Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Although another special session was necessary, our fourth in the past two years, I am pleased the Legislature passed strong supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets before adjourning last Tuesday. The Legislature also overrode the governor's veto of 27 bills. As you may recall, the governor vetoed the bills out of frustration at the lack of a budget deal before the end of the 60-day regular session. Because of our work to override his vetoes, bills that help higher education students with disabilities, promote economic development, reduce the out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs, and increase the availability of affordable housing will all become law later this year.
Regarding the supplemental operating budget, negotiators did an excellent job producing a sustainable budget that doesn't raise taxes or raid the state's rainy day fund. It does what a supplemental budget should – makes small adjustments to the 2015-17 budget, pays for emergencies and invests in some key areas such as education and mental health.
Highlights of the budget include:
- $191 million increase in spending, or half-a-percent;
- $40 million directed for mental-health programs and the state's two mental hospitals;
- $29 million for overtime of home health-care providers;
- As much as $18 million appropriated for state need-grant college funding;
- $8 million to help backfill costs to keep tuition reduced at state colleges and universities;
- $7 million to recruit and retain K-12 staff and support for beginning teachers;
- $190 million in budget reserves to pay for wildfire suppression.
Governor signs House Bill 2591 into law
A bill I introduced to streamline communication between the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and foster parents was signed into law by Gov. Inslee last week. House Bill 2591 will require DSHS to provide foster parents with timely and adequate notice of their right to be heard before each dependency court proceeding. Unfortunately, many foster parents are not currently being notified of court hearings in a timely manner, which negatively effects them, as well as foster children.
The current system of communication between DSHS and foster parents is simply inadequate. Especially when you consider that foster parents are one of the most valuable resources our courts have when it comes to deciding what is in the best interest of a foster child. I'm excited about this bill being signed into law, because that means we will have better systems of communication going forward. There will also be multiple layers of accountability to verify a foster parent has been notified of a court hearing. The bill requires courts to create written findings about whether or not:
- 1. Foster parents were notified in a timely manner.
- 2. The court received a caregiver's report.
- 3. The court provided the foster parents an opportunity to be heard.
The bill also adds accountability by requiring the Administrative Office of the Courts to create an annual dependency report to track how well the state is doing in providing proper notification to foster parents.
I'll be following the bill's implementation closely. It goes into effect in June.
Whether we're in session or not, I'm here to serve you year-round. Please continue getting in touch with me with any comments, questions or concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is (360) 786-7918.
It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature.