Work, work, work… while you can

Published Jan. 29, 2010

Last week is when a lot of committee work was being done. Bills are still being introduced, but at a much slower pace. Bills have to get a hearing and be exec’d (passed out of the committee) by next Tuesday for policy committees (February 2nd) or by next Friday for bills in the fiscal committees (February 5th). After those dates, bills still sitting in those committees are considered dead, well sort of. If a bill is considered Necessary To Implement the Budget (NTIB) it can still manage to stay alive if a legislator works to include it in the budget.

Some bills that got a hearing and were exec’d this week were HB 2801, which would expand tools and strategies for anti-harassment policies in schools, and HB 2865, which makes cases involving individuals with intellectual & developmental disabilities eligible to be heard in a mental health court. Self advocates were thrilled that HB 2490, the Respectful Language bill that removes mentally retarded references from state law language was exec’d from committee. Self advocates were even happier after HJM 4024, which changes the “R” word to intellectual disability in Federal laws, was heard in the House Human Services committee. Representative Dickerson told the self advocates who had testified that they had shared the best testimony she had heard this whole session. She then stopped the hearing, went into Executive Session and immediately exec’d the bill.

A new bill introduced last week and that has a hearing this coming Wednesday at 8 am is SB 6780, introduced by Senator Keiser. This is a historic bill in that it really attempts to improve community services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities (DD). It restructures our current system in which 21% of the DD budget is spent on only 3% of the DD caseload who are served in Residential Habilitation Centers (RHC), the only entitlement available. The expertise in the RHCs would now be available to individuals with DD all around the state instead of only to people in the five institutions. Those individuals needing 24 skilled nursing would be able to remain and age in place.

It also creates State Operated Living Alternatives (SOLA), where state employees currently working in the RHCs can move to smaller community settings with the clients they currently care for, making the transition to the community easier. Quality Assurance studies in our state are done on individuals who move to the community from an RHC. These studies show that after 6 years, with very few exceptions, the individuals and/or their families are happy with the community setting and would not want to move back to an RHC. Please thank Senator Keiser for her leadership in working hard to improve community services and make the transition easier for individuals to move from an RHC to the community. Check out the Action Alert.

What about the budget?

We still are facing at least a $2.6 billion deficit but new economic forecasts just released are more optimistic than before. The Economic & Revenue Forecast Council will meet on February 12th for the next revenue review.  The House and the Senate budget staff are working hard behind the scenes as the House and Senate budgets should be released shortly after the forecast. To see a chart of the issues affecting those with developmental disabilities in the Governor’s proposed supplemental budget go to

A great turn-out for this year’s first Advocacy Day!

Last Wednesday was the first of the 2010 Advocacy Days. Last year blue scarves were provided at the Independent Living Day rally to advocates for community services for people with developmental disability. Last year we only provided blue scarves to advocates, last week we provided a blue scarf with a “Develop Abilities” button on it to each legislator. Self advocates also gave each legislator a button with a message about banning the “R” word to add to their scarf. Other organizations will continue to deliver buttons to legislators to add to their scarves.

If you still have your scarf, you are encouraged to wear it each time you come to Olympia. If you don’t yet have on, try to wear blue colors. Scarves will be handed out to advocates on the February 24th Advocacy Day to wear at the Independent Living Day rally. Last year we had over 700 people attend the rally. Our goal this year is to get at least 1,000 people there. Plan to attend on February 24th. Let us know if you need help to make this happen.

Last week we had an overview of this year’s session, this week our topic is on the budget. We need to ensure that legislators are funding needed services for people with developmental disabilities in the community. You can help deliver messages to all legislators with your personal message. This is a great way to help legislators understand what is important to you. Learn more about Advocacy Day.

What can you do to help?

Announcements for the Olympia Insider issues, the Olympia Insider Podcasts and Action Alerts are sent via The Arc of Washington State Action E-list. You can sign up there and the e-list 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. It is also important to let the media know what is important to you so watch for Action Alerts for you to contact your local media through newspapers, radio and TV from your area as well as major outlets.

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.

It is an exciting, stressful, passionate, frustrating, and rewarding journey but change is made by those who show up!

Diana Stadden
Arc of Washington State
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator