We made it through one side, now on to the other

Published Feb. 25, 2008

We passed the first big hurdle for the bill process last week in which bills had to make it out of their house of origin. Bills have been debated and public testimony given in committee hearings where legislators needed to decide whether bills should be passed to the full Senate or House for a vote or not. The DD advocates have watched a few bills fall by the wayside, but have been happily surprised that many are now continuing on through the process. There were anxious moments in the last couple of hours before the cut-off, as we were not sure if some bills would get their chance to be voted on or not, but legislators came through for those with developmental disabilities.

Of the 15 bills we are supporting that have made it through this process so far, 14 of them already have a hearing scheduled in the opposite house. This is very important as these bills now must get a hearing and be voted out of their policy committee by this Friday, February 29th. This means we have a very busy week of hearings that begin at 8 am and go until 10 pm on some days.

In addition to trying to keep up with all of the bills, we are also keeping an eye on the budget process. Governor Gregoire released her budget proposal last December, the House released theirs last week and the Senate will release theirs tomorrow (2/26). For many advocates, helping children who have intensive behavior support needs avoid out-of-home placement by providing services and supports to their families at home has been a top priority this session. SB 6488 is still making its way through this process and would provide parameters for the program. Funding was allotted for the program in both the Governor’s and the House’s budget and is expected to be included in the Senate budget as well.

Contact the Arc of Washington if you would like to learn more information about these and other bills.

Advocacy Day last week was to focus on the Infant Toddler Equity Act which addresses the funding for early intervention services in our state. Unfortunately, both of the bills for this issue died in their house of origin. The House budget did not contain funding for this issue but advocates have been strongly advocating in the Senate to ask that their budget include at least some funding to help the program until the next biennium.

Last week Senator Rasmussen and many others introduced a Resolution in the Senate that honors and supports individuals with autism and acknowledged the tremendous courage that they and their families put forth every day. This week’s Advocacy Day revolves around Autism Awareness Day in Olympia. Representative Roach and others in the House will introduce a Resolution similar to the Senate’s at 10 am on Wednesday in the House of Representatives. Later, at noon on the rotunda there will be an Autism Awareness Rally at which a Representative from the Governor’s office will read her Proclamation in regards to autism. Speakers will provide some updates from the Autism Society of Washington, the Autism Task Force and others. Many autism advocates will be attending the House Resolution presentation at 10 am, but Advocacy Day will also still take place at United Churches during that time for an update on the bills and budget items.

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?

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 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.

You can also participate in this process by phone, email and personal visits to ask legislators to support bills you are most concerned about. This week’s Advocacy Day will be at United Churches at 10 am for an update on bills and the budget process or you can join the group in the House Gallery for the presentation of the autism resolution.

This session is moving very quickly, keep up the great advocacy work and remember that Change is made by those who show up, so keep on showing up!

Grateful there is still so much to work on,

Diana Stadden
Arc of Washington State
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator