Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Legislative report: Mixed news on cutoff day


This is it - the last day for most bills to be passed off the floor in the state legislature. After April 12, the House and Senate will focus on the budget bills and any bills deemed necessary to pass the budget.

Some great news:

HB 1322 - the respite provider training bill - passed unanimously! The bill applies to respite providers who work less than 300 hours a year has passed. This legislation reduces the number of hours required and creates online options. Families spoke up about the lack relevancy of current training and the difficulty would-be providers had in completing training requirements … and legislators listened!

More good news

HB 1115 - paraeducator bill. Creates a system for paraeducator training and certification. This was not the Senate version that many advocates supported, but it is an amended version that stakeholders agreed to and felt they could work with. A bill with the same language is awaiting a vote in the House. You can read more about it here. Paraeducators provide most of the direct learning time to students with IEPs, but mostly they are not trained.

HB 1258 - Statewide training for first responders and 911 personnel

HB 1719  - Updates the state Early Learning Advisory Council to include someone from the developmental disabilities community. This council meets regularly to provide input and recommendations to the Department of Early Learning so its strategies and actions are well-informed and broadly supported. At The Arc of King County we were concerned that too few programs included children with disabilities, and particularly concerned about the challenges parents of pre-school age children had in finding inclusive early learning and child care options. We are happy to say both the Department of Early Learning and legislators agreed that lack of the DD perspective had been an oversight.

SB 5118 - Increases personal needs allowance for Medicaid eligible people with disabilities

HB 1153 - Protection of vulnerable people from financial exploitation and abuse

HB 2037 - Higher education obstacles. This bill reconvenes a work group.

HB 1346 - Clarifying the authority of a nurse working in a school setting

HB 1713  - Implementing recommendations from the children's mental health work group.

Mixed feelings

SB 5201 (employment services) passed the House unanimously. This bill eases employment first requirements for DDA clients with high acuity and requires new accountability reports for employment programs. The Arc of Washington was neutral.The bill started out allowing clients to receive BOTH community access and employment services at the same time. Advocates for employment first worry people with high acuity won't be given adequate opportunity to find work and say employment first requirements broke down barriers and changed minds. Advocates in favor of the change favored more flexibility so people with high acuity could have more meaningful days.

Still waiting on a vote:

SB 5294 - Creates an Office of Corrections Ombuds

HB 1570 - Access to homeless housing and assistance

HB 1661 - Creates a new Department of Children, Youth and Families. Passed the House; passed the policy committee in the Senate but not Ways and Means. It is funded in the House budget, so may be considered necessary to implement the budget.

On RHCs - No movement to bolster local options

SB 5646 passed. This keeps Yakima Valley open for respite; continues to operate Yakima Valley as an residential habilitation center (RHC) and removes the requirement that it close when it reaches 16 clients. The requirement that two state operated living alternatives (SOLAs) be created at Yakima Valley is removed. Requires DSHS to continue to provide respite services in RHCs. It calls on DSHS to establish respite care in community settings, but has no appropriation for this, and neither chambers' proposed operating or capital budgets includes funds for this. 

SB 5594 - The bill that would close Fircrest School’s intermediate care facility by 2022 and create transition plans for residents has not been voted on. That bill would also take proceeds from sale or lease of land at Fircrest and put it into a trust for developmental disabilities, to be used for residential support, family support, or employment and day services.

At this point, it does not appear there will be investments in community-based options for planned respite and crisis care. The legislature continues the aging RHC system, despite state auditor recommendations in 2013 for the state to change its delivery system to invest in models that reach more people. 


Housing update

We had a packed, standing room-only event last night on housing. What came out loud and clear:
  • Affordable housing options are increasingly difficult to find. 
  • Finding landlords willing to 1) take Section 8 vouchers and 2) rent to people with developmental disabilities is difficult. 
There aren’t many options for families facing homelessness themselves, or for families concerned about housing options for adult, aging children. But there are some interesting models out there, including ones created by families who decided to find solutions for themselves. I will send a separate communication on what was covered.


  • Call (or email) your legislators and ask them to support investment in the Housing Trust Fund. Advocates are seeking $200 million over the next two years. Right now, the House has $106 million designated in its capital budget.
  • Call (or email) your legislators and ask them to support the Housing Trust Fund set aside for projects that house people with developmental disabilities. Right now the House includes a 5 percent set aside in its capital budget. (The Senate does not.)
  • You also might be interested in: HB 1532 - Concerning the exemption of property taxes for nonprofit homeownership development

SOURCE OF INCOME DISCRIMINATION: Let your legislators know that source-of-income discrimination in housing is serious and that it leaves people with developmental disabilities vulnerable to homelessness. There were two bills introduced this session to address this issue. SB 5407 didn’t make it out of committee in the Senate. HB 1633  could not get a floor vote in the House.

- Ramona Hattendorf,
Director of Advocacy,

The Arc of King County