TO WEAR AGAIN NEXT YEAR!
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Questions? Need more information? Email me at Diana@arcwa.org.
Remember, change is being made by those who show up!