Friday, March 13, 2009

What's hot in the House next week?

Tuesday 3/17/09

10:00am in Education
Public Hearing:
SB 5378 – Regarding accreditation of digital learning programs.
SSB 5410 – Regarding online learning.
ESSB 5414 – Regarding statewide assessments and criteria.

10:00am in Higher Education
Work Session: Online learning and open educational resources.

1:30pm in State Government & Tribal Affairs
Public Hearing:
SSB 5440 – Concerning the naming or renaming of state ferries.

1:30pm in Agriculture & Natural Resources
Public Hearing: SSB 5401 – Expanding the riparian open space program to include lands that contain critical habitat of threatened or endangered species.

Wednesday 3/18/09

8:00am in Community & Economic Development & Trade
Work Session: Washington State in the Global Economic Economy: International Marketing and Trade Policy.

1:30pm in Education
Public Hearing:
ESSB 5449 – Regarding establishing and meeting graduation and reengagement goals.
2SSB 5676 – Providing for career and technical education opportunities for middle school students.

3:30pm in Transportation
Public Hearing: ESSB 5768 – Concerning the state route number 99 Alaskan Way viaduct replacement project.

Thursday 3/19/09

8:00am in Health Care & Wellness
Public Hearing: ESSB 5491 – Requiring school districts or educational service districts to purchase employee health insurance coverage through the state health care authority. (If measure is referred to committee.)

10:00am in Judiciary
Public Hearing:
ESB 5200 – Concerning marauding dogs.

SSB 5402 – Regarding the prevention of animal cruelty.

SSB 5651 – Providing humanitarian requirements for certain dog breeding practices. (If measure is referred to committee.)

1:30pm in Financial Institutions & Insurance
Possible Executive Session: ESB 6033 – Creating the prevent or reduce owner-occupied foreclosure program.

3:30pm in Transportation
Work Session: Ferry Communication Partnership Plan C.

Friday 3/20/09

8:00am in Education
Public Hearing:
ESSB 5880, ESSB 5889, ESSB 5889 – Providing flexibility in the education system.
2SSB 5973 – Closing the achievement gap in K-12 schools.

1:30pm in Health Care & Wellness
Public Hearing: 2SSB 5945 – Creating the Washington health partnership plan. (If measure os referred to committee.)

Have you talked to your legislator lately?

If not, tomorrow is your lucky day. Dozens of legislators will be back in their hometowns hosting Town Hall meetings with constituents.

Here's the complete line-up of House Democratic town halls. Hope to see you there!

The day after...

The day after cutoff, that is. For a recap of what we've accomplished so far, feel free to peruse our caucus newsroom.

Compared to the frenzied pace of the past week, the day after cutoff always seems so calm and quiet. But work continues, and now the House will start hearing and debating bills sent over from the Senate.

Several committees are meeting throughout the day, including:

8:00am in Education
Work Session: Washington Youth Academy – National Guard Youth Challenge Program.

Public Hearing: SSB 5551 - Regarding recess periods for elementary school students.

At 10 a.m., the House will convene for floor action. There are four Senate bills up for consideration:
SB 5164 Check cashers and sellers
SB 5348 Mitigation banking project
SB 5417 Flood insurance coverage
SB 5671 Suitability of annuities

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Halfway Point: House Democrats committed to One Washington agenda

At the halfway point of the legislative session House Democrats passed over 400 bills aimed at helping working families, spurring economic growth, and protecting the environment.

Among the 434 bills sent to the Senate are measures to:
    Overhaul the state’s basic education funding system (HB 2261) and launch efficiency reforms in higher education (HB 1946).

    Keep our promise to make sure all kids have health coverage by 2010 with “Apple Health for Kids” (HB 2128).

    Rebrand all financial aid as an Opportunity Grant and create the Washington Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) in order to increase postsecondary access and affordability (HB 2021).

    Boost support for unemployed workers (HB 1906) and worker retraining programs, some in the green jobs industry (HB 1323, HB 2227).

    Take early cost-cutting actions to address the budget situation (HB 1694)

    Generate 6,500 jobs by putting people to work on transportation projects throughout the state (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).

    Ensure a strong agricultural industry (HB 1580, HB 2223, HB 2313, HB 2275).

    Implement an aggressive climate change policy including supporting more use of electric vehicles and helping more families increase the energy efficiency of their homes (HB 2165, HB 1060, HB 1481, E2SHB 1007, E2SHB 1009, 2SHB 1481, E2SHB 1747).

    Protect Washington’s children and our environment by banning toxic bisphenol A in bottles and sippy cups (HB 1180).

    Protect Washington’s waterways with a permanent, year-round response tug funded by industry and stationed at Neah Bay to respond to fuel spills (HB 1409).

    Expand and strengthen consumer protection (HB 1709, HB 1311, HB 1011, HB 1215, HB 1816, HB 2013)
“We have made tremendous strides in the past several years to help Washington families find affordable health care, boost funding for education, and build up our economy,” said House Speaker Frank Chopp.

“These priorities reflect the values of people all around our state, and we remain committed to working for One Washington despite the fallout of the national recession.”

28th District Live Blog tomorrow

Reps. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, and Troy Kelley, D-Tacoma, will host a live blog discussion tomorrow, Friday, March 13 at 3 p.m. They believe the live blog is the first of its kind in the House.

Both will also be attending a town hall meeting the following day, March 14 at 1 p.m. at Pierce College Ft. Steilacoom.

Both Kelley and Green are eager to hear from neighbors in their district, the 28th, about issues they’ve been hearing about or experiencing first-hand.

People can join tomorrow’s 3 p.m. live blog event by going to:

It's cut-off day!

Today is pass-or-die day for dozens of non-budget bills as the House reaches major cut-off point in the 2009 session. 40 bills are still on the floor calendar and many more are sitting in the Rules committee, their sponsors hoping for a last-minute pull to the calendar.

When members left the floor at about 1:00 this morning, they had sent a total of 427 bills to the Senate. They are set to go at it again this morning at 10:00, and no consideration of a bill can begin after 5:00 this evening. Should be an interesting seven hours.

Cutoff. Enough said.

Today's The Day.


Do or die time.

House bills have until 4:59 p.m. to be called up on the House floor for action. We still have some big ones to tackle today so political junkies might enjoy tuning in or web surfing to TVW.

In the meantime, a few early morning committee meetings are underway including:

9:00am in State Government & Tribal Affairs
Executive Session:
HB 2087 – Eliminating certain boards, committees and commissions and the transfer of certain duties effective June 30, 2009.
HB 2151 – Eliminating boards and commissions on June 30, 2010.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

First news bite of the day

Yes, it's 11:15 p.m. and it's our first blog post of the day. Don't think we haven't been working or that things haven't been happening though.

It's been another long day on the floor and we still have several bills to go.

We just wrapped up a biggie, though, so thought we'd share.

After more than two years of sifting through possible legislation for protecting homeowners from shoddy construction, the House passed Rep. Larry Springer’s (D-Kirkland) House Bill 1393.

“The most important investment a family in Washington will make is their home,” Springer said. “It’s not only the largest purchase they’ll make, but one of their largest emotional investments as well. These families should be confident that their walls won’t crack and their ceiling won’t leak.”

House Bill 1393 protects homeowners from a growing trend in new home construction defects and provides homebuyers with legal remedies and additional resources. It addresses residential real property construction improvements through consumer education, warranty provisions and contractor registration requirements.

“It’s important that when you buy a home, you’re provided with a warranty that guarantees the work,” Springer said. “This bill also provides a reliable methodology to solving construction defects.”

Passing the House with a 52 to 45 vote count, Springer’s HB 1393 will move to the Senate.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

House focuses attention on foster kids

On any given day, there are 11,000 children in foster care in Washington State. Many of these children have parents who are working very hard to reunite with them, but thousands are awaiting adoption and thousands more are in foster care awaiting a permanent home.

With these numbers on their minds, the House of Representatives have passed a group of bills intended to protect and nurture our state’s most vulnerable residents – its foster children.

· Rep. Mary Helen Roberts’ HB 1961 extends a pilot program that will allow up to 50 foster youth per year to remain in foster care after the turn age 18. Current law considers foster kids to be adults and cuts them off the day of their 18th birthday, even if they are still in high school or enrolled in a higher ed program.

· Rep. Ruth Kagi’s HB 2106 launches a new strategy for using performance-based contracts to deliver child-welfare services. Experience in other states has proven that performance-based contracting can help keep children safely out of foster care and hasten reunification with their families when they are removed from home.

· Rep. Roberts HB 1938 encourages continued post-adoption contact among siblings who are not adopted together out of foster care.

· Rep. Eric Pettigrew’s HB 2164 continues past legislative efforts to find solutions to racial disproportionality in Washington’s child welfare system. A recent study showed that African American, Native American and Hispanic children are more likely to be referred to Child Protective Services than white children.

· Rep. Tina Orwall’s HB 1769, which passed the House on Friday, helps reunite families who have had children in the state’s foster care program by offering referrals to appropriate agencies or organizations and assistance with forms that will aid these families in attaining adequate, safe housing.

Today's game plan

Today we'll continue our marathon of floor action. Last night (this morning?) the House adjourned at 12:22 a.m. and lawmakers are due back on the House floor at 10 a.m.

Despite the late night, some lucky lawmakers get to participate in early morning committee meetings (Finance, Financial Institutions & Insurance, Health & Human Services Appropriations). One interesting committee meeting to note:

9:00am in Health & Human Services Appropriations
Work Session: Overview of federal stimulus package and impacts on Washington State.

If you don't already follow us on Twitter, you should. We regularly post what's coming up on the floor there. It's easier to post it as we go, because as much as we'd love to tell you the plan ahead of time here, we've learned over and over again those plans are subject to change.

One thing we do know - it will be another very, very long day.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Floor action continues at this hour -- Mental Health package sent to Senate

The tragic murder of Shannon Harps on New Year’s Eve, 2007, was remembered by state lawmakers today as the House passed several reforms that aim to protect mental-health services for children and reduce threats to public safety from mentally ill offenders.

“The death of Shannon Harps taught us lessons that will save lives,” said Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, who chairs the Human Services Committee. “Passing these reforms will honor her memory and make all people in Washington safer in years to come.”

After Harps was killed by a person who was seriously mentally ill and under community supervision at the time of the murder, a special working group led by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg launched a comprehensive review of issues related to the community supervision of higher-risk mentally ill offenders. Several of the reforms passed by the House today reflect findings from the study.

House Bill 1300, by Rep. Chris Hurst (D-Enumclaw), takes aim at a key problem identified by the Satterberg working group: a systematic failure to share mental-health history information that could be crucial to guiding interactions and decisions related to mentally-ill offenders.

“Failing to share information about risks posed by mentally-ill offenders has led to catastrophe in the past and will do so again unless we act decisively now to solve the problem,” Hurst said.

Hurst’s bill addresses the information gap by giving public health officials, prosecuting and defense attorneys, jail personnel and other key individuals expanded access to mental-health treatment histories under the Involuntary Treatment Act. It also gathers confidentially statutes into a single place to end confusion about who is entitled to what information about mentally ill offenders.

House Bill 1346, by Rep. Tami Green (D-Lakewood) creates additional grounds to petition for the extended involuntary treatment of a person who is already the subject of a court order for less restrictive treatment. Green’s bill would reduce the risks of premature release from treatment while also avoiding more restrictive and expensive hospitalization. “We worked hard to strike the right balance between protecting public safety and respecting the rights of persons with mental illness,” Green said. “The strong support we’ve received shows we got the balance right.”

House Bill 1201, by Rep. Al O’Brien (D-Mountlake Terrace), would have participants of Washington’s Dangerous Mentally Ill Offender program complete an advance mental health directive prior to release from prison. An advance directive allows a person with mental illness to plan ahead for treatment they would receive, should their condition deteriorate. The bill also renames the program to the Offender Re-Entry Community Safety Program.

Coming up this week

House of Origin cut-off is Thursday at 5:00 pm, so the floor will be busy this week. What does this cut-off business mean? It means Thursday is the last day for the House to pass House bills and the Senate to pass Senate bills. It also means some very late nights.

Floor action typically begins at 10:00 a.m. so we are still holding early morning committee hearings. Here are a few of interest:

Tuesday 3/10/09
9:00am in Health & Human Services Appropriations
Work Session: Overview of federal stimulus package and impacts on Washington State.

Wednesday 3/11/09
8:00am in Community & Economic Development & Trade
Work Session: Washington State’s Biomedical/Biotechnology Industry: Opportunities and Challenges.

8:00am in Human Services
Public Hearing: SSB 5190 – Making technical corrections to community custody provisions.

Thursday 3/12/09
9:00am in State Government & Tribal Affairs
Executive Session:
HB 2087 – Eliminating certain boards, committees and commissions and the transfer of certain duties effective June 30, 2009.
HB 2151 – Eliminating boards and commissions on June 30, 2010.

Friday 3/13/09
8:00am in Education
Work Session: Washington Youth Academy – National Guard Youth Challenge Program.

Public Hearing: Senate bills referred to committee.