LEV Legislative Roundup for Week 1: Navigating Hundreds of Pre-Filed Bills

By Jacob Vela, League of Education Voters Director of Policy and Research

 

If experience has taught us anything, it is that the start of every legislative session is always a bit unique, and the first week of the 2022 session definitely falls into the “unique” category. After months of rumors, the House and Senate announced in late fall that the legislature was going to attempt to navigate a hybrid model for the 2022 session. The expectation was that after being completely virtual last year, legislative leadership had found a way to allow in-person interaction between the elected members both with each other and the public. Sadly, within days of the session beginning, based on the rapid increase in new COVID-19 cases, plans had to be changed.

 

The 2022 Legislative Session opened on January 10th, once again in a virtual format. Luckily, the last few years have taught us to have patience and adapt quickly to the unexpected, so with barely missing a beat, both chambers moved forward as if virtual had been the plan all along. The 2022 Legislative Session is a “short” one, running for only 60 days. During this time the elected members will debate and pass supplemental budgets and numerous policies that will directly affect our state. As with all short sessions, the pace starts off at a run and doesn’t let up until the final gavel falls on March 10th.

 

The window to hear and vote on bills in policy committees is always small in short sessions – the first cut-off for policy bills in their house of origin will be on February 3rd. Knowing this, legislators and advocates scrambled to pre-file their proposed legislation so it would be ready to be scheduled for a hearing on day one of session. “Pre-filing” a bill allows bill sponsors to submit their bill language, receive a bill number, request a hearing from committee chairs, and begin working with other interested partners all prior to the official start of session. There were more pre-filed bills this year than I can ever remember. Hundreds of bills fell into this category, meaning that by the end of the first week of session, over 800 bills had already been introduced and were waiting to be heard.

 

Washington state works on a biennial system and 2022 is the second year. This means that all of the bills introduced last year that were not successful in making it all the way through the process are still considered “alive.” Alive bills can still be heard and debated this year. Add up all these bills together and you have an overwhelming number of policy bills competing for limited hearing time this session. Also, those directly involved in the process are exhausted. If and when you interact with legislative staff and others, please be kind. Many still haven’t recovered from last session and they continue to juggle the stress of the pandemic with the incredible demands of this work. I believe I used the word “patience” to describe the 2021 Legislative Session. This year I am hoping we will use the word “grace.”

 

League of Education Voters (LEV) is pleased to see the Legislature make the mental health and social-emotional needs of our students a priority. Many presentations this week focused on or spoke about the unimaginable toll the pandemic has taken on our youth and discussed strategies to provide support. Both the House Education and the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committees heard bills that focused on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and increasing the funding for support services. The Senate on Wednesday heard Senate Bill 5595, concerning the prototypical school formulas for physical, social, and emotional support in schools, sponsored by Senator Lisa Wellman (D-41) and requested by Governor Inslee. The bill increases the funding allocation for school nurses, social workers, psychologists, and guidance counselors within the prototypical school model. The bill places limitations on the funding, directing that the allocations may only be used for the salaries and benefits for staffing in these areas. One of the challenges that our state is currently facing is a workforce shortage in professionals who provide behavioral health services.

 

Legislators are being inundated with constituents sharing stories regarding the barriers they are facing in their attempt to secure behavioral health services for their children. Lack of access or long waitlists has made it nearly impossible for families to receive care. Increasing the funding for schools to invest in these services is necessary and needed, but schools won’t be able to hire to meet these expectations if the workforce is not available. LEV is advocating that the guardrails placed on the funding in SB 5595 be widened to include the ability to spend these resources on other community-based services and supports. LEV is also advocating for a resourcing approach that centers student need by allocating additional staffing resources for physical, social, and emotional services to schools with greater student need. The House Education Committee heard Representative Alicia Rule’s (D-42) House Bill 1664 on Thursday. HB 1664 also relates to the school funding model for physical, social, and emotional supports and has similar restrictions to require that the funds be spent on salary and benefits to hire staff to provide physical, social, and emotional services. It is refreshing to see action by both chambers and a recognition that our students, families, and school employees are in crisis.

 

The House introduced two bills to support our state’s charter public schools. House Bill 1591, relating to local effort assistance funding for charter schools, is sponsored by Representative Laurie Dolan (D-22). The bill addresses the funding inequity created by charter public schools’ lack of access to local property tax levies. Our charter public schools educate a higher percentage of students from low-income families and students with disabilities than traditional public schools, and the current funding model means fewer resources for students who need funding the most. LEV supports closing this gap. Representative Debra Entenman (D-47) introduced House Bill 1962 this week. HB 1962 would extend the timeframe for establishing charter public schools. Both issues have been introduced before, and we hope that there will continue to be positive conversations around the proposals.

 

Late on Friday afternoon, the House Education and House Children, Youth & Families Committees held a joint work session to provide an overview of the early education system and the overlap between our K-12 and early learning systems. Listening to the support and care being given to our littlest learners was a nice way to end a very busy first week.

 

The upcoming week should be just as busy and interesting as this one. LEV will watch and participate in hearings, meet with staff and coalition partners, and work to promote our education platform with elected officials. Even from the comfort of our homes, it is empowering to be part of the process and to find opportunities to lift up the voices of the students and families who are most affected by the policies being debated.

 

·        Read our 2022 Legislative Platform.

·        Follow which education-related bills we are watching in our Bill Tracker.

·        Watch our LEVinar on What to Expect in the 2022 Legislative Session.

·        Join Investing in Student Potential, our coalition to champion students who need special education services.

·        Register for Investing in Student Potential Advocacy Week January 25-27.

·        Read frequently asked questions about the Washington state Legislature.

 

We truly appreciate all you do for Washington students. We’re all in this together.​

Sincerely,
Jacob

 

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2021 Washington state Legislative Session Wrap-Up

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

 

We knew the 2021 Legislative Session was going to be different than past years and present some not-so-happy surprises along the way. The remote nature of the session created some significant challenges in shepherding legislation through the process and understanding why some legislation hit unexpected roadblocks along the way. In the face of these difficulties, some significant pieces of legislation have made their way out of the legislature and onto the Governor’s desk.

In response to the remote session and some of the economic concerns that were present at the onset of the session, fewer bills were introduced this year than most budget years in preparation for the challenges of a remote session during a pandemic. Despite the challenges of 2021, two historic pieces of legislation were able to make it through the legislature and onto the governor’s desk including the Fair Start for Kids Act (Senate Bill 5237), which substantially expands access to high-quality early learning and childcare, and the passage of a Capital Gains Tax (Senate Bill 5096), which will generate up to $500 million per year in additional funding to support education and early learning. Both of these must still be signed by Gov. Inslee to become law, but the Capital Gains Tax is expected to face legal challenges once it gets signed into law.

We are also happy to report that a few other key bills were passed and funded by the legislature, including: Read More

LEVinar Recap: What to Expect in the 2021 Legislative Session

By Lizzeth Mancilla
Engagement and Policy Intern

 

WACapitolLegislativeBldgThe Washington state Legislative Session started this Monday, where hundreds of bills concerning early learning, safe and supportive schools, local levies/LEA, special education, etc. are being introduced in either the Senate or House of Representatives.

In this webinar, League of Education Voters Director of Policy and Research Jacob Vela and government relations consultant Carey Morris give an overview of the 2021 legislative landscape, outline our priorities for the 2021 legislative session, and answer questions.

Read More

UPDATED – 2020 Washington Legislative Session Recap

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

The end of the 2020 legislative session saw the legislature and other state leaders working rapidly and tirelessly to address the spreading COVID-19 pandemic in our schools and communities. We are incredibly grateful for the efforts of our public officials and public servants in these uncertain times to ensure that our communities are safe, and our most impacted students and families get the support they need.

The 2020 legislative session was a short, 60-day session, where legislators worked on a supplemental budget to the 2019-2021 biennial budget passed in 2019. While there were many robust debates and promising proposals regarding education investments leading up to the end of session, the need to prioritize investing in the response to COVID-19 and prepare for potential impacts on our economy, families, and healthcare system took precedent in the final budget. You can read our summary of the final 2020 supplemental budget here. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis and growing economic impacts by the time of budget signing, the Governor had to make the difficult decision to veto a number of budget items that were passed by the Legislature.

During the 2020 session, League of Education Voters pursued policy priorities in four issue areas: early childhood education, student supports, special education, and local K-12 funding. Read More

UPDATED – 2020 Supplemental Budget Summary

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

UPDATE: Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis and growing economic impacts by the time of budget signing, the Governor had to make the difficult decision to veto a number of budget items that were passed by the Legislature.

The Washington state legislature released their budget compromise on March 11 for the 2020 supplemental budget. The 2020 supplemental budget makes adjustments to the 2019-21 biennial budget that will impact the remainder of the biennium, ending in June 2021.

The highlights include increases in both the Working Connections Child Care ($41 million) and ECEAP, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program ($9.1 million), to increase access to childcare for families and increase funding rates for providers.

One of the most notable additions to the K-12 education budget is funding for high-poverty elementary schools to hire additional counselors ($31.8 million). This marks the first time in which high-poverty elementary schools will receive funding to staff their schools at higher levels than non-high poverty schools through the base funding formula. Currently, this increased funding will be in effect for the 2020-21 school year, but will need to be renewed in future budgets to continue beyond that.

The legislature made an increase of $1.9 million to the special education Safety Net program. Unfortunately, no other investments or changes in the special education funding formulas made it through the 2020 legislative session.

Other important investments in supporting families include $150,000 for the Office of Education Ombuds (OEO) to increase capacity and develop training in diversity, equity, and inclusion and $133,000 for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to develop a family engagement framework.

With the passage and subsequent funding of the Workforce Education Investment Act (House Bill 2158) during the last legislative session, which made significant increases to state-funded financial aid, there were no substantive changes made to higher education funding or financial aid.

See how the 2020 supplemental budget agreement compares with the House, Senate, and Governor Inslee’s 2020 supplemental budget proposals. Strikethrough text indicates items that were vetoed by Gov. Inslee on April 3, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Read More

2020 Supplemental Budget Proposal Side-By-Side

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

The Washington state House and Senate have released their 2020 supplemental budget proposals. The 2020 supplemental budget makes adjustments to the 2019-21 biennial budget that will impact the remainder of the 2019-21 biennium, which ends in June 2021. The amounts below are in addition to funds that have already been appropriated in the 2019-21 budget. These amounts do not reflect changes in funding due to changes in caseload. Read More

2020 Legislative Town Hall Meetings

This weekend, many legislators across Washington state will host town hall meetings in their communities. Below is a list of scheduled meetings, organized by legislative district. If you know of town hall meetings that are not listed below, please contact us at info@educationvoters.org. If you don’t know your legislative district, you can find out here.

One of League of Education Voters’ top legislative priorities this session is lifting the funding cap on special education enrollment. If you are able to attend a town hall meeting with your legislator(s), please help us advocate for lifting the cap. Here are some talking points you can use. Thank you for supporting Washington students! Read More

2019 Washington Legislative Session Wrapup

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

The 2019 legislative session came to a fast and furious close on April 28, with rumors swirling about a special session right until the very end. There were a record number of bills introduced, and almost 500 passed by sine die.

League of Education Voters prioritized five areas this session: sufficient and effective special education funding, supportive and safe schools, fair local K-12 funding, high-quality early childhood education, and access to postsecondary opportunities. Ultimately, progress was made in all of our priority areas, some more than others, and we are grateful for all of the robust debate and work of the legislature over the past four months. We prioritize working in partnership with community-based organizations and enjoyed strategizing with partners to ensure that student and family voices and experiences were represented in Olympia. Read More