2019 Legislative Session Wrap-up

Published May. 2, 2019

2019 Legislative Session Wrap-up

Another legislative session is finished… on time!

Although the Washington State Legislature has needed extra time to finish their job for the last few years, this year the budget was completed within the 105 days allotted for the regular session. The Operating Budget, Capital Budget and Transportation Budgets have all been delivered to the Governor where he can sign them into law, veto parts of them, or veto the entire budget.

The Operating Budget was actually fairly good in regards to many of the services for people with developmental disabilities (DD). Our primary issue was the rate that the legislature sets for Direct Service Professionals (DSP) that staff community residential programs. There are not enough community residential placements for people with DD because entry wages are barely above minimum wage for difficult and demanding work. Residential openings sit empty because programs cannot find staff to fill them.
Although there is a funding for additional State Operated Living Alternatives (SOLA), we have a severe shortage of affordable homes to create the SOLAs. Because the SOLAs are staffed by state employees, who are paid a much higher rate than DSPs, there is less staff turnover. The challenge will be finding homes.

In addition to normal demand for these placements, part of Rainier, one of our state’s Residential Habilitation Centers (RHC), was decertified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) so federal funding is no longer available and the clients need to move. In December 2018, a report published by our state’s Developmental Disability Ombuds, “Stuck in the Hospital”, alerted legislators to the crisis of people with DD residing in hospitals with no medical need. Often, providers and families could no longer support the individual’s behavior challenges and were left with no other alternative but to take them to an Emergency Room and refuse to take them back home.

With residential services being the top need in our crisis-driven system, advocates educated lawmakers about the need to increase wages for DSPs and to find placements in the community for people who are waiting to leave a hospital bed that they don’t need. In the final budget, our state did provide increases, but not nearly enough.

What did get funded in the Operating Budget?

The Operating Budget is where the state designates funding for services and supports they provide to the citizens of Washington State. As this is the biennial budget, it is supposed to fund these services for the next two years. Although this budget includes funding for a lot of services, the legislature pays for much of this through new and/or increased taxes for taxpayers. 

In the budget for the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) there were a number of items that would help people move from Rainier and other RHCs to the community. Although there was some funding for community residential providers (supported living) it will mostly just help to keep up with rising minimum wage hikes. More is still needed to pay wages that attract DSPs that will remain in their positions:

• Community residential providers will receive a rate increase of 13.5% in January 2020:
     ~ $62,176,000 State Funds; $123,152,000 total that includes Federal Funds

• Continue the Family Mentor Program that helps families of those in RHCs successfully transition their loved one to a community setting:
     ~ $138,000 State Funds; $275,000 total that includes Federal Funds

• Rainier PAT A residents to move to other PATs or RHCs
     ~ $611,000 State Funds; $528,000 total that includes Federal Funds

• Continue transitioning 47 people from the RHCs to SOLAS:
     ~ $6,388,000 State Funds; $12,634,0000 total that includes Federal Funds

• Move 40 residents from the RHCs to SOLAs over 2 years, cost offset is assumed for RHC beds that will no longer be used when residents move:
     ~ Savings of $6,264,000

• 63 Rainier residents who no longer benefit from active treatment move to other RHCs nursing or SOLA, additional staff at the RHCs and SOLAs to comply with CMS requirements:
     ~ $11,468,000 State Funds; $22,936,000 total that includes Federal Funds

To address people with DD and challenging behaviors who are stuck in hospitals, the legislature funded these items:

• 6 State-operated Behavior Health short-term beds as alternative to hospital stays:
     ~ $1,029,000 State Funds; $1,029,000 total

• 15 SOLA beds for when provider is unable to manage client's care after crisis stabilization services (also can be used for Rainier PAT A clients who want to move to the community):
     ~ $4,220,000 State Funds; $8,439,000 total that includes Federal Funds

Increases were also provided for respite care to give families a break from full-time caregiving of their loved one with DD, both an increase in the number of beds to be available as well as an increase in pay for community respite providers.

• Increase daily rate for community respite beds from $350-$448 to $400-$510 for adults & from $374 to $450-$550 for children:
     ~ $903,000 State Funds; $1,081,000 total that includes Federal Funds

• Expand Overnight Planned Respite (EOPR) for adults, Enhanced Respite (ERS) for children by at least 5 beds each:
     ~ $3,712,000 State Funds; $4,414,000 total that includes Federal Funds

Aside from the residential funding, other items of interest in the DDA budget included:

• Funding for 350 High School Transition Students on Basic Plus waiver:
     ~ $2,232,000 State Funds; $4,029,000 total that includes Federal Funds

• Expanding Parent to Parent to the remaining 5 counties (Ferry County, Pend Oreille County, Stevens County, San Juan County, and Wahkiakum County):
     ~ $100,000 State Funds; $100,000 total

• Implementing HB 1199, which expands eligibility for Healthcare for Workers with Disabilities:
     ~ $33,000 State Funds; $56,000 total that includes Federal Funds

Over the last few of years, the legislature focused on providing more funding to basic education as was required by the McCleary lawsuit. However, there was not a focus on special education, which has always been underfunded. Although still not fully funded, special education did receive some additional dollars in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) budget:

• The Special Education multiplier increased from 0.9609 to 0.995 and change to a tiered multiplier as per SB 5091. Also as part of SB 5091, growth is anticipated in safety net awards that school districts can apply for when they have students receiving special education services that are higher cost. Additionally, SB 5091 requires the state auditor to review special education data during audits of districts in the 2018-2019 school year, including special education revenues and expenditures:
     ~ 1 $81,160,000 State Funds; $81,160,000 total
     ~ 2 $32,690,000 State Funds; $32,690,000 total
     ~ 3 $32,690,000 State Funds; $32,690,000 total

• OSPI will expand technical assistance and monitoring of school districts to reduce the use of restraint and isolation of students in special education:
     ~ $120,000 State Funds; $120,000 total

• SB 5082 creates a committee to promote and expand Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to help students build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships, and making responsible decisions that support success in school and life:
     ~ $400,000 State Funds; $400,000 total

• OSPI and the Office of the Education Ombuds will jointly convene a work group to improve meaningful, equitable access for public school students, including special education, and their family members who have language access barriers:
     ~ $231,000 State Funds; $231,000 total

• HB 1216 includes funding for OSPI to administer a grant program for school resource officer training on a number of subjects including the educational rights of students with disabilities, the relationship of disability to behavior, and best practices for interacting with students with disabilities:
     ~ $100,000 State Funds; $100,000 total

Other budget items that will be beneficial to individuals with DD and their families are:

• Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), through the University of Washington, will include training related to people with autism and developmental disabilities. They must focus on supporting existing autism centers of excellence and disseminate evidence-based diagnoses and treatments to increase access to medical services for people across the state:
     ~ $300,000 State Funds; $300,000 total

• Developmental Disability Training Funding through the Health Care Authority (HCA) is provided for 1) telecommunication consultation with local physicians to discuss medications appropriate to patients who have developmental disability and behavioral issues, and 2) training to both behavioral health and developmental disabilities professionals to support individuals with both developmental disability and behavioral health needs.
     ~ $200,000 State Funds; $200,000 total

• SB 5839 Provide personal care to people with disabilities in a homeless shelter until they are eligible for services
     ~ $188,000 State Funds; $188,000 total

What about the Capital Budget?

The Capital Budget is what pays for building or construction projects. One section under the Department of Commerce is called the Housing Trust Fund (HTF). The ability to find safe, affordable, and accessible housing for individuals with DD is very difficult because of the fact that so many rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as the primary source of income. The HTF provides funds for the construction, acquisition or rehabilitation of housing units every year for people below 80% of the average median income.  In 1993, the Legislature created the DD set-aside within the Housing Trust Fund that provides funding specifically for housing for individuals with DD. The HTF received $5,000,000 for this biennium.

During the Capital Budget process, the House released their proposal and we were shocked to learn that it contained a land give-away at Fircrest (one of the RHCs) from the Developmental Disabilities Community Trust Account to the City of Shoreline. This DD Trust was created by the Legislature in 2005 to include all excess property on the grounds of the state’s RHCs and the income from any of those properties was designated only to use for DDA clients who need community employment or family support services. The Trust was known as the Dan Thompson Memorial Trust, for a young man with Down Syndrome who had passed away but who had worked for 14 years in the mail room at Microsoft.

Once advocates realized that the most valuable piece of property in the DD Trust was about to be taken away, they contacted legislators with a loud voice, in person, by email and phone, and their voices were heard! The Senate did not include the proposal in their Capital Budget nor was it included in the final version of the budget. Change is made by those who show up and the opinions of DD advocates were heard loud and clear.

See the Capital budget and Operating budget side-by-side charts at www.arcwa.org/takeaction then click on “Legislative Issue Papers” and scroll down to the documents you want to see.
Bills of Interest: what policy changes were made?

Below are the policy bills that impact people with DD which passed this session. You can learn more about any of them by going to www.leg.wa.gov, click on Bill Information and type in the bill number. You can also go to our web site at www.arcwa.org, click on Legislative Issue Papers and scroll down to the Bills of Interest.

A couple of bills began with controversy from the beginning of session. SB 5077 was introduced and would have banned single-use straws in places like restaurants. Although the intention of the bill was to cut down on plastic waste, it did not take into account that many people with DD need a straw in order to be able to drink a beverage. Although the bill was amended to provide them on request to people with disabilities, based on self-advocate’s testimony, the bill did not make it all the way through the process. In a biennial budget year such as this, a bill introduced this year is not really dead. The legislature could resurrect it during next session.

Another bill that was much debated was HB 1706 which would eliminate the certificate that allows some businesses to pay people with DD less than minimum wage, sometimes as little as 2 cents an hour. The national trend is to eliminate this practice as a civil rights issue. There were some parents concerned that their adult son or daughter would not have a job and would wind up sitting at home every day. This was especially troubling to those living in very rural areas where jobs are scarce and services harder to find, especially for people with more significant disabilities. The final amended bill limited the elimination of sub-minimum wage to state agencies employing people with DD. The rationale was that the state should lead on this issue and advocates hope to expand it next year.

SB 5405 passed and will stop the discrimination people with disabilities face when needing an organ transplant. SB 5163 finally passed after 20 years of working on it to ensure that there is accountability when someone is the victim of wrongful death. Prior to its passage, unless you were financially dependent upon the person who was killed, you had no legal recourse. HB 1329 and SB 5604 were each bills working on guardianship issues. HB 1329 allows the Office of Public Guardianship to offer supported decision-making (SDM) as an alternative to full guardianship and SB 5604 is the Uniform Guardianship Act that also now includes SDM.

DD Bills that passed the legislature this year:

SSB 5403 - Safe egress in AFH - DSHS Request Ensure non-ambulatory residents in AFH can exit to a public right-of-way without using stairs, elevators, etc. (Sen Bailey)

SSB 5672 - Adult Family Home (AFH) DD Specialty - Create specialty contract for AFH that only serve people with a developmental or intellectual disability (Sen Cleveland)

SB 5359 - Supported Living - Funding by fees to investigate & resolve complaints of abuse, neglect, abandonment & financial exploitation (Sen Cleveland)

HB 1706 - Sub-minimum wage - Removes the permit allowing less than minimum wage pay from state agencies who employ people with disabilities (Rep Frame)

SHB 1130 - Language Access - Create a workgroup to look at technical assistance program for language access (Rep Orwall)

SSB 5082 - Social emotional learning - Create a committee to promote and expand social emotional learning (Sen McCoy)

SB 5091 - Special education funding - Increases the special education funding multiplier from 0.9609 to 0.995 (Sen Wellman)

