Sine die, my friend, sine die

Published Mar. 17, 2008

The term “sine die” (pronounced SIGH-nee dye) is a Latin phrase which means “without day”. This term in our legislature refers to the fact that they are adjourning without a specific day on which they will reconvene. The last day of the Washington State Legislature was March 13th and the big focus was passing the state budget in both houses. There was also some final concurrence on bills trying to make it past that last cut-off day for this year.

There were some good bills that passed this session, and some that will be back next year. SB 6760, a bill designed to add excess property from all Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs) to the DD Community Trust Account (known as the Dan Thompson Memorial Trust), met with resistance from a legislator who did not want Fircrest included. The Speaker of the House agreed and the rest of the House members were left with no choice but to exclude Fircrest from the bill or it would die. The bill still adds excess property from two more RHCs to the trust, so four of the five RHCs will now be included. Funding was included in the budget for Phase 2 of the Fircrest Master Plan which will hopefully help settle concerns so that Fircrest can be added to the trust next year.

SB 6313 designates October as Disability Awareness Month in schools and even received a small amount of funding. HB 2903 creates an access coordinator position in the courts to assist those with disabilities, it was also funded in the budget. SB 6743 requires OSPI to print and distribute the guidebook being created by the Autism Task Force which will include specific guidelines for parents and teachers to use when addressing the unique needs of autism. It also directs OSPI to submit training guidelines on autism to the legislature by December 2008. Funding was provided for printing and distribution of the guidebook.

A surprise finish happened with HB 2693 which addressed training for individual care providers. There was a lot of input from various groups affected in the bill such as parent providers, intermittent providers and agency providers. It was thought that there was some agreement because of the threat of it becoming an initiative to the voters at a much higher cost, but at the end of the session the bill did not get passed. This issue is definitely not finished.

SB 6448 would have created a program in state statute that addressed intensive behavior support needs of children with severe behavioral issues in-home as opposed to out-of-home placement. Although the bill did not pass, the final budget included the funding for the program. This means the program was created as a proviso in the budget and received 6 FTEs for the program, a tremendous success as new programs are not often funded in supplemental budgets. Look for advocates to bring the bill back next year to get the program established in state statute.

Other DD budget successes in addition to those noted above include funding for a few new trusts in the DD Endowment Trust Fund (or Life Opportunities Trust) and employment services for 31 waiver high school graduates and 50 non-waiver grads. The NW Autism Center also received funding for expansion of diagnostic services for autism and for training teachers on autism.

Another issue addressed in the final budget is a study of the funding for early intervention services. The funding requested for the Infant Toddler Equity Act did not happen in the bills (SB 6713/HB 2900) or budget, but now the legislature will look at the uneven funding process and decide how to best address the need. DSHS was also directed to work with counties to establish a consistent policy for DD clients who receive employment services. There are also studies funded at Evergreen and the University of Washington on developmental disability issues.

Contact the Arc of Washington if you would like to learn more information about this legislative session. The Olympia Insider video podcast is a concise preview and review of what’s happening with developmental disability advocacy in Washington’s capitol city.

What can you do to help now?

Contact the Governor’s office and let her know which bills and budget items are important to you.

The Arc of Washington State has an Action E-list you can sign up for that makes it very easy for you to let your legislators know what is important to you. The e-list can also keep you informed when there are important legislative issues you should be aware of. Sometimes responses to legislators are needed quickly. When it is known what response is needed targeted to your legislator, you will receive an email with information and a suggested email you can revise or just send that will go directly to your legislator from you with just the click of a button.

Your voice is still needed between now and the beginning of the next legislative session in January 2009. Advocates and legislators will be looking for input on which issues should be addressed in the next session. Change is made by those who show up, don’t stop showing up!

Thank YOU for a successful session,

Diana Stadden
Arc of Washington State
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator