Welcome to the 2019 legislative session!  

Have 10 months really gone by since the 2018 session ended?  Apparently they have!  Now we are back at it in Olympia; meeting with legislators, attending hearings, reading and summarizing bills, dashing from place to place, and hoping to provide you with information you need to keep in touch with bills that impact the lives of children, youth and families.

Every Friday afternoon during the legislative session we will send you an email with a brief update of the week and also a link to our Partners for Our Children legislative bill tracker (which we also update on Fridays).  While we will cannot summarize all bills that may have relevance to children, youth, and families, we do our best to capture as many as possible in the realms in which Partners for Our Children focuses.  We also attempt to keep our summaries succinct and accurate, recognizing that there are often subtle nuances to bills that we may miss or perhaps not explain as clearly as we would like! Know that each and every bill has a hyperlink from our website to the complete text of the bill. If you want to go to the source, we make it easy for you to do so.  Also, please feel free to send us an email with suggestions or corrections!

Even though this is a long session (105 days), legislators swung into immediate action – indicating that the next four months will be very full and action packed!

The session started out with many bills being introduced, hearings on some bills, and a lot of work sessions.  Amazingly, in the first week of session 398 bills were introduced in the Senate and 344 in the House. Work sessions are ways legislators educate themselves on topics such as child welfare, public assistance, the role of various state agencies, and the like, that they will likely address during session.  

This week also started, on day one (!) with a public hearing on the Governor’s proposed biennial budget in the House Appropriations Committee and on day two in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  

As many of you have heard, mental health will be a major theme this session, with a number of bills being introduced related to the mental health of adults as well as children. Please note that our focus will be tipped towards bills that impact children.  A number of the bills come from the work that took place during the interim through the Children’s Mental Health Workgroup, as well as the Mass Shootings Workgroup.  Mental health bills are also addressing lawsuits (e.g. Trueblood) and the on-going challenges facing Western State hospital.

Early learning and prevention will also be high on the agenda this session.  These areas were given a launch on Tuesday when the Governor, as part of his State of the State, called out early learning and home visiting as key elements of a quality education system.  He noted their importance as a way to address equity and give every child the best start in life.

You have probably also heard that both chambers of the legislature are controlled by the democrats and that there are a number of ‘firsts’ among the newly elected members (e.g. first refugee, first Native American woman).  Tremendous enthusiasm is palpable among new and returning legislators. Although we will continue to face budget challenges, genuine efforts will be made to enact and fund significant policies.

I want to take this opportunity to introduce to the weekly bill tracker team at Partners for Our Children. Alejandra Villa, MSW intern at Partners for Our Children, will be doing the bulk of the bill summaries.  Nicole Sadow-Hasenberg, MPH, Communications Manager, and Hilina Bantiwalu, Communications Intern will provide considerable assistance with the preparation and dissemination of the tracker.  

We hope that the updates and the tracker is of use to you throughout the session. Remember, if you see errors or don’t see certain bills that you think should be tracked, please let us know.  We encourage and welcome your feedback.

Again, welcome to the 2019 legislative session….. here’s hoping it’s a great one for children, youth, and families!

Questions?  Contact Nicole Sadow-Hasenberg, Communications Manager, Partners for Our Children