Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to thank those who were able to join us for Monday night's telephone town hall. At one point, we had more than 700 people on the call! Rep. Nealey and I answered 17 questions during the hour-long event, on a variety of issues including: 2nd Amendment rights, marijuana, education, the budget, health care and creating jobs. It was a thorough discussion and I'm grateful to those who took the time to share their concerns and questions with us. We are working on responding to the voicemails left after the call.
Watch my weekly video update where I discuss last year's interim, the governor's proposal on a minimum wage increase and my priorities for the session:
Family assessment response well received
On the first day of session, the Early Learning and Human Services Committee received an update on the family assessment response (FAR) we passed in 2012 to help case workers better address and help improve difficult family situations that have been referred to Child Protective Services. The focus remains on keeping the child safe, while helping families meet basic needs such as transportation and child care in order to alleviate the problems. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is implementing the bill this year, and we have already heard great excitement from case workers. More than 50 percent of cases referred to DSHS in the first two weeks of implementation were solved using the FAR approach. I'm looking forward to hearing more about how FAR changes the lives of families across our state!
Legislation I'm working on
This year I'm supporting or co-sponsoring a handful of bills to address needs in our community:
- House Bill 2129, sponsored by Rep. Nealey, would update some provisions as it relates to the Walla Walla Veterans' Home and federal requirements. It would also allow parents of children who died while serving in the Armed Forces to be eligible to admission to state veterans' homes. This bill has already been approved by the House Community Development and Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee and is now waiting for a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee.
- House Bill 2660 would provide a business and occupation tax credit to employers who hire people with developmental disabilities. There are many people in the DD community who want to work and be part of their communities. This would incent businesses to give meaningful employment to our friends with developmental disabilities who are able to complete a myriad of tasks in different workplaces.
- House Bills 2220 and 2221 are a response to Washington residents being unable to keep their insurance plans with the implementation of federal health care reform (known as Obamacare). The bills would allow Washington residents to purchase insurance coverage across state lines where plans may be more affordable and provide services people need. I've heard from many people frustrated by the lack of options and service with Washington's “Healthplanfinder” to find insurance plans, so these bills could really help.
Early learning and human services
This year I'm co-sponsoring House Bill 2377 to incentivize child care providers to be involved with the Early Achiever's Program and update eligibility for families in the Working Connections program. I'm hopeful this legislation will begin a discussion about how we can:
- ensure we have the best providers caring for our children,
- prepare young children for school and lifelong learning, and
- provide stability for children and providers.
It's important that we get the best return on the state's investment in our children, and do whatever we can to help children be contributing, successful members of society.
Watch this video where I'm interviewed on TVW, our state's public access television station, about early learning and human services with my colleague Rep. Ruth Kagi:
The supplemental budget
This is a supplemental budget year – meaning the Legislature's main purpose for being in session is to make minor adjustments to the two-year budget we set last year. I don't believe we should be making any major policy changes that would dramatically affect our budget. Most of the changes made in a supplemental budget relate to:
- an increase or decrease in the number of people on state assistance or children in classrooms;
- errors or mistakes made in the budget; or
- emergencies that may come up that need state assistance.
To read more about all three of the state's budgets, where the money is spent and how the budgeting process works, please visit this website.
As always, please feel free to contact me any time with questions, concerns or suggestions. It's an honor to serve you.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000