2016 Legislative Session Wrap-Up
Budgets, vetoes, firing state agency heads, a prisoner release scandal – lots of drama occurred before the Washington State Legislature adjourned their special session on March 29th. What does it all mean for United Way? The 2016 legislative session was a mixed bag of wins and losses.
The Legislature took a lot of action around youth homelessness, although without adding a lot of new resources. The Homeless Student Stability & Opportunity Gap Act, for example, which keeps homeless families housed near the schools their children attend, passed with enough funds to support a few demonstration projects statewide. More shelter beds were added for homeless youth, but funding for them was largely carved out of existing homeless budgets.
Criminal justice reform also saw a few wins, including the Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) Act, which enables ex-offenders in good standing to ask their sentencing judge to permit them to apply for state-issued professional licenses. This enables licensees to work in living wage jobs – a sure path to reducing reoffending and ensuring parents return from prison with the ability to provide for their children.
The Washington State Legislature did not follow-up last year’s historic investments in early learning with new dollars. However, they helped ensure state dollars passed through to school districts go to their intended purpose by enabling the Department of Early Learning to require more transparency in how state developmental screening and intervention dollars are used.
After three years of hard work advancing Breakfast after the Bell with a great coalition and broad support, and running into an immovable roadblock to getting the bill to the Senate floor for a vote again, we are coming to terms with the bitter lesson that sometimes key players have different ideas about what is best for kids. It is hard to accept when a signature initiative does not move forward, but we are staying focused on what IS possible and we will be finding new ways to make sure every child has adequate nutrition to make the most of school and other learning opportunities.
Find a PDF on United Way of King County’s 2016 State Legislative Agenda and the outcomes of each item here.
Come Talk to Legislators With Us
This summer our public policy staff will meet with King County legislators to talk about how we can help our community’s most vulnerable residents thrive. If you would like to come along to meet your state representatives or senator, please drop Colleen Laing a line.