SB 5089 - Early learning - Increase early learning access for children ages 30 + months with developmental delays or disabilities (Sen Wellman)

2SSB 5437 - ECEAP expansion - Allows up to 200% federal poverty, sets up birth to 3 pilot (Sen Wilson, C)

SHB 1065 - Surprise billing - Protecting consumers from charges for out-of-network health care services (Rep Cody)

HB 1199 - Healthcare for disabilities - No eligibility restrictions for the buy-in program based upon a person's income or maximum age (Rep Cody)

SSB 5405 - Organ Transplants - Covered providers for I/DD cannot deny organ transplants just because of disability (Sen Padden)

SHB 1394 - BHO options - Governor Request Report by 12/1/19  on youth short-term residential intensive DD services (section 10) (Rep Schmick)

SSB 5432 - BHO implementation - Fully implement behavioral health integration, mentions developmental disabilities (Sen Dhingra)

SHB 1605 - TBI evaluations - All children entering the foster care system must be evaluated for traumatic brain injury (TBI) (Rep Dent)

SSB 5163 - Wrongful Death - Allows damages for parents/siblings in the wrongful death of a family member (Sen Hasegawa)

EHB 1175 - Informed consent - Expands options for who can provide informed consent to health care on behalf of a patient (Rep Kilduff)

SSB 5604 - Uniform Guardianship Act - Includes Supported Decision-making as a guardianship alternative (Sen Pedersen)

SHB 1329 - Supported Decision-making - Expand Office of Public Guardianship (OPG) to allow use of supported decision-making (Rep Kilduff)

SSB 5444 - Competency Evals - Provide timely competency evaluations and restoration services per the Trueblood Lawsuit (Sen Dhingra)

SHB 1874 - Mental health treatment - Allows parents to get certain mental health treatment information regarding their adolescent child (Rep Frame)

As included in the budget comments above, a number of these bills were used to define items in the budget. Some bills start going through the bill process, but die at a committee cut-off date. If the bill would impact an item written into a budget proposal, it can then be considered as “Necessary to Implement the Budget” or NTIB.

SB 5921 - Community Respite - Increase community respite provider rate  Sen Conway

SB 5839 - Personal care pilot - Provide personal care to people with disabilities in a homeless shelter until they are eligible for services Sen Darneille

Some bills are strictly policy bills that do not need funding to be implemented or are expected to be accomplished within the agencies budget. One such policy is the continuation of the Rucklehouse group, created last year to come up with a plan for the future use of the RHCs. Another study to be done within DDA’s budget is in regards to the availability of services for DD in rural areas of the state. The budget bills, though approximately 800 pages in length, are quite illuminating in regards to what priorities our state lawmakers have and whether they are willing to put money behind it or just tell an agency, “Go do the work and figure it out as to how to pay someone to do it.”

What Do We Do Now?

Now is a great time to send thank you notes/emails to legislators for sponsoring bills that passed or for budget items that were funded and are important to you. If certain bills are important to you and the Governor has not yet signed them into law, you can attend a ceremony where he signs the bill into law. Track which bills are being signed at www.governor.wa.gov and click on Bill Action. Another way to stay informed is by connecting to your local chapter of The Arc, your Parent Coalition and other DD community groups. Stay connected! Let us know what you need!

 Read the Olympia Reporter for in-depth news happening in Olympia.
 Subscribe to the Olympia Insider YouTube channel for video updates.
 Sign up for The Arc of Washington’s Action Network.
 Be sure to follow TheArcofWA on Twitter.
 Become a fan of The Arc - Washington State on Facebook
 Share why services are important to you on our My Story Matters! web page.
 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 up to five newspapers to send to, then write your message and click send.

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

Remember, change is being made by those who show up!
Whether you show up in person, by phone, email or social media, in just a few moments your voice can be powerful and make a difference!

Diana  Stadden
Policy & Advocacy Coordinator
For people with developmental disabilities