The session is moving quickly – with more cut-offs passed and more to come (see below). A couple of good news items – the House Children’s Mental Health bill passed the House and is scheduled to be heard on Monday, February 22nd in the Senate Human Services Committee. Although there has been some controversy over the depression screens and use of medication, the bill, HB 2439, is in good shape and, if passed, would go far to address issues of access and accountability – two significant areas brought up repeatedly by parents, providers, and others trying to obtain services.
Another bill that we have been tracking that passed by a wide margin in the House and is now moving over to the Senate, is HB 2518, the bill dealing with intergenerational poverty. The connections between poverty and, for example, involvement with the child welfare system, are clear. The formation of a high-level Council and Advisory Committee to develop metrics and strategies intended to reduce poverty is an approach taken, with considerable success, in other states, such as Utah. Our hope is that the work of the Council and others shines a bright light on the need to move children and families out of poverty and deep end services. As always, find this bill and others on our Bill Tracker.
In case you missed it, the Governor, at a press conference held yesterday, announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to develop recommendations for moving forward with a separate children and families department. Surrounded by children, parents, and numerous stakeholders, Governor Inslee signed an executive order directing the Commission to submit recommendations by November of this year – in preparation for the 2017 legislative session. The subject of a separate department has come up numerous times over the past three decades, but as far as we recall, has not gotten this level of attention by a governor. Read more on this issue in our policy brief.
For where we stand with cut-offs – we just passed the cut-off for bills to be out of their houses of origin. If a bill did not make it out prior to 5:00 on Wednesday (February 17th), it is likely dead, unless it can be amended onto a living bill or, through a procedural move, brought directly to the floor (not likely to happen).
While a lot of bills died, many are still alive and need to get through the policy committees by February 26th and the fiscal committees by February 29th. Because of the very tight timeline, it is likely many won’t even get scheduled for a hearing, and those that do probably won’t all get out of the policy committee. One day at a time.
Have a good weekend!
Public Policy Director