The 60-day session has begun; Don’t blink or you’ll miss something
Published Jan. 15, 2010
In this first week of session there was no time to acclimate. Hearings were scheduled every day, work sessions were held to help legislators learn about issues, public hearings were held on the Governor’s proposed supplemental budget and on various bills. Some bills were even moved out of committee (exec’d) in this first week (HB 2490 Respectful Language).
A bad budget year once again.
Washington State faced an all cuts budget last year to fix a $9 billion deficit. The Governor has released her 2010 supplemental budget which, by law, has to be balanced so it makes critical cuts throughout human services. This is called her Book 1 budget. She also released a Book 2 version this week that “buys back” some of those cuts by proposing revenue increases.
Although there were still many proposed cuts in her budget, she also advocated for some increase in community services based on the recommendations from the Feasibility Study that looked at the consolidation/closure of Residential Habilitation Centers (RHC). She included the study’s proposal to close Frances Haddon Morgan Center and begin downsizing Rainier.
Even more important, she acted on the study’s recommendation to build up services in the community by creating three new State Operated Living Alternatives for children coming out of the RHCs. She also directs the Division of developmental Disabilities to increase the Children’s Intensive In-home Behavior Supports program enrollees back to six children per month instead of the current one child per month in order to prevent further institutional placements of children. In addition, 12 new community respite beds are to be created. Case management and oversight is also provided for those moving out of an RHC.
The transfer of state-only employment clients has continued and the majority of those clients have been transferred to the Basic Waiver. The Governor’s budget allows for 343 graduates from this year to also be transferred to the waiver for their employment services.
The Governor also released a document entitled “Reforming how we care for Washingtonians with Developmental Disabilities.” A partnership of several DD advocacy organizations began a new effort called “We All Belong”. The goal of “We All Belong” is to call attention to items Governor Gregoire proposed in her budget to reform how Washington supports and cares for people with developmental disabilities.
There are still many areas in the DD budget that are proposed to be eliminated or reduced. See a more comprehensive chart of the Governor’s proposed budget.
Bills are flying in and out of committees already.
This first week of session has already seen bills get “dropped” or become bill language with a bill number and be assigned to a committee. There have been a multitude of hearings and two bills in particular have already been heard in committee and have been or are scheduled for executive session. HB 2490, sponsored by Representative Angel, concludes action from HB 1835 last year that directed the Code Reviser to determine where derogatory words such as “mentally retarded” could be replaced with “intellectual disability” in state language. The bill was heard in the House State Government committee and was “exec’d” or approved and passed on to the next committee that same day. SB 6423, sponsored by Senator Fairley, revises language concerning RHCs so that we do not have to keep all five RHCs permanently open. It was heard in the Senate Health & Long Term Care committee and is scheduled for Executive Session next week.
Advocacy starts this week, get ready!
The Thirtieth Annual Disabilities Legislative Reception will be held on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at the capitol building in Olympia. This event is designed to bring legislators and their constituents from all over Washington together to discuss issues important to the disability community. Be sure to call your three legislators’ offices and tell them you will be there and ask them to attend. Legislators are much more likely to attend if they know they will have constituents there to talk with. You can find your legislator’s phone number by going to www.leg.wa.gov and click on Find Your Legislator.
A rally for autism issues will take place on the Rotunda in the Legislative Building at 11:30 am that day. A brief summary of current developmental disability issues will be provided in the afternoon across the street from the capitol at The United Churches at 2:30 pm. Go have dinner after the briefing, then join us at 5:30 pm for the Legislative Reception in the Columbia Room on the first floor of the Legislative Building. For more information call toll free 1-888-754-8798.
What can you do to help?
The Arc of Washington State has an Action E-list at you can sign up for that makes it very easy for you to let your legislators know what is most important to you. When bills or budget items need emails or phone calls targeted to your legislator you will receive an email with basic information about the issues 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.
Advocacy Day will begin on Wednesday, January 27th. Last year we made a show of force in blue with our blue scarves denoting support for developmental disability issues. If you still have your blue scarf from last year, please bring it and wear it anytime you come to the capitol. If you don’t have a blue scarf you can wear blue colored clothing.
On the first Advocacy Day we will be delivering a blue scarf to each legislator. Many community advocacy groups have pins or buttons that represent their voice. You can deliver those to all legislators and ask them to add them to their blue scarf. February 24th will be the Independent Living Day Rally where we hope to provide another huge crowd of blue for legislators to acknowledge. A limited quantity of blue scarves will be available for advocates at the rally.
You can also participate in this process by letters, phone, email and personal visits to ask legislators to make sure that bills or budget items you are most concerned about get heard.
Come join us for the Legislative Reception and other activities on January 20th because change is made by those who show up!
Arc of Washington State
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator