It’s down to the wire now

Published Mar. 10, 2008

Friday at 5:00 pm was the last day that bills could be voted on and passed from the opposite house from where they started. Last week was long and arduous for legislators and advocates. There were so many bills that needed to be voted on that legislators worked late into the night last week, trying to pass as many as time allowed. Advocates for those with developmental disabilities were pleased to see several good bills pass.

SB 6313 will establish October as Disability Awareness Month in schools. Self-advocates worked long and hard to get the bill through the process and are excited that it has made it. SB 6743, a bill related to training for teachers on autism, was amended in the House to combine it with SB 6742, which established an IEP consideration list for autism. Because these bills were amended in the House, they now must go back to the house of origin for concurrence (or agreement). The same is true for HB 2693, the provider training bill, as well as several others.

The most controversial amendment came at the last minute on the floor to SB 6760, the DD Land Trust (or the Dan Thompson Memorial Trust). When the trust was originally created it was established with excess property from two of the institutions (RHCs) in our state being included in the trust. Proceeds from lease or rental of the properties were put into the trust to be used for services for those with developmental disabilities. SB 6760 would expand the trust by putting excess property from the other three RHCs into the trust. The bill did not specify how the land was to be used, it only designated that the funds from the lease or rental of the excess property went to the trust instead of into the state general fund. Representative Maralyn Chase attached an amendment to SB 6760 excluding Fircrest, which has the excess property that could provide the most income for the trust. Representative Ruth Kagi, a staunch advocate for individuals with DD, put forth tremendous effort to fight for the funds to benefit the trust. Although she and other representatives were not in favor of this amendment, they were given no choice but to support it or the bill would die. The Senate can now concur with the amendment or they can ask the House to withdraw the amendment. We will find out this week how this turns out.

We are also still waiting for the results of the budget conferencing. Legislators from the House and Senate as well as a representative from the Governor’s office have formed a budget conference committee to try to come up with one budget that is a compromise of the previous ones. This budget will be submitted this week to the full legislature for approval, then finally to the Governor for her signature.

Contact the Arc of Washington if you would like to learn more information about this legislative session.

Our last Advocacy Day had a focus on the budget process and the bills that were still alive. To celebrate all that we have accomplished this legislative session we provided each attendee with a feather butterfly signifying this session’s motto “Change is made by those who show up!” Thank you to everyone who showed up this session whether in person, through emails, letters or phone calls. Your voice was heard and many positive changes will have been made this session because YOU showed up!

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 in these final days of session?

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. Because of the controversy over SB 6760, the DD Land Trust, we may need responses to legislators 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.

Thursday, March 13th is the last day of session. You’ve done a great job with your advocacy efforts. Change is made by those who show up, you have done an awesome job of showing up!

Grateful that so much is being accomplished,

Diana Stadden
Arc of Washington State
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